What is health? Is it merely the absence of symptoms? Does it mean you're healthy today because you didn't have to take any medicine for a headache or indigestion or are you 'healthy' because you can run a marathon or lift lots of weights? As you age, does your health just naturally diminish or is it possible to have control over your health and is bad health a genetically predetermined fate? So many question surround the state of a person's health, both it is hard to know just what to do to reach sound mind and body.

What happens if one day you're sitting in the doctor's office and they classify you as having high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, or perhaps your weight means you're now classified as being overweight or obese. What do you do ? Diet and exercise of course, but what about all the other stuff ? Fit doesn't always mean healthy. We all know someone who works-out regularly in the gym, has tried all sorts of diets but still struggles to burn enough fat, tone up or even recover effectively from injury or illness. Maybe we're overlooking some other important factors that contribute to health.

Being healthy is not just what you eat and how much you exercise. There's a lot more to it but it doesn't have to be complicated. To be healthy simply means to be happy, full of life and vitality, free from disease and ailments, and bursting with energy. Health refers to not just the body, but also the mind and soul. It's a state of well being. So in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, what can we do to ensure optimal health? Firstly we need to recognise that to live a healthy lifestyle we need to create balance, or homeostasis, and to do that we need to take a look at the whole picture. The holistic approach to health acknowledges that the human body is a 'system of systems', all of which interact and communicate with each other.

Stress is often the limiting factor in health. An unhealthy person is very often an over-stressed person. Stress isn't just falling out with your partner or dealing with an over-expectant boss. There's all sorts of different forms of stress: Physical stress is often the result of movement. Under or overtraining, repetitive movement, injury, demanding sports, physical jobs and bad posture can all contribute to an excessive level of stress. Similarly, mental or emotional stress can be caused by trauma or adversity, pressure at work, family problems, relationship issues, depression and loneliness. Nutritional stress can be a result of eating incorrectly, too much or too little food, dehydration, processed food, pesticides, sweeteners, trans fats, preservatives and colourings etc. Furthermore, stress can be placed on the body from chemical, electromagnetic and thermal sources such as synthetic drugs, smoking and drinking, x-rays, radiation, mobile phones, televisions, computers, microwaves and even the sun! Stress reduction in the form of gentle energising exercise, walking in the countryside, reading a book, having a bath, yoga, breathing exercises and even meditation can go a long way toward finding a balance in your life. Create some 'me time'. You aren't much use to anyone if you're constantly run down, tired and miserable. Be positive, spend time with good friends and family, take up a hobby and try not to think negatively – always try to look on the bright side!

However, many of the stressors which may be causing issues cannot readily be reduced so we need to address those that we can change or alter.

Let's take a closer look at nutrition. There's more to it than just your five-a-day. What we must remember is that we're all different and that we all have our own individual genetically-based nutrition and dietary requirements. There is not one diet that is right for everyone. Therefore to achieve optimal health, you must determine what is right for you. The old adage 'one man's food is another man's poison' is true. We are all as unique as our fingerprints so how could a single diet work for us all. There are foods that are unhealthy for all of us, but there are some 'healthy' foods that are not healthy for everyone. The health benefits of any food are dependent upon the stimulatory, or inhibitory effects on the biochemistry of any individual, or 'metabolic type'. Different foods have the power to strengthen or weaken metabolic imbalances so you need to know which foods will improve how you feel, and which will make you feel worse. You also need to know how much of each macronutrient is ideal in order for you to facilitate optimal energy production. The first step is to eliminate all the bad stuff: white flour, sugar, table salt and pasteurised milk. Choose organic, unprocessed real foods.

Drink plenty of fresh, filtered water. Needless to say water is the source of life. Our bodies are made up of somewhere in the region of 80% water. Dehydration can lead to all sorts of health problems. Ideally we should drink 0.033 litres of pure water per kg of body weight.

Few people understand the link with health and when you eat. Starting your day off with a coffee and a slice of toast, followed by a snack for lunch, then to come home ravenous and pig-out on a much larger meal will make your body shape change for the worse. Try to flip your eating pattern; Eating a nutritious, substantial breakfast will give you longer lasting energy throughout the day when you need it most, stimulating your metabolism and balancing your hormonal release. You'll feel much better knowing your body has all the nutrients and fuel for the day ahead, and your body will have plenty of time to properly digest and utilise these nutrients.

Are you getting to bed on time ? The importance of good quality sleep and getting to bed on time is commonly misunderstood. Today's world of late night TV and bright artificial light makes it easy to forget that for thousands of years we lived our lives synchronised with the light and dark cycles of day and night. Modern human physiology is largely the same as our sun-driven ancestors, and our bodies are hard-wired into the cycles of light from the sun. By staying up late we mess with our hormonal system causing all sorts of growth and repair issues. Try and get to bed by 10.30pm and aim to get 8 hours of good quality sleep.

Is your digestive system healthy ? If you're stressed, eating processed foods, not sleeping enough or not getting to bed on time, or if you are chronically dehydrated, your digestive system will have a hard time assimilating the necessary nutrients from your diet. Not only that, but the gastrointestinal tract has recently been referred to as your second brain and been reported to contain more neurons than either your spinal cord or your peripheral nervous system. The digestive system can affect our mood and emotions, our hormone release and it can even create a pain signal elsewhere in the body if not functionally healthy. Cut out processed foods, pasteurised juices and dairy, trans fats and minimise additives like preservatives or sweeteners from your diet.

Nowadays we're all exposed to some form of toxicity. In our homes or at our workplace, we all have mobile phones, computers and there's wi-fi everywhere. Chemicals in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink all effects how our bodies function. Radiation and pollution is often unavoidable however, our livers are amazing. They work constantly to reduce the levels of toxins in our bodies but we could all give them a helping hand if we avoided stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, artificial preservatives, colourings and flavourings. Avoid medication, heavy metals, microwaves and smoking. Eat real, non-processed food and try eating more garlic and dark green vegetables to support healthy liver function.

The human body is designed to move. Not to sit. Get up, be active, walk more. Balance your training. Don't over-train, 'killing yourself' every session. Mix it up, do stretching, improve your posture, strengthen your core muscles, balance aerobic (running) and anaerobic (resistance training) and do exercises which you actually enjoy...

At Bodyguards we offer Advanced Metabolic Typing which identifies which foods are ideal for you and in what proportions. We also offer Holistic Lifestyle Planning so you can address the other blocking factors in your life that are preventing you from achieving optimal health. Furthermore, Bodyguards can provide you with bespoke personal training to meet your needs and offer postural assessments and programmes to help realign your body. Call Duncan Edwards on 0191 239 9000, email info@bodyguardsapt.com or visit www.bodyguardsapt.com for further information...

Duncan Edwards BSc (hons) Sport Science, HEALTHEXCEL Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, CHEK Exercise Coach, CHEK Academy Student

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