Health can be affected by both what we do and who we are.

Who we are at any one point in time, depends upon our genetic make up, our past (ie. the way we have developed up until this point in our life) and our environment.  Other factors include what we eat, exercise, and exposure to psychological stress, disease or injury.

No one factor affects our health, and some things can be both good for us or bad for us; depending upon the measure.
Exercise for example is essential for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, but excessive or unbalanced exercise can cause short or even long term problems with a body. Some psychological stress in known to be necessary for good health; but excessive psychological stress is a real problem.

Wellness has many parts

Physical fitness can be defined as “the capability of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles to function at optimal efficiency.”  Fitness is a much broader concept that also embraces a person’s psychological wellbeing and mental attitude.

Mental stress caused by pressures from work, home, relationships or one’s own thinking, can have as great an effect on a person's fitness as poor nutrition or a physical injury. Stress is very often related to physical fitness. A stressed person can have problems with muscles that tense or pull where they should not, which can place pressure on the nerves and bones, leading to other problems.

Allergies to foods, dust, even to the common bacteria that occur in everyone's throat, can pose problems to a person’s fitness, or complicate already existing problems. So can poor choices of food, insufficient chewing of food or eating “on the run”, too much coffee or soft drinks, and other dietary factors. Clothing can affect fitness: uncomfortable or poorly fitting shoes may result in foot or posture problems; high heel may throw the spine into unnatural curves, causing spine problems; and tight jeans may cause circulation or even infertility problems.

The single most important fact to understand about human fitness is the complexity of the human body, and the fact that this complexity makes fitness a multi-facet state. This also means that fitness requires attention to more than one aspect of wellbeing. It cannot be gained simply by eating well, or through exercise alone, but results from a combination of factors that work together.

While every body is different, and there is no one path to fitness that will work for everyone, experience shows that most people respond well to some fundamental fitness practices. These can be summarised as a “balanced approach” to wellbeing in all spheres of life.

Opinions on what constitutes ‘balance’ in regard to health and fitness, but in general, they agree on the following components:

  • Eat healthy foods which you are not allergic or sensitive to, which provide all the necessary nutrients in adequate but not excessive amounts
  • Eating in moderation
  • Exercising all parts of the body
  • Exercising in moderation
  • Resting the body to allow it to recover from physical stress or exertion
  • Relaxing the mind to allow it to recover from emotional or mental stress or exertion
  • Developing a positive attitude.

Risks to Wellness

In general we can view risk factors as being controllable (modifiable) or uncontrollable (unmodifiable). Controllable risk factors are those which can be controlled by making choices about your behaviour and uncontrollable risk factors are those we cannot control such as our age, gender, race and genetics.

Obesity is an example of a controllable risk factor that is becoming increasingly linked ill health. Obesity is not yet a global problem, but it is certainly a crisis for countries such as the Americas, Australia and a number of other developed countries in Europe and the Middle East. Figures from the World Health Authority from 2008 showed that in 2008 more than 1.4 billion adults worldwide were overweight and of these 200 million men and 300 million women were classified as obese. A more recent update from the WHO (march 2013) also highlights that 65% of the world’s population now lives in countries where being overweight or obese kills more people than being underweight.

Being overweight or obese is associated with increased mortality and morbidity from the burden of disease. A number of conditions including coronary heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin-dependant Diabetes type II (diabetes mellitus) ,degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), cancer of the breast, colon and kidney are often attributed to excessive weight gain over long periods of time. Body-mass index (BMI), is a statistical measurement calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared (kg/m2).  A healthy BMI is one which lies between 18.5 and 25 whereas people are classified as overweight with a BMI between 25 and 30 and obese with a BMI greater than 30.  

Another controllable risk might be hazardous substances.
The warnings about risks from hazardous substances are everywhere. Every day, the news, media report information on hazardous substances. Many products now display warning labels or claims about being “natural” or “free of chemicals”. How do we know when a risk is serious? How do researchers estimate risk and how does the government use this information to develop regulations that limit our exposure to hazardous substances? This most often comes from policy making within local and national governments. 

By becoming better informed you can reduce the risks that you determine to be unacceptable. This may mean changing your lifestyle or providing input to government, industry and consumer/ environmental interest groups. If you would like more information the sources listed below are a good place to start. You may also want to contact your local health department or regional or state environmental agencies for other information sources.

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