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To Build A Strong & Healthy Body You Need A Solid Foundation

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 17 June 2021
Hits: 1815

There is so much confusion and conflicting advice surrounding health and fitness these days it is no wonder so many people resort to fad diets and extreme measures to get results. There is more information available at the touch of a keyboard, more health therapists, specialists, personal trainers, and people to help people with health than there has ever been in history yet the health of many people is continuing to decline. For over 16 years I have specialized in working with people with injury or disease and helping them to restore their health and vitality to enjoy a life of quality. Over this time I have discovered many new and exciting methods, exercises, and strategies to help people, but the one thing that has never changed during this time is the foundation that good health is built upon. Just like building a house, you need a strong foundation before you worry about doing anything else. In this article I will show you that there is 8 pieces to this foundation you need to know in order to have a strong and healthy body.

Modern Health Is More Concerned With Treating Symptoms

One thing that has really irritated me over the years is the complete arrogance and ignorance to healthy eating and exercise from modern medicine. They believe everything can be solved by swallowing pills, injections, or using surgery to cut the pain out of you. While there has been some incredible advancement with medical technology that can save many lives, there is also an over-reliance on this to treat conditions that really require healthy eating and exercise.

Everybody loves to put modern medicine up on a pedestal as the best of the best, but we must remember their way of treating things is to wait until you are broken and then try to find a cure to fix you. There endless search for a magic pill is evidence of this and the media drools all over this sort of rubbish. In the book "Surgery the Ultimate Placebo" by Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ian Harris he says it best on page 56.

“The over representation of good news from medicine is a problem in the scientific literature, but that bias is magnified manifold in the media. I have seen media reports of supposed cures for things as cancer, dementia, and paraplegia. And the more advanced the science seems to be, the more the media love it.”

For a long time this has been a problem for me with regards to helping people with injury where people have been advised to undertake surgery for conditions that could easily be treated with corrective exercise. The amount of people I have met who were in severe pain from spinal surgeries that did not work is sickening. This has been well documented for a long time yet these surgeries are still being conducted as we speak.

See our article – Do we rely on science and surgery too much for treating injury?

Another great quote from Dr Harris about this is below.

 “At the heart of this question is a reflection of society’s overreliance on surgery as the preferred way of fixing the physical breakdowns that occur in our body. We look at the body like a car in need of a mechanic. And I must admit that it still surprises me when I discover that treating the body like a machine, by removing torn cartilages, repairing torn tendons, unblocking arteries and veins and catching clots in a next, patching holes in the heart, either doesn’t work, or doesn’t work any better than leaving it to the body to sort it out.”

Here are a few examples of where modern medicine fails with its ignorance to nutrition and exercise.

Cancer

Late last year my dad was diagnosed with cancer in his mouth and his treatment focused on trying to cut the tumour out of his face. They believed that they could cut it out and provide him with extensive plastic surgery to rebuild his jaw and face and that he should be fine. During the assessment process I was required to go in with him so he had someone with him to help understand the procedure and ask any questions he may have. We had to meet many specialists, one of them being the dietician in the hospital who gave him a diet to make sure he did not lose too much weight prior to the operation.

As the cancer was in his mouth he was not able to chew properly and was mainly eating liquid foods. Now you would think that the dietician would be trying to prescribe the best type of foods available with the highest amount of nutrition to assist his body in fighting the disease. The last thing you have thought they would prescribe would be foods loaded with sugar like chocolate mousse, custard, fruit juices, and even his favourite Pepsi Max. But this is exactly what they gave to him to eat.

When I questioned them about it they were concerned he would lose too much weight. At that time he was still 20-30kg overweight and he had been obese for many years. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of nutrition and in particular with cancer would know that sugar is one of the fastest ways to encourage the cancer to spread.  

Cancerous cells lack metabolic flexibility and need glucose to survive and multiply and the processed rubbish this so called expert was going to feed my dad was loaded with it. I mentioned giving him foods like bone broth and she shot me down saying it is a waste of time and will not help him at all. Eating high quality nutrition would not only provide his body with the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to fight the disease it would at the same time cut off their supply of fuel, effectively starving the cancer cells to death.

You can read more about this in the book “Preventing Cancer” by Richard Beliveau & Denis Gingras

When I spoke to the Oncologist about it he didn’t even consider it as something to consider. His belief was that he needed surgery and if that didn’t work it would be radiotherapy. Which is exactly what ended up happening which brings me to the second point.

If sugar is one of the fastest ways to encourage cancer growth, inactivity would be number two! And once again at no point did any of the doctors, specialists or oncologists advise my dad to exercise or even move at all. My dad was never keen to move at the best of times and now he was convinced all he had to do was sit in his couch and not move. I had published many articles about the danger of this but he was never going to listen to me as the so called experts said not to worry about it.

