Exercise, Nutrition & Health: The importance of nutrition & physical activity to a healthy lifestyle
Updated: Jun 4
Nutrition is the study of how foods and drinks impact our bodies. Nutrition is a crucial part of health and development, this is especially important starting from the embryo point and during childhood where our bodies initially start to form and growth is developed.
Nutrients provide nourishment from the foods we eat. There are essential nutrients which are necessary to support our health. Each nutrient has a role in maintaining the health and development of our bodies and this is required daily. According to the World Health Organisation, "Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity."
Let’s explore briefly the roles of two nutrients (macronutrients) and why the body needs fruits and vegetables ("micronutrients", generally low on calories but full of nutrients):
Carbohydrates- is what provides our bodies with energy
Examples: Rice, pasta, bread, potatoes.
Proteins- for the growth and repair of our muscles cells and tissues
Examples: Meats, fish, poultry, beans, pulses.
Fruits &Vegetables – Provide our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals, some of
which are powerful antioxidants protecting against diseases and strengthening immunity necessary for the functional and hormonal responses in our bodies.
Examples: Broccoli, peas, cauliflower, avocado, strawberries, oranges, peaches, apricots.
So yes, indeed, we are essentially what we eat!
Balanced meals means healthy portions.
How much should we eat of each?
Everything in moderation and nothing in abundance!
It is important to consume healthy balance meals and not to cut any food group out, especially with children as this can lead to our bodies not receiving the correct nutrition it needs and can lead to deficiencies. We should ensure we control our portion sizes and have a healthy balance meal based around the following portion control plate:
1/2 of the plate with fruits and/or vegetables (peas, tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, etc..).
1/4 of the plate with carbohydrates such as potatoes, plantain, rice and pasta.
1/4 of the plate with proteins (fish, meat, beans and pulses).
Treats are good to enjoy, however the quantity and frequency of when we consume these are important. If we over indulge in treats then we are not giving our bodies what they require for a healthy function and doing this for a long period of time will negativity impact our health and imbalance the quality of nutrients the body truly needs. A balance is important, everything is ok in moderation, nothing in abundance.
Food labels can help and have a traffic light system which can alert you to what is healthy (green), moderately healthy (amber), not so healthy (red).
Physical Activity & Exercise
Physical activity is any bodily movement requiring energy, this is not just restrictive to only the gym or intentional workouts, it is any activity that gets you moving, these include walking to the shops or cleaning your room.
Exercise is activity that requires physical effort to maintain or improve' ones health or fitness, these include:
· Aerobic: working the cardiac (heart) muscles, e.g. running, cycling, swimming or brisk walking
· Anaerobic: working specific muscle groups, these are usually shorter duration; higher intensity workouts such as jumping, sprinting or heavy weight lifting.
How does physical activity affects our health and well-being
Helps boosts happy chemicals which impact on positive mental health
Reduces blood sugar levels, hence reduces risk of T2DM. In diabetes reduces HbA1C so reduces complications
Maintains healthy body mass and helps reduce body fat percentage
Maintains bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis as we age
Reduces risk of chronic diseases such as some cardiovascular diseases and obesity
Improves quality of sleep
In the UK, health professionals recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week (around 30 minutes a day for 5 days) through a variety of exercises (walking, cycling, swimming, running, etc..), however more is always beneficial.
Historically, we were more active than we are today. Technology has allowed us to work, shop, play and communicate from our screens, this has become increasingly more common amid the recent pandemic outbreak of covid-19, working from home has become something that has been introduced into most places of work now, and though this may be saving us time, money, energy and resources, it is certainly not saving our health. Sedentary behaviours are increasing and are killing us!
We can essentially sit at a desk all day and still manage to get so much done. Technology has encouraged this sedentary behaviour and today, we need to put more effort and thought into moving and building activity into our everyday lives and not just an hour in the gym, otherwise, we will allow sedentary behaviour to continue being our number one killer.
A combination of both physical activity and good nutrition will positively impact our physical and mental health and overall well-being! They are like a married couple, and cannot be separated, both are essential to our health and one cannot compensate for the other. We cannot out train a bad diet in the gym and we cannot feed ourselves the benefits that activity has on our entire health.
Let’s be the change, today, let's bring the choice back to us, let's be in control of our own health instead of relying on a pill to treat diseases that we brought to ourselves via our own lifestyles.