Leading a healthy lifestyle is more than just looking good, it’s about feeling good – both physically and mentally. Health is defined as both the state of being free from illness and a person's mental or physical condition. But, if you’re asking yourself, what does following a healthy lifestyle truly mean? And how does it help our body and mind? Here, we will discuss how exercise and nutrition can impact your physical and mental health, as well as a few other factors you should consider.
What Is Physical Health?
Physical health includes a well-functioning immune system to protect us from infections and disease, weight management to prevent weight-related complications, aerobic conditioning for cardiovascular health, as well as muscular strength, flexibility, and mobility.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is a state of wellbeing that includes emotional, psychological, and social aspects. How we feel, think, act, and cope with the normal stressors of life are reflections of our mental health state. It is crucial that we prioritize mental health throughout all stages of our lives.
The Role of Exercise
1. Supports The Immune System
Regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system for a few reasons. First, it improves the blood circulation of white blood cells such as lymphocytes and leukocytes, which are the immune system’s defense soldiers that help the body fight infection. Second, it increases the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which signal the immune system to do its job, and lastly, it mobilizes natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that can destroy cells infected with a virus. Research suggests that physically active individuals have lower rates of acute respiratory infections and may experience lower duration and intensity of symptoms from respiratory diseases. Evidence also highlights that frequent exercise might delay the aging of the immune system.
2. Promotes Mental Health
If you have ever experienced a “runner’s high” then you know that running, as well as other aerobic exercises such as boxing and kickboxing, releases feel-good hormones that are responsible for feelings of happiness, joy, and pleasure. Many studies have found exercise to positively impact mental health by improving self-esteem and mood while reducing anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion. There is overwhelming evidence that exercise improves mental health; incorporating a daily sweat can help boost confidence and improve mood, and with FightCamp, you can box your way to better mental health while working on your conditioning and strength!
The Role of Nutrition
1. Supports The Immune System
Beyond exercise, what you put on your plate also has a crucial impact on both your physical and mental health. Consuming a diet rich in foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and spices, provides an array of micronutrients that support the immune system. In particular, vitamins A, C, D, and E, along with minerals such as zinc and selenium play a special role in regulating immunity and helping the body fight infections. To learn more about how nutrition supports the body’s defense systems, and what foods to add to your plate, check out A Boxer’s Guide To A Strong Immune System.
2. Promotes Mental Health
Nutrition also plays a role in supporting mental health. High-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, promote the growth of good bacteria and therefore support a healthy gut. This matters because the gut is where many hormones are produced, including serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has an important role in regulating mood. What’s more, studies have found that having adequate levels of minerals such as zinc, selenium, and magnesium, which can be obtained from food or supplementation, is inversely associated with depression. Other studies suggest that diets rich in plant-based foods and healthy fats such as fish and seafood are associated with a significantly lower risk of depressive symptoms, while diets high in red meat, processed meat, refined sugars, and high-fat dairy products are associated with a higher risk of depression.
Other Factors To Consider…
Proper nutrition and regular physical activity are at the core of weight management, which is largely affected by lifestyle choices. Currently, only 1 in 4 adults meets the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week (30 minutes per day, five days per week). Similarly, fewer than 1 in 10 adults meet the daily requirements for consuming vegetables, and less than 10% of the population meet the daily requirement for fiber consumption. It is crucial that individuals understand the relationship between lifestyle choices and maintaining a healthy weight in order to reduce their risk for disease.
Last but not least, keeping a self-care routine is essential for supporting overall health. Incorporating mindful practices such as meditation and breathing exercises can reduce stress levels and regulate heart rate, while low-intensity exercises such as yoga and pilates can promote flexibility and bodyweight strength. Similarly, it’s important to add activities that give you pleasure to your routine. Whether that is dancing, shadowboxing, walking your dog, coloring, reading a good book, gardening, or spending time outdoors, doing things that make you happy is crucial for your mental health. Incorporating these lifestyle choices – regular exercise, proper nutrition, and mindful practices – is the key to feeling good, looking good, and improving quality of life, paving the way for long-term wellbeing.
Now It’s Your Turn
We get it – incorporating healthy habits is easier said than done. Well, we have some news for you: You will not be able to meet your job’s demands and care for your family if your health, whether physical or mental, is compromised. Keeping a healthy body and mind should be a priority, so finding practical ways to incorporate exercise, good nutrition, and mindful practices into your life is key.
Are you ready to train like a fighter for a healthier lifestyle? Get access to hundreds of boxing, kickboxing, strength, conditioning, recovery, and stretching workouts that will push you mentally and physically. Download the FREE FightCamp App and train with real fighters from the comfort of your own home.