Look Behind the Scenes

We need to take a look behind the scenes if we want to see the real impacts of exercise.

More often than not we only concern ourselves with that which we can sense.

We want to lose weight to look and feel better. There’s nothing wrong with these motives, but what about all those things we can’t readily see like our blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat, and blood sugar.

These behind the scenes factors have a strong influence on our overall health, yet most of us don’t concern ourselves with them until a doctor ‘flags’ a certain reading.

While I certainly wouldn’t encourage a society of hypochondriacs, I would also warn that apathy can be a lot more hazardous. Below are some discussion points and tips on how you can improve and maintain your behind-the-scenes health factors:

  • Blood Pressure
    The pressure in your arteries is greatest after the heart beat (systolic – top number). The pressure then decreases between beats (diastolic – low number). The cause of many cases of high blood pressure is unknown. But what is known is that hypertension, stress, poor diet, and a lack of exercise put an undue strain on your heart and your circulatory system. This increased stress on your heart and arteries can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other unwanted symptoms and diseases. What can we do? Most physicians will first recommend lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure. Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine can all raise your blood pressure. Lowering body fat can reduce your blood pressure. And exercise can reduce your stress levels and increase the volume and health of your heart and arteries.
  • Cholesterol
    Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels are another behind the scenes factor that can lead to many unwanted conditions that could reduce the quantity and quality of our lives. Our livers make cholesterol to aid in the digestion of fat. Our cholesterol levels are a combination of that which is made by our liver and that which we eat. Cholesterol is found in foods derived from animals only, not plants. What can we do? Lowering our body fat and watching the types of foods we eat will help usreduce our cholesterol levels naturally.informative cholesterol link.
  • Body Fat
    I read a recent article that discussed how our society has adopted new terms and standards of obesity. We are now describing our obese children as ‘husky’ and ‘built’, almost endorsing their health tragedy. Body Fat is often mis-measured, mis-understood, and rarely used as a meaningful gauge. We allow frame size and muscle mass uncertainties to be a loop-hole for discounting the entire measurement. What do we do? Use the BMI calculator to see where you are. This is a fairly accurate gauge. If you don’t like what it says, try taking some simple body fat measurements with a measuring tape and look up your body fat percentage on the chart. If these two numbers classify you as overweight or obese, it’s time to take action. Aside from gaining the enormous health benefit of losing unnecessary body fat, you’ll feel a lot better, too. Imagine what your day would be like if you had to carry around a gallon of milk everywhere. That’s only 8 pounds! Imagine the relief when you didn’t have to carry it anymore. Losing weight to get into a healthy range has so many physical and mental health benefits, it’s worth taking the effort to modify your lifestyle.
  • Blood Sugar
    Our bodies convert the foods we eat into energy (glucose) and transport this energy in our blood stream throughout the body. In response to the glucose levels, our bodies make insulin to use and store this energy. Some people’s bodies don’t make insulin (Type I Diabetes); while others don’t make enough to handle big blood sugar surges(Type II Diabetes). What can we do? If you have Type I Diabetes, you’ll likely need some form of insulin shot as a part of your day. For the rest of us, our diets can really help us control the levels of blood sugar throughout the day. Because carbohydrates are converted the quickest to energy, we’ll need add a healthy mix of foods that provide a gradual release of energy such as foods high in fiber and protein. If blood sugar is something you’re grappling with, there are many good resources on the web for diabetic diet plans.

As you stay focused on your fitness goals, be sure to monitor those behind the scenes numbers. The good news is that most of these issues are inter-related and as you adopt healthier long-term habits, you’ll also be reducing your risk in many of the above factors.

You can find Behind the Scenes and other motivational fitness information in the October 2006 article of The Bullhorn.

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