How are you feeling today? Alert, ready for action and generally fit and well? Or maybe you are slightly tired and ready for a rest. You could have an illness such as a sore throat, or an injury such as a sprained ankle. Yet in all these cases, you might still be healthy.
MANY KINDS OF HEALTH
Health is far more than simply feeling well. It involves the body’s physical fitness, whether you exercise regularly and how your body copes with activity. Health also involves eating properly and not taking in harmful substances such as tobacco smoke or illegal drugs. Health includes the mind as well as the body. A healthy person’s thoughts and behaviour are fairly normal, they are not greatly worried or under stress, and they do not take big risks. Health also means, for most of the time, not suffering from illness or disease.
A healthy body does not have to bulge with rippling muscles. In fact, this can be unhealthy. People are naturally different shapes and sizes, and this includes their muscles. So physical fitness also varies from one person to the next. Fitness is not just simple strength. It includes the body’s ability to move about and stay active, without becoming too tired or suffering sprains, strains or other injuries. Being fit means having flexible joints that do not ache, and muscles that have stamina so they do not run out of power or become weak and trembling.
Any form of sudden, extreme action can be bad for health and cause injury. This is why athletes and sports people do gentle warm-up exercises before they begin, and cooling down exercises afterwards. It is important to ask expert advice before beginning many types of activity.
Inside the body, the fitness of the heart and lungs is especially important. The heart should be able to speed up and pump more blood faster when muscles are active and need a greater blood supply. Similarly, the lungs should be able to breathe faster and deeper, to take extra oxygen from the air, which is then used by the active muscles.
Physical fitness depends mainly on regular activity and exercise. This can be as simple as a brisk walk several times a week. Or it might be regular visits to the gym, working out at home, playing sports or ball games, swimming, cycling, dance, running… the list is very long.
Activity should be regular, at least five times each week for adults. It should also last at least 30 minutes each time and involve enough exercise to speed up breathing and heart rate. Young people should do more exercise than this. Some people make exercise part of their daily routine. Others like to set aside time for it, perhaps in a group, for example, playing team games for a club.
FOOD AND DRINK
A car engine soon breaks down if it has dirty water in its tank, rather than proper fuel. The human body also needs proper fuel in the form of healthy foods and drinks. They provide energy for activity, and also nutrients to keep the body working well and to prevent disease. A healthy selection of foods and drinks is called a balanced diet. It includes a wide variety of foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. It also means not eating too many fatty foods, especially fatty meats. Too much of certain foods can cause ill health and diseases of the stomach, intestines and other body parts.
BAD FOR HEALTH
Staying healthy involves making choices, such as which exercise to take and which foods to eat. Another choice is to avoid substances that are unhealthy. One important example is smoke from cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. The smoke contains many harmful substances. They include the drug nicotine, which is addictive and makes people want more of it, and also tars and other chemicals that cause cancers. On average, every cigarette smoked shortens the smoker’s life by seven to eleven minutes.
Another harmful drug is alcohol, which is found in beers, wines, and spirits. Too much alcohol damages the brain, liver and many other body parts. It also affects thinking, coordination and judgement, and so makes accidents and injuries more likely. There are also many drugs that have been made illegal because of their harmful effects on the body and mind.
The quality of thoughts, memories, emotions and other aspects of behaviour based in the mind is called mental health. Mental health can be upset by too much stress, anxiety, sadness or other problems. These can be relieved by setting aside time for rest and relaxation and also by talking to others. Physical exercise can help mental health too. It gives the mind something to think about, so it does not dwell on problems. It can also help people to feel less anxious and can raise self-esteem.
Staying healthy means avoiding illness. Most people have occasional minor illnesses such as coughs and colds. But any serious problem should be reported to a doctor straight away. The sooner a problem is identified and treated, the better the chances are of returning to health. Some people have regular health checks, which look for the early warning signs of disease.
MAKING THE BEST OF WHAT WE HAVE
Everyone is different. So everyone’s health is different. Some people are naturally more likely to catch illnesses such as coughs and colds, caused by germs. Health can be affected by inherited conditions, which are those passed from parents to children. Some other health problems cannot be prevented, for example, types of asthma. However, each of us can make the decision to accept our bodies and minds. Then we can care for ourselves so that we stay in the best possible health.
Did you know?
• You are much more likely to have a heart attack early in the day-between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.-than at any other time.
• Young people should try to do moderate physical exercise for at least one hour every day. Walking, cycling and dancing all count. However, you should not exercise just after eating or if you are not very well.
• It is recommended that, as a part of a healthy diet, you should eat five different portions of fruit and vegetables every day.