You can sense how my blood was beginning to boil over with these doctors giving absolute rubbish advice and putting all their hopes on surgery and radiation therapy.

Many researchers and studies have also found exercise to be of great benefit during cancer treatment. For example, a 2005 Harvard study found that breast cancer patients who exercised moderately for three to five hours a week lowered their odds of dying from cancer by about half, compared to sedentary patients. In fact, any amount of weekly exercise increased a patient's odds of surviving breast cancer to some degree, and this benefit remained constant regardless of whether women were diagnosed early on or after their cancer had spread.

Exercise has also been shown to minimize the side effects of conventional cancer therapy, and improve cancer patients' quality of life. Add on top of that the mental health destruction from the radiation therapy that was crippling my dad and you could see how they could have dramatically improved his situation if they advised him to spend time walking and trying to move. Until you have gone through this battle with someone you do not know what it is like watching them slowly and painfully fade away.

You can read more about cancer in the articles shown below

Type 2 Diabetes

It’s not just cancer that leaves me bewildered by modern medicine. Last year I was inspired to write a detailed article about the importance of healthy eating and exercise for preventing Type 2 Diabetes after reading an article from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute about their latest scientific research called Dark Shadows.

I downloaded the 50 page report and nearly fell of my chair when I read the conclusion. See the picture below.

At no point in the summary findings does it mention anything about using EXERCISE or NUTRITION to prevent or treat the condition. I looked all over the report several times as I thought I must have missed it. Instead, their conclusion is that we need more drugs! You will find this on page 17 of the report.

When you consider that this disease is in most cases is created from poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and poor lifestyle choices like smoking, it makes perfect sense for the entire community to be informed of how to prevent it by making positive lifestyle changes. And not rely on a magic pill to solve all their problems.

The underlying problem in type 2 diabetes is improper insulin and leptin signalling. In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is still producing some insulin, the problem is that there is usually too much being produced on a chronic basis, and as a result your pancreas is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly.

This is usually caused by a diet that is too high in sugars and sugar-forming foods such as breads and pastas. The second problem is to do with leptin signalling, which is caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels — again due to a diet that is too high in sugar.

It's important to understand what really happens when you simply add insulin without addressing the underlying insulin/leptin resistance. When your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released to direct the extra energy (sugar) into storage. A small amount is stored as a starch called glycogen, but the majority is stored as fat. If you do not exercise at all this is an even bigger problem as all this storage has nowhere to go!

Insulin's primary role is not to lower your blood sugar, but rather to store this extra energy as fat for future needs when food may not be available. The fact that insulin lowers your blood sugar is merely a "side effect" of this energy storage process. So taking more insulin just makes you fatter!

The elevated blood sugar is only a symptom of diabetes, not the cause. This is where drugs used to lower blood sugars are not addressing the reason it is high in the first place. This is very much like the approach taken with cholesterol where drugs are used to lower the levels without correcting the reason for high levels.

See our article – Understanding cholesterol and why we need it to be healthy

If this is not arrogance and ignorance I do not know what is.

The last example I will discuss is about injury and the use of surgery to “fix” chronic pain.

Surgery for Chronic Pain

The next time I have a client who comes in to see me for help with a chronic injury and I ask them what have you tried before seeing me? And if there response is – “The GP advised me to have a cortisone injection and rest”, I am going to bash my head against a wall. I cannot believe that this is the first thing that a doctor thinks to subscribe to someone for a chronic injury. Giving someone a cortisone injection for treating a rotator cuff tear of the shoulder or bursitis of the hip is complete stupidity and ignorance of treating a condition that needs corrective exercise.

This is the equivalent to turning off the fire alarm while your house is on fire and wondering why nothing seems to improve. I wish this was the worst that things would get but unfortunately this is the tip of the iceberg. By far the most the most troubling and concerning trends we are seeing is the instant use of surgery for treatment of chronic pain. I will never go against medical advice however, I have met countless number of people who came to me for help after having surgery that has left them in more pain than they had before.

Always remember that surgery is not addressing the cause of the problem, it is merely treating the symptoms and replacing a part as if your body was like a car. When it comes to traumatic accidents this is great, but when this is trying to rectify what is really a movement and stability problem this only serves to create more dysfunction and pain.

Sometimes surgery is the last resort as the condition has deteriorated so much that any exercise intervention may be pointless. But it should always be a last resort after everything has been exhausted first. And one of the best examples of this is with spinal fusions. In my 15 years of working with hundreds of cases of different back pain cases, I have yet to meet a person better after spinal fusion.

And if you don’t believe me here is some damming quotes about back surgery from experts in this field.

