There are any number of fad diets and fitness options available to us today. When thinking about increasing our health and fitness, where do we start? As a holistic personal trainer and owner of a private studio, Richmond Wellness, I want to shift our thought process to include overall, total wellness, not just weight loss and physical fitness.

Studies are now showing the benefits of mindful exercise such as yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and more. Not only that, but mindfulness practices such as meditation and deep breathing are becoming more popular and mainstream. What does this mean for us?

Firstly, stress has been linked to creating many health problems not limited to, but including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression & anxiety, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, Alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging, and even premature death. It’s not just in your head when you get overwhelmed by stress – your body has a massive physiological response to it. When you’re chronically stressed, those physiologic responses – increased blood pressure and pulse, shallow breathing, as well as increased cortisol and adrenaline hormone levels – over time, can lead to health problems.

Most of us handle a higher level of stress on a daily basis than we really should. In most cases, we probably cannot reduce the level of responsibility in our lives – be it in regard to work, family, and more. However, we can find ways to rise above it and manage it better to preserve our health and well-being. In an article published by WebMd, 10 helpful techniques were listed that can zap stress. Among them were: meditation, practicing deep breathing, being present and aware in the moment, reaching out to others, tuning in to your body, decompression with heat and/or massage, laughing out loud, listening to soothing music or nature sounds, exercise (no matter the intensity), and practicing gratitude. (You can read the full article here: https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#1)

Physical exercise has been shown to decrease stress for a good handful of reasons. It increases your endorphin (feel good) hormones, it improves your mood by increasing your self-confidence and your sense of control in your life. Physical exercise can help to relax you and can help to reduce symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. It can also improve your sleep, and is a type of meditation in motion – you tend to more easily forget the day’s tensions when you focus on your body movements.

All of these benefits are bigger than the number on the scale simply going down. Focusing on these positive attributes of health, fitness, and wellness can help you to create a sustainable lifestyle change that you enjoy and appreciate. If you are enjoying and appreciating it and all of its benefits, then you are much more likely to continue the new habits that produce these benefits and feelings along with them. This is why focusing on total wellness is massively more beneficial than focusing on weight loss alone. Further, when you approach weight loss with a total wellness approach, you’re at least ten times more likely to be more conservative in your approach, thus making it more sustainable. We all know about the yo-yo factor, right? If you set out of the gate too quickly or too hard, you’re likely to get burnt out or injure yourself not too far down the road. Consistent exercise, self-care, and stress management over time will have a compounding effect, whereas effort only sustained until weight loss is achieved and then stopped will cease to give the other benefits that come along with the habits. With a more conservative, long-term approach, you’re setting yourself up for that long-term success in lifestyle change. That means feeling great as you age, and healthy mobility in your later years of life. And who doesn’t want that?

This philosophy and approach is precisely what I am teaching at Richmond Wellness, and I’m looking forward to spreading this message and modality further throughout Richmond, and beyond.

Aubrey Eicher

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