The Fundamentals of Physical Care

Welcome to part three of our four-part journey on daily functioning. In the previous two Inhouse magazine editions we talked about the importance of a good night’s sleep and how to create good breathing habits.

Equally important to daily functioning, is physical care. This includes hydration, nutrition, exercise, and rest.

H20 essential

They say the human body cannot survive without water for any more than about three days, which makes hydration paramount. Hydration is the act of adding water that has been lost, back into your body, so it functions properly. If we don’t do this, we end up dehydrated, and this can have some rather nasty side effects.

Dehydration can be caused by many things, including excessive overheating, sun exposure, sweating, vomiting, excessive urinating, diarrhoea, or even crying.

If you don’t replenish the water your body loses, you may start to feel unusually tired or confused, you might get dizzy when you stand up, or experience a dry mouth, lips, and eyes. If you remain in a state of dehydration for too long, more severe symptoms can occur, such as a weak or rapid pulse, low level of consciousness, or seizures.

Our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water, and it only takes a 2% loss of total water content for your body to start feeling thirsty. Good hydration helps sustain our body temperature, transports oxygen to our cells, maintains good organ function, and protects our joints.

A DIY hydration test

Simply pinch an area on the back of your hand and lift the skin up. If it falls back quickly, you are reasonably well hydrated. If you think you might not be that well hydrated, check the colour of your urine the next time you go to the bathroom. Medium to dark yellow urine is often an indication you could be dehydrated.

How do we keep well hydrated?

The first thing we think of is water. The general rule is we need 6-8 glasses of water a day, but this will vary from person to person. Having a water bottle on hand and taking regular sips throughout the day can make the process less arduous, but try and ease off as bedtime nears, or you might be up all night! In addition to water, it has been proven that some drinks with a little bit of sugar, fat, or protein can help keep us hydrated for longer. There are also plenty of foods that can contribute to hydration such as watermelon, cucumber, coconut water, broths and soups, plain yoghurt, and cottage cheese.

Adding some of those particularly good hydration foods to your daily diet is a good idea, but what else should we eat for good nutrition? Society has debated what a good diet looks like for years. Every day there are new fad diets, updated recommendations, do eat and don’t eat lists, and often a lot of information that is available to us is contradictory and conflicting. With exception to special dietary requirements due to allergies or anaphylactic reactions, the best nutritional advice might just be “everything in moderation”.

Food to function well

Food has evolved from simply being a source of survival to being celebrated as an occasion, an art, and an experience! We use it to connect, and while this is all very nice, we need to remember that food is nutrients, and nutrients are fuel for our bodies.

Good nutrients give us energy, keep our bones and muscles strong, and help our heart and brain function. Listening to our bodies is very important. A simple way to start fuelling your body well, is to keep a diary recording everything you eat for a week or two and note how your body responds.

Write down the times you eat, what you eat, and how you felt immediately after, then two hours later. Note down if you constantly feel hungry, comfortable, full, or bloated, if you feel gassy or feel an urgency to get to the toilet, if you feel energised or lethargic, and how well you sleep. This should help build a picture of what your body needs to function well.

Regardless of the ongoing research and reporting around what to, and what not to eat, we can all probably agree that fresh is best. Next time you go the supermarket (after you have stopped reeling at the price of food) try and get the majority of your food from the “fresh food” areas; the bakery, the deli, the butchery, and the fruit and veggie area, rather than the aisles where there are loads of packet and tinned foods full of sodium, sugar, and salt.

Exercise & rest

With hydration and nutrition in hand, we next look into exercise and rest. Both are equally important, and both are quite personal to the individual. Those of us who might be happy with walking the dog or a bit of gardening, followed by a good book on the couch, probably have the “rest” part sorted. But those that have a higher drive for more intense exercise will need to ensure they build “rest” time into their routines.

Sports, competitive events, and individual challenges all require very disciplined exercise, but if there is no recovery time, problems could start to emerge.

Every time we do a workout, we create tiny tears in our muscle tissues. When rested, the muscles have a chance to heal and grow back stronger. This means next time you do exercise, it will be a bit easier and take a bit less effort. If rest days are not built into your routine, the risk of injury is heightened.

At the end of the day, any kind of exercise and rest is of benefit, and the key in today’s busy world is to ensure it happens, and that we enjoy it! Plan ahead if you need to and book exercise and rest into your diary like an appointment. Then stick to it!

Balancing hydration, nutrition, exercise, and rest can seem challenging at times, but small steps and tweaks to our habits and routines can see us make huge leaps towards optimum daily functioning.

This is Part 3 of a four-part series on Daily Functioning.

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The Fundamentals of Physical Care

Welcome to part three of our four-part journey on daily functioning. In the previous two Inhouse magazine editions we talked about the importance of a good night’s sleep and how to create good breathing habits.