"95% of the challenging patients see do NOT need surgery, even thought they were told that was their only cure. My opinion based on three decades of experience, working with patients who have been successful with surgical avoidance and in dealing with the "failed backs" caused by unsuccessful surgery.”Dr Stuart McGill world renowned researcher and scientist on back pain referenced from his book “Back Pain Mechanic”.

“The success rate of the spinal fusion for back pain was about 24 percent, but we still kept doing it. Then, in 1994, when this paper came out Washington showing that the return-to-work rate one year after a spinal fusion for back pain was 15 percent, I just stopped. Every paper since then has showed pretty much the same dismal results; there's maybe a 20 to 25 percent success rate of spinal fusion for back pain... And the downside of a failed spine surgery is terrible. It's really bad. These people are condemned to live their entire lifetime, 30 to 40 more years, in chronic pain." – Dr David Hanscom

In the book “Surgery the Ultimate Placebo” by Dr Ian Harris on page 134 he makes the comment - “The other thing about spinal fusion surgery is that even the case series aren’t that great. Re-operation rates of 20% or more after only a few years are common, persistent pain is common, and ongoing need for treatment such as physical therapy and opioids is common. The failure of spine surgery is so common that it has been given a name; failed back syndrome.”

Even the Mayo clinic is out on this one -“Spinal fusion is typically an effective treatment for fractures, deformities or instability in the spine. But study results are more mixed when the cause of the back or neck pain is unclear. In many cases, spinal fusion is no more effective than nonsurgical treatments for nonspecific back pain.”

I appreciate that some people may be in severe pain and the desire to make it go away makes surgery appealing, even with the low success rate and high risks. As with any surgery for chronic pain it is wise to exhaust every option first and try as best as you can to find the source of your pain and not just treat symptoms.

It is not just spinal fusions that are of concern. Here is some more interesting quotes from Dr Ian Harris again.

"For knee arthroscopy, the bottom line is that if you have pain and degenerative changes in your knee (like mild arthritis or an undisplaced meniscus tear), then regardless of the kind of symptoms you have (mechanical or not), regardless of how bad your pain is, and regardless of whether or not the MRI scans show your meniscus to be torn, and of whether or not you have an MRI at all, having an arthroscopy will not increase your chances of getting better, compared to a sham surgery. Nor will it reverse the degenerative changes in your knee. Believe me, I would love for arthroscopy to work (it is a great operation and pays well) but for arthritis and degenerative tears in the meniscus which is most patients with knee pain it doesn't. " -  Dr Ian Harris.

He also makes an interesting statement confirming that not all people develop arthritis even when things do not look right under a scan.

"It should be noted, though, that most people over 40 have a meniscus tear, nearly everyone with osteoarthritis has a meniscus tear, and of all the people in the community who have a meniscus tear, most do not have knee pain. The link between the presence of a meniscus tear and knee pain is not strong, and the link between taking it out and relieving pain is even more tenuous, but we continue to do this procedure in record numbers." - Dr Ian Harris

You can read more about the dangers of surgery in the articles below.

Okay, so I think I have made a strong point that the medical system is not really trying to prevent problems. It would rather you broke down so they can fix you. It is up to you to take responsibility for your own health and make some positive changes to your lifestyle. This is how you get started.

How to Build a Solid Foundation Of Health

As I mentioned in the introduction building a healthy body is similar to building a house, you need a strong foundation. Each one is as important as the next as they are all bound to each other to create the perfect environment for the body to thrive. In the picture above there are only 6 pillars shown as I merged a couple of the exercise components into the movement one. Really there are 8 pillars that I will discuss in great detail shortly.

Something we tend to forget is just how complex the body is. It really is an amazing design and a system of many systems. If one system is not functioning well it compromises the health of the others in order to bring it up to the level it should be. This is why someone who works out all the time but ignores the quality of good nutrition and rest never achieves great results. (See article why you cannot out-exercise a bad diet for more on this.

It also explains why someone who tries to lose weight by only changing their nutrition and not including exercise will also achieve moderate results and not be as healthy as they think.

The thing to really understand is this - Each system is dependent on the other to run optimally and efficiently. The picture below gives you a great example of this.

We tend to take for granted many of these systems and rarely consider the critical role they perform without ever shutting down, unless something goes wrong with our heart or lungs and then we are very aware. Many of these are part of our autonomic nervous system that regulates a variety of body process that takes place without conscious effort. This system is responsible for regulating involuntary body functions, such as heartbeat, blood flow, breathing, and digestion

As these systems are designed to never shut down it means we must be extremely disciplined and educated about how to look after them. And this is where the value of eating quality nutrition, regularly exercising and getting enough rest comes in to play. As there is no immediate consequence to poor maintenance of these systems people get a bit lazy and cut corners with their job of looking after the body. There is no warning signal flashing to tell them they must change their destructive ways. It is only after years of abuse that the signal starts to appear and when you are at this stage it can be a long road back to normal.

To make sure you do not end up like this here is the 8 pillars you need to build your foundation upon.

Let’s start with mental health which includes everything to do with rest and repair.

1. Mental Health – The Damage Of Stress & Poor Sleep

This is a massive topic to discuss and of all the health problems to work with it is the most complicated. Without a doubt the biggest saboteur of any health and fitness program is STRESS. It can derail the fittest and strongest person and cause a multitude of health problems. For some people it may result in weight gain, joint pain, headaches and migraines or in my case a skin disorder. When I am extremely stressed my body develops Psoriasis lesions. It took me nearly 15 years to finally get on top of this and better manage my condition. (You can see more about how I did this in the article - How I got rid of Psoriasis.

The message is clear that stress will ruin your health very quickly and you must acknowledge the damage it causes.

Stress is needed to prepare us for survival and this is called "Fight of flight" response. In a stressful situation the body secretes stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to our arms and legs in order to help us either run away fast, or, stay and fight. This is good in life and death situations as these hormones will possibly save your life. But it is not good if this system is turned on all the time.

An unchecked stress response can cause repeated spikes in blood pressure increasing the chances of a stroke. You will begin to stockpile fat around the abdomen due to the high levels of the stress hormone cortisol being activated lowering IGF-1 and maintaining high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. This endless supply of cortisol greatly weakens the immune system and exposes the body to deadly diseases like diabetes and cancer.

We need certain amount of stress to alert us when there is danger. For not having enough stress can also lead to health problems! I know it sounds crazy doesn’t it. But the person who sits on the couch all day and never exercises will be just as stressed out as the person who is a complete stress head and over-exercises.

The key is to find your stress sweet spot, just enough stress, but not too much, so you can help your body find its optimal health.

Exercise, meditation, Tai-chi, and Yoga are all great forms of controlling stress and improving your overall health. If you do not like meditation that is fine go for a walk or spend time doing something you enjoy to allow your body to relax and unwind.

Exercise is extremely under-rated for combatting the damage of stress and there is tons of research proving it to be just as effective as medication for treating mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. It helps us become more socially active, it boosts our confidence and provides an opportunity to meet people. These are all great things in helping us to establish and maintain social connections. Below is a great video about this topic.

 

Also make sure you check out the article – What you need to know about exercise for mental health

Meditation is another very popular way to help control our stress response. When you start learning to meditate one of the key components is breathing, taking controlled slow breaths triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for calming you down after a stressful experience, the vagus nerve is triggered through taking slow deep breaths which then it slows your heart and breathing rate down returning the flow of blood to all areas of your body and conserve energy among other responses that help your body function properly.

Breathing slowly essentially sends a message to your brain that everything is okay so our brain won’t keep searching for danger and way out. You can read more about this in the article – Meditation for beginners

Sleep & Recovery

Most of us spend nearly a third of our life sleeping. Yet for many people they do not get enough quality sleep and their health pays a big price for it. Many people think we shut down at night but it is the exact opposite, the body's digestive system is in hyper-drive at night as it uses this time to repair damage cells and tissue caused from activities during the day. If our sleep is compromised so is our ability to heal our body and is why people with poor sleep are more likely suffer with serious illness and disease.

Our bodies are designed to follow the movement of the sun, moon and the earth. This is called circadian rhythm. When light stimulates our skin or eyes our hormonal system thinks it is daylight and releases a stress hormone called cortisol which is activated to prepare our body for movement, work and whatever we need to do in daily life. Basically cortisol is needed to wake you up, and is meant to decrease as the sun goes down so your body can prepare for activation of the growth hormones called melatonin to be released to allow the body to repair.

If we disrupt this rhythm we expose the body to all types of problems as you can see in the picture below.

These topics are massive as I am sure you would agree and this article could be another 10,000 words long if we wanted to go into detail of what to do if you have issues with stress or sleep. If you are struggling with either of these areas I suggest to see a qualified therapist for assistance. You may also want to check out the 2 articles below that provide some great tips of how we help our clients to improve their sleep and reduce stress.

Mental health is a serious issue and I hope this article provides you with some great information to both treating and managing your health issues with exercise. However, if you feel that you may be affected by depression or anxiety remember they are treatable conditions and effective treatments are available. The earlier you seek support, the better.

This brings me to the next pillar being breathing.

2. Breathing

Breathing feeds oxygen to every cell in the body. Without sufficient oxygen, people are more prone to health problems, including respiratory illnesses, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even heart disease. We tend to never consider the important role of our heart and lungs until something goes wrong. This is part of our autonomic nervous system that regulates a variety of body process that takes place without conscious effort. This system is responsible for regulating involuntary body functions, such as heartbeat, blood flow, breathing, and digestion

It is one of those systems that is designed to never shut down meaning it is CRITICAL we know how to look after it.

A normal breath is where your belly will RISE on the breath in. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen who do the exact opposite of this! If you are breathing the opposite to how the diaphragm is designed you will develop a series of problems so it is vital to get this right before you do anything else. If you are not exercising your breathing should be in and out of the nose.

Some important facts about breathing that you might now know.

  • If you stop breathing you will have about 3- 4 minutes before you are dead!
  • Breathing maintains your acid-alkaline or pH balance
  • Helps in the breakdown of food (metabolism)
  • Greatly influences your posture
  • Acts as a key component for your stabiliser system to develop strength
  • Generates Cerebral Fluid in the spine, necessary for a healthy musculoskeletal system
  • Controls emotions

Over breathing and mouth breathing also tend to go hand-in-hand with snoring and/or sleep apnea; conditions that decimate your sleep quality. The same remedy of nose breathing that works for asthma and anxiety sufferers works tremendously well for sleep apnea.

Here is an exercise you can try and is very easy to perform, and you can do it almost anywhere. This is an exercise that can help to keep the airways open for longer to help air flow.

Instructions:

  1. Sit up straight. Practice good posture as it can help promote better lung movement.
  2. Breathe in deeply through your nose in a slow, controlled fashion.
  3. Purse your lips, which is much like making a “kissing” face where your lips are almost, but not quite, touching.

    Breathe out through your pursed lips, making a goal of breathing out twice as long as breathing in. Some people may find it beneficial to set a timer, such as focusing on breathing in for 5 seconds and exhaling for 10 seconds.

This exercise can be helpful for someone who is not as physically active as some others and may not be using their breathing muscles as frequently.

For more detail on Nose Breathing I suggest to get the book "Close Your Mouth" by Patrick McKewon which is a simple book that explains how the Buteyko Breathing works.

You must understand that because breathing is so important to us being alive, and in a matter of minutes of being without it we could die, the body ranks it above ALL other things. Ordinary, everyday breathing isn't enough to keep the oxygen flowing through the body at peak levels which is why you MUST exercise. But not all exercise is equal and you must be careful with your choice to ensure your body responds positively to the changes you are trying to make.

These two articles provide you with all the information you require for breathing that include videos and pictures of exercises to use.

3. Nutrition

We need our food to provide these essential vitamins and nutrients. We must look at our food as more than just fuel or energy to do exercise as it is so much more than that. Our bodies have genetically-based requirements for specific kinds of foods and balances of nutrients in order to produce optimal energy and function in a state of optimal health. If we meet these "design requirements," we can expect to be healthy, energetic, fit and trim.

By spending the time to prepare and plan your week ahead you can ensure your body gets these essential foods.

The old saying you are what you eat is so true. Eating fresh foods and avoiding processed foods is often a great start towards improving your overall health. Without even discussing the break-up of proteins, fats, and carbs most people will meet their vitamin and nutrient needs easily by just eating fresh meats and vegetables.

You must be careful of eating too many grain type foods like breads, pastas, pizza, and cereals as this increases your chances of disrupting your insulin and leptin hormones, that eventually create type 2 diabetes. If your job is very sedentary you will not need the massive energy and sugar blast that these type of foods provide. While they are okay in small portions, many people eat far too many of that only serves to sabotage all their other health efforts and creating problems for their heart.

Vegetables are a much better choice of carbohydrates and I would focus your attention on these food groups. Green vegetables are a great food to include into your diet as they contain an array of anti-inflammatory properties you cannot find in any other food.

Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:

  • Lower risks of stroke & type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease and heart disease
  • Lower risks of certain types of cancer, eye diseases and digestive problems
  • Reduced risk of kidney stones and bone loss
  • Higher scores on cognitive tests
  • Higher antioxidant levels
  • Lower biomarkers for oxidative stress

When we fail to take in enough antioxidants our body undergoes a greater degree of damaging oxidative stress. When we live in a constant state of oxidative stress it can lead to chronic inflammation and eventually disease. Green vegetables are useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease since they are high in dietary fiber, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as containing a host of other phytochemicals.

The chart below gives you a great visual of foods to eat more or less of. This type of eating is similar to the Keto diet which relies on teaching the body to burn fat as its preferred fuel source instead of glucose that is found in sugars and carbohydrates.

I would suggest to seek guidance with a qualified nutritionist or a person who understands this eating instead of making it up yourself. But if you can begin by eliminating processed foods and sugar from your diet you will be halfway there.

Always try to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure you get the different nutrients and vitamins they possess. I like to try and eat the rainbow as shown in the picture below.

Get a copy of the special report below that explains how to put together all the pieces of nutrition just right for you.

  

I also suggest to read these articles with more information about eating healthy.

4. Gut Health

One of the most important systems to our health, and especially when we talk about viruses, colds and infections is what happens in our DIGESTIVE TRACT. The health of our digestive system plays a MASSIVE role in how well you’re able to fight off these nasty germs. And what you eat or don't eat can have a direct impact on how quickly you recover from an infection and whether you catch the bug in the first place.

To help explain this I am going to display some of the great info-graphics I found on the Precision Nutrition website that jump out at me when I talk about the immune system. I love their info-graphics as they really simplify what can be very confusing and complex topics to explain. This first one gives a very clear example of how important our digestive system is to our health and providing us with the ability to fight off bugs.

During COVID-19 lock-downs in there was widespread reports around the world showing a large percentage of the population gained weight. An article on the MedicineNet website showed there was a 266% increase in confectionary eating in the last 2 weeks of March, compared to February, among its 1.4 million monthly active members.

In another poll they found that 70% of people in the U.S. and 35% internationally cited “stress eating” as a cause of their weight gain. When we’re worried or frightened, we’re more likely to seek out sugars, fats, and carbs for a quick energy boost. Comfort eating helps to calm us down when we are stressed, but if left unchecked it can escalate into a bigger problem in the long run. This is exactly the type of things that will ruin your digestive system, and as a result ruin your health.

To see more about gut health read our articles below.

So far we have covered the mental and nutrition pillars of good health, now we can take a look at the physical factors associated with movement and exercise.

Functional Movement

When people look to get in shape they believe that moving well will just happen automatically. All they have to do is get out there and get it done, and the body will fix any problems it encounters along the way by itself. Unfortunately, it does not work like this at all, and any stability or movement problems you currently have will be exacerbated once the volume of training is increased.

Our understanding of exercise has become very confused in recent years as most people believe that the key to exercise is doing long slow cardio sessions or any activity that burns a lot of calories. If you don’t get a sweat then it is not a good workout! Unfortunately this mentality is the foundation for a series of future problems. Especially if you are new to exercise or you have any existing injury or health concern like heart disease.

The amount of people who end up injured from their own exercise endeavours is astounding, and the most frustrating part is this could have very easily been avoided if they had spent time learning good technique in the beginning, and gradually building up to more intense training.

You must “earn the right” to use fitness methods.

The best type of exercise for people to focus on in the beginning is strength training that emphasizes technique and movement quality. Once you can prove that you are able to move well and your body has gained some strength it will be able to handle the stress that comes with fitness based activities.

What Type Of Exercises Is Best?

We need exercise to constantly maintain our skills of balance, mobility, and strength to ensure life’s demands do not exceed our physical ability. This is where the use of functional strength methods are often used as they seek to improve our strength for activities we use in daily life.

Our training capacity must exceed our requirement for life for when it falls below this line is when we are faced with massive life changes. For example, if you find the step-up exercise in the gym is hard to do, you will find walking up a flight of stairs in a shopping centre very difficult. This is where many of the traditional exercise methods fail to address this requirement that eventually come back to bite you.

Watch the video below that explains how this works.

The older you are the more important functional strength becomes. For once you lose too much strength you are now on the road to disability! And the speed at which you can lose muscle from inactivity is much faster than many people realize.

There are 7 fundamental movement patterns you need to learn and they are.

  1. Squat
  2. Bend
  3. Lunge
  4. Push
  5. Pull
  6. Twist
  7. Gait

You will find the FREE Report shown below explains exactly how to learn these.

Often the main obstacle preventing people from developing these patterns and movements is a lack of mobility, which brings us to the next pillar.

Mobility

One of the biggest mistakes people make with exercise is neglecting to correct areas of the body lacking mobility. Aggressive physical training cannot change fundamental mobility and stability problems at an effective rate without also introducing a degree of compensation and increased risk of injury. It is impossible to develop strength to your full potential if poor mobility of joints is present.

Every time you improve flexibility and mobility new opportunities are created to alter and change movement patterns, and increase strength in weak and lazy muscles. For if there is a tight muscle, there is also an opposite, a weak lazy muscle.

The big mistake people make in rehab is trying to strengthen the weak muscles first. Sure they need to be strengthened, but they can never achieve their potential while they lack range of motion, timing and freedom of movement that can only be restored using flexibility and mobility methods. Tight and dominating muscles, also known as Tonic muscles inhibit weak lazy muscles, known as Phasic muscles from firing. This is called muscle inhibition and is a massive problem to contend with for many rehabilitation programs.

