The term ‘Preventive Health’ may sound unfamiliar, so what is it?
Our bodies are complex, resilient and responsive biochemical ‘machines’. We don’t need to understand the vast and intricate systems that keep our bodies functioning well, but we do need to ensure that our bodies can do their job – fighting off infection, potential disease, and running well day-to-day.
In Preventive health terms, this translates to: look after your body now – before medical intervention is needed.
It can help to remember that taking care of our bodies can be comparable with the maintenance and upkeep of an engine: we may not understand the mechanics, but we know we need to put in the time for upkeep or the machine will wear out, breakdown or require expensive servicing. It’s worth stressing that overloading a machine, pushing it beyond its workable limits is not helping the machine or getting optimum benefits – it is driving it to breakdown much quicker.
If this sounds daunting, focus on the analogy of the engine – it doesn’t take a lot to keep it running well, it just takes a routine and conscientious choices about the fuels we use, and remembering that the little ticks or rattles that, when tended to, prevent bigger problems down the line.
The body’s fuel is food: or more specifically – the nutrients in the food we choose to consume dictate how well our ‘machine’ runs.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER
1. A Little Goes A Long Way: Gentle Adjustments
The principle idea in Preventive health is: ‘little adjustments become habit-forming, long-term changes’.
You don’t need to start training for a daily 5k run, or commit to an intensive gym programme – if anything, many people will experience a pretty quick burnout when they find themselves ‘forcing’ their body into radical change. In psychological terms, it can often work against you if you do not respond well or feel bullied/trapped by the sudden and new challenges that are disrupting your regular routine – your source of stability & comfort.
The philosophy of gentle adjustments is one that nudges a slightly different lifestyle to MERGE with our own. One which will feel much easier to naturally expand upon as we become a little fitter, or reap the unexpected benefits of these changes, which – contrary to sudden and intensive changes – actually provide long term benefits in quite a short time. Benefits which will help you to prolong or avoid the onset of chronic health problems.
NOTE: Given that a proportion of chronic health problems may have hereditary implications, Preventive health is an immensely useful way to help the body to prolong/prevent the onset of symptoms, or sustain its strength during the management of genetic complications.
2. Every Body is Different
‘Absolute health’ is not an achievable goal.
Our bodies are a series of intricate functions and systems, which are unique to each of us when we factor in our genetics, our environment, habits, and the information we have at our disposal as to how to care for our bodies and how to consume and exercise for health.
But Preventive health measures are universally applicable to increasing your ability to prolong medical and pharmaceutical interventions. It is not an unachievable goal, custom-made or only accessible to people who love fitness, ‘health-freaks’, or ‘outdoorsy’ people.
Profound impacts can be made in the long-term with very simple short-term decisions: choosing a banana over a bag of crisps, taking the stairs instead of the lift, taking a stroll rather than sitting down on the couch – or choosing a stroll BEFORE sitting down to enjoy your favourite programme and unwinding.
3. Mental Health: It Is Not You VERSUS Your Body
Physical Preventive health works hand in hand with mental health.
The deeply complex psychological relationships we may have with our bodies, to exercise, to our beliefs about ‘who we are, and how we have always lived’ can create a barrier to motivation. The idea that our habits are unchangeable or impossible to adjust (even when we wish to) can take deep root in our perception of ourselves. We can feel defeated before we have even started.
But it’s important not to try and ‘solve’ these obstacles with a grand or sophisticated plan. It’s age-old simple wisdom that will serve you: don’t look at the mountain, stay in your body and take a step, then another, even when they seem too small to make a difference. They do. They accumulate and transform into habit over time.
That little bit of extra fresh air, the small increase of heart rate throughout the day, the longer lasting energy from a more wholesome snack – these all affect mood, and in turn, the motivation that can be so hard to muster at the beginning of making decisions to ‘get healthier’.
4. Look After Your Body So It Can Look After You
The exercise and consumption choices we make in order to move towards Preventive health are not a declaration of battle AGAINST your body: on the contrary, they are gentle and consistent signals to our bodies – and our relationship with them – that we are working WITH THEM & FOR THEM
This may seem like an exercise in word-play, but the psychological dynamics of our relationships with our own bodies are responsive to this change; making nonexistent motivation start to work for us, and emerge without relying upon militant demands.
For most of us, long-lasting change only happens when we feel we have some say and control in the process – making small choices from a gentle approach makes us feel respected, makes us responsive, open and more willing.
How we talk to ourselves, how we help ourselves towards habit-forming Preventive health benefits makes the difference between motivation and long term results, OR burning out and giving up.
Look after your body so it can look after you.