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In Pursuit of Wellness: The Activities You Pursue

In Pursuit of Wellness: The Activities You Pursue

Life consists of an endless series of choices. Some are of major importance. They are often decisions that are made once in a lifetime. Where shall I live? What profession shall I pursue? Shall I marry? Whom shall I marry? Shall I have children? How many shall I have? Do I believe God exists? How shall I relate to Him?

Others are of lesser import. What vehicle shall I drive? Shall I lease or purchase? Should I have a pet? Where should I go on vacation? Should I buy a new computer? Desktop or Laptop?

Choices such as these require conscious deliberation. Each has an obvious effect on our quality of live. We also make countless minor choices each day, without giving them serious consideration. Often we are not consciously aware that we have made a potentially life-changing decision.

The activities we pursue day by day have a significant affect on our state of wellness. Most quickly become routine, a matter of habit, yet they may be changed by a simple decision. Success or failure just as wellness or sickness is rarely determined by a single major decision. It is determined by the collective weight of the day-by-day and moment-by-moment decisions we make regarding the activities we will pursue at each point in time. Simple errors in judgment, repeated hundreds and thousands of times will, inevitably, adversely affect all aspects of our lives, including our level of wellness.

One of the most widespread activities in the world today is television viewing. It has wide reaching effects. I have been impressed that even the poorest home, in the most economically depressed setting, has a television antenna, satellite dish or cable. Interestingly, the number of hours of TV viewing per day is inversely associated with education and income. As the number of hours watched increase, educational level and income decrease. Both of these indicators are associated with decreased longevity and vitality.

Individuals who watch four or more hours of television daily are more obese, more likely to smoke, nurture a higher level of hostility and perform less physical activity than people who watch an hour or less daily. Given that each of these is a risk factor for disease and disability it is not surprising that heavy television viewing has been found to be associated with conditions as diverse as depression, alcohol abuse, ADHD, childhood leukemia, epilepsy, and diabetes.

One of the most common simple errors in judgment people make is habitually turning on the television set when arising, at mid-day, in the evening or before retiring. Begin to question yourself each time you reach for the control. Could I be doing something more productive? What price am I paying for spending my time in this manner? How is this affecting my life and my health?

Another simple error in judgment that may be made is choosing to participate in activities for which we have not adequately prepared. This can result in serious disability and even death. I am thinking of what is sometimes referred to as the “weekend warrior” syndrome, the man or woman who sits at a desk five days out of the week and then decides to spade the garden, paint the house, or chop firewood on Saturday. The weekend athlete - the individual who plays softball, basketball, or tennis once a week or less, or goes on an annual ski vacation without preparatory conditioning is also in this category. Sprains, strains, overuse syndromes including tendonitis and bursitis are much more common in these individuals. Unfortunately, major heart attacks are also more likely to occur in susceptible persons when they physically exert themselves on an intermittent basis.

Another simple error in judgment is deciding to participate in activities that the body is no longer capable of withstanding. A sixty year-old woman with osteopenia (thinning bones) may experience a disabling vertebral fracture when riding a roller coaster or other amusement park ride that is enjoyed without consequence by teens and young adults.

Sometimes continuing to pursue what one considers a normal activity can constitute a simple error in judgment. I know a lady who insists upon walking without the security of a cane or walker even though she has a condition that places her at a markedly increased risk of falling. She has fallen on many occasions. It is simply a matter of time before she loses her independence through a hip fracture because she stubbornly refuses to take the simple precaution that would provide the required stability.

Just as we can make simple errors in judgment we can make simple enhancements in judgment. One example is to develop the habit of routinely using seat belts when driving or riding in a car. No other activity is more likely to provide protection from serious injury in the event of an emergency maneuver or collision. The fact that laws have been needed to encourage this activity is an indication of the prevalence of this simple error in judgment.

The activity of wearing a seatbelt while in a moving vehicle is important to the future wellness of adults; the use of effective safety seats for infants and children is even more critical. I am dismayed that I continue to see toddlers sitting on their mother’s lap or standing on the front passenger seat of vehicles I pass in traffic. No child should be placed at risk of lifelong disability or death by the inconvenience of being secured in an approved and properly installed device.

Since dental health is generally regarded as the purview of dentists and dental hygienists it is easy to neglect self care of the teeth. The number one reason for tooth loss is periodontal disease involving the gums and supportive bone structure surrounding the teeth. These conditions are almost totally preventable by making the simple enhanced judgment of flossing daily. Plaque commonly develops in the areas between teeth that cannot be reached by brushing alone. Fortunately, more than 24 hours are required for plaque to form. Thorough flossing once a day is highly effective in eliminating plaque buildup and preventing periodontal disease.

Engaging in physical activities on a regular basis is another simple enhancement in judgment. Exercise need not be complex to be beneficial. Performing common household chores such as making beds, dusting, sweeping and vacuuming promotes wellness. Gardening and other outdoor activities do the same.

It was once believed that exercise sessions needed to last 30 minutes or longer to effectively improve and maintain fitness. Recent studies have shown that three 10 minute sessions are nearly as effective as a single 30 minute workout. This means that it is possible to improve one’s health by parking a short distance away from an office and walking to and from the car.

People whose physical activities are limited due to arthritis in the knees or hips can improve their fitness level by moving their arms back and forth while seated. Holding an unopened can of food in each hand is a simple way to boost the intensity of this type of workout.

Developing a regular reading habit is yet another wise decision. While heavy television viewing is associated with a lower level of education and income, people who read consistently are generally better educated and have higher incomes than individuals who do not do so. They tend to report better health and as a group live longer than non-readers. This may be because readers tend to be more aware of the many steps that can be taken to improve and maintain their health.

It is not possible to list all of the activities that either impair or enhance our health. I do hope, however, that you will accept the challenge of questioning the many small decisions you make moment-by-moment and day-by-day, asking yourself whether you are making a simple error in judgment or a simple enhancement in judgment. The quality of your life in the future depends upon it.

© 2007 Wellness Clubs of America.com

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