How do you do this?

Once again this is not a simple process of stretching every muscle. You need to be more calculated and strategic with what muscles you try to improve flexibility with. The best way to do this is to complete an assessment.

With my assessment I like to start from the head and move my way down for most upper body and lower back problems, and the exact opposite for lower limb problems by starting at the feet and working my way up the kinetic chain. It is up to you how you prefer to do the assessment, just remember to complete all the tests and never assume anything.

The GOLDEN RULE of Stretching is this: Any muscle that appears tight, or hard to do, will benefit from a stretching exercise or method. If it is not hard to stretch DO NOT STRETCH IT. If you stretch a weakened muscle you will make it weaker.

ONLY STRETCH TIGHT MUSCLES!

Also look for variance between left and right and anything that is lacking range of motion needs to be improved to match the other side. You must strive to be symmetrical across all joints otherwise compensation takes over and faulty patterns emerge.

Read this article to see exactly how to do this – How to complete a mobility assessment by yourself

Once you have begun to work on your mobility the next thing you need to do is work on core stability.

Core Stability

Stability training is one of those terms thrown around that is often completely misunderstood, abused, or not given enough respect. All too often I hear sports people say I am going to do some stability or "core" work and them watch them complete a series of planks and abdominal exercises. This is not even close to stability training.

True stability is all about TIMING!

Being able to react with perfect reflexes to be able to maintain joint alignment ready for efficient and smooth movement. And it not just limited to the legs or the trunk. All joints require stability!

What people fail to understand is that your abs are unable to move you, other than making you wiggle or flop around like a fish out of water. You need your arms and legs to move you for your abdominal muscles are not capable of doing much. Basically the abdominal muscles have very little influence over how you move, for this is not their true purpose. This is very important to understand and will explain why I believe many core exercises are incorrectly implemented.

The CORE is really a combination of both small stabilizing muscles known as the Inner Unit, combined with large prime mover muscles that operate like a series of complex chains and systems to provide stiffness on a greater scale. This known as the Outer Unit. True core strength requires the use of both.

The inner unit is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. These muscles can act as an isometric or dynamic stabilizer for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another, or initiate movement itself. The role of the inner unit is to stabilize the spine. That’s it.

This is where the information to achieve great core strength is to focus on exercises that isolate this function and find ways to make you stiffer and stronger, such as a plank. It all seems to make sense but the problem is that every step, every arm swing, and every turn of the head our body needs to release this stiffness in order to move.

Watch the video below for a detailed explanation of this.

For example consider the need for abdominal tension during a throwing action or a golf swing, but when you start breaking down what is involved you’ll see just how complex the “core” really is. As you throw the ball, everything that prevents you from twisting or turning can be considered a core muscle.

The lower leg needs to be braced and strong to prevent the foot rolling in, which will cause the knee to cave in upstream. Likewise the hips need to be strong to prevent the exact same thing. The muscles that surround the spine – from the small stabilizers right up to the powerful back muscles such as the lats - all act to stiffen and stabilize the spine during such actions. There is definitely abdominal involvement but it is not powerful enough to move, as it requires the legs to the bulk of the workload. In summary the core can then be thought of as all the muscles below your head.

What exercises should you use?

There are no set of exercises that everyone should use, only the ones that your body needs and work for you. What they should include however is a combination of inner unit stabilizers working with outer unit prime movers to preserve good postural alignment and control.

You will find many great ideas of how to do this in the articles below that provide numerous examples of exercises to use.

We are now ready for the final pillar and that is strengthening.

Muscle & Bone Density

This final pillar really is the thing that holds everything together. Not only is muscle important to the health of our bones and musculoskeletal system, it plays a very important role in controlling hormones.

Once you can prove that you are able to move well and you have good mobility combined with good stability it is important to challenge the body with resistance. This is not for the purpose of looking good in a mirror, although that is a nice side effect, it is more to do with your health. Muscle changes so much more than just how you look.

The muscles of people who regularly lift weights absorb blood sugar in response to insulin much more effectively helping the pancreas to secrete lower amounts of this hormone. This is very important to the health of the entire body and maintaining homeostasis.

Here is a just a short list of the various benefits of using a strength training program to add muscle.

  1. Muscle is the biggest influence on your metabolic rate. The more you have the faster your metabolism and the easier it is to lose weight
  2. Muscle regulates hormones and prevents disease like diabetes and cancer which are often caused from insulin resistance
  3. Muscle improves bone density and prevents bone fractures, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, and can even reverse osteoarthritis.
  4. Muscle prevents injury and improves stability across all joints
  5. Muscle improves sporting performance by increasing speed and power.

