What is Wellness, and How Do I Get There?
Written by Jon Biehl, Athletic Trainer
Exercise and wellness is a topic widely discussed and debated. There are constantly “new and better” ways to exercise and diet that are promoted weekly. There are more health trackers like fit bits and health apps than ever before. Even with all the information and technology we have, exercise and diet has not gotten any easier and people in the United States continue to gain weight. If we want to see a change in our health we need to focus on three main concepts; seeking accountability, valuing our health and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.
When someone is seeking to improve their wellness the first key is accountability. We’ve all heard it, and maybe even declared it ourselves every January 1st: “I am going to lose weight” or “I am going to improve my health”. Within a few months, and sometimes in just days, these New Year’s Resolutions fall away. Our ambitious intentions fade and we all return to the same unhealthy lifestyle. One study found that nearly 80% of people who sign up at a gym after the New Year’s drop after 5 months. That is, unless, we have a friend to encourage us in the weak moments.
To be successful in the pursuit of wellness, we need someone to hold us to our goals, and to let us hold them accountable to their goals. Having a friend, spouse or coworker be there to hold you to your exercise routine and diet will allow you to keep your goals for a longer period of time. A study done by the department of Kinesiology at Indiana University found that people who start to go to a gym have a 43% drop rate in the first year compared to a 6.3% drop rate to those who went to the gym together. An exercise environment can be a great place to build relationships. The people that we work out with see us at weak moments and are there to encourage us and struggle with us when the exercise gets tough. Once we start relying on each other, we may find ourselves not going to the gym for our sake but to encourage and push our wellness partner. This can be anything from one friend asking another to walk with them for 30 minutes on their lunch break to someone asking for intentional accountability while training for a marathon.
The next key to improved wellness is valuing our health. If most of us were asked, we would say, “Yes, I value my health.” But does our bank account reflect that? One of the most common reason individuals do not start a nutrition program, wellness program or sign up for a gym membership is that they, “cannot afford it.” If we are serious about our health, we should be willing to pay money to improve our health. This may require sacrifices in other areas of your life like eating out less or cutting cable television. This could allow us to spend money on wellness classes, personal training or a gym membership. It could also help us find room in the budget to purchase fresh produce and healthier foods or invest in a healthy eating cooking class. Investing our money and time into our health now will save money on health expenses in the future. Most health insurance companies have a high penalty for those who are obese, because the health risks that come along with an unhealthy lifestyle are costly.
The final key to improved wellness comes from the well-known Jillian Michaels saying, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly is not easy, and there is no quick fix, no miracle pill, and no easy way out to get healthy. Beginning a new exercise routine may cause aches and pains. It’s not comfortable to get up earlier so that you have time to work out. Changing your diet and avoiding unhealthy foods is not something we want to do naturally or are comfortable with. But being able to change our mindset to be okay with the discomfort of exercise and diet will allow us to push ourselves to reach the goals we used to let fade away into the New Year.
Health and wellness is something we need to take seriously. Our culture is filled with ways to contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. We need to make a conscious decision as a society to make wellness a priority. If we can hold each other accountable, value our health and get out of our comfort zone, we will be able to see a change in our health.