Bone Density, Sarcopenia, Osteoporosis & Osteoarthritis

Many younger people will think this is not relevant to them, but if you are someone who is overweight, does not do any form of resistance training, have a sedentary job and would rate their life as fairly stressful, then there is a good chance you will be developing early signs of arthritis and bone density problems. It is no longer just an old person's disease.

Peak bone mass is reached at around 25 years of age and normally remains relatively stable until around the age of 50. After the age of 50, progressive losses of of bone mineral density begins to occur.

As bones lose their density they become weaker and the risk of fracture during regular activities increases. If this person were to fall they would likely break a hip, wrist or vertebrae in their spine! If bones become brittle enough (severe osteoporosis) they can break during even normal weight-bearing activities. In older populations broken bones are potentially lethal. The seriousness of this cannot be underestimated. Hip fractures are the number one cause of nursing home admission and approximately 50% of those who suffer a hip fracture never fully regain their mobility and independence and 50% of those die within the first year!

You can read more about this in the article - How to prevent falls with older adults

What we are seeing more often these days is symptoms of Osteoporosis in people aged in their early 40's and some even in their 30's! Osteoporosis is now so common I am working with many clients with severe postural problems causing severe injuries like disc bulges in the lower back and neck due to their bones becoming so weak and brittle. 

Osteoporosis is causes the gradual loss of bone density and strength and when the thoracic vertebrae are affected like in the picture above, there can be a gradual collapse of the vertebrae. This results in kyphosis, an excessive curvature of the thoracic region. This causes what is known as a Dowagers Hump! Not very attractive, but even worse than how it looks is the damage it creates to rest of the body. Multiple injuries begin to surface when this poor posture is left untreated. It is a very long slow process to correct this condition, it is so much easier to prevent it from happening.

The Secret to Making Bone Respond Quickly

Now that you know how to move well it is time to strengthen the muscles and more importantly the bones. 

Tissue adapts when it is faced with a challenge that is beyond what it encounters in everyday life. This is the beauty of strength training as it can be easily manipulated or altered to create new challenges. The overload produced from the exercise challenge is the stimulus for tissue change. Constantly changing exercises, intensity, tempo and methods are just some of the variables you can use to promote this overload. One big secret is to use exercises that challenge the body in multi directional angles and directions.

Research has found that multi directional exercises with load improve bone density and bone strength faster due to the fact that they incorporate so many of the structural lines needed for everyday life moving. By forcing challenges with these exercises with either load or speed these lines adapt and create a structural change to the bones. This is one reason why machine training provides little to no effect. Even exercises like bicep curls will produce little change to the body in terms of muscle development.

It is not always about lifting heavier weights, sometimes completing more repetitions, performing the exercise for a longer period of time doing the exercise faster or slower can be all you need to enforce change. The key is to use a lot of various methods to continually overload the body’s systems so that you continue to make improvements.

You can read more about this in the articles below

Summary

That concludes our detailed look at the 8 foundation pillars of health. I hope this gives you a clearer understanding of what it takes to improve your overall health and fitness and exactly where you may need to work on. Always remember it is much easier to maintain good health than it is to restore it once you have lost it.

The old saying "prevention is much better than a cure" is oh so true. But don't expect to hear that from the medical profession or the media who think everything can be solved with a pill or surgery. Take responsibility for your own health and you will never look back and never need to rely on these artificial solutions that the media and the medical profession are so obsessed with.

For more ideas and information on specific topics I may not have covered in detail be sure to check out our INDEX PAGE on the website that has over 300 of our best articles. These are all sorted into categories for quick reference so you can find what you are after more easily.

If you do need specific help with your exercise program please feel free to reach out to me for help and we can organise a consultation or Zoom online program if you live overseas.

 

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specializes in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.

References:

  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions for the Hip & Shoulder - by Evan Osar
  • Back Pain Mechanic - by Dr Stuart McGill
  • Diagnosis & Treatment Of Movement Impairment Syndromes - By Shirley Sahrman
  • Low Back Disorders - by Dr Stuart McGill
  • Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance - by Dr Stuart McGill
  • Core Stability - by Peak Performance
  • Bending the Aging Curve -  Joseph Signorile
  • Athletic Body in Balance - by Gray Cook
  • Anatomy Trains - by Thomas Meyers
  • Motor Learning and Performance - By Richard A Schmidt and Timothy D Lee
  • Assessment & Treatment Of Muscle Imbalance - By Vladimir Janda
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek
  • Scientific Core Conditioning Correspondence Course - By Paul Chek
  • Advanced Program Design - By Paul Chek
  • Twist Conditioning Sports Strength - By Peter Twist
  • Twist Conditioning Sports Movement - By Peter Twist
  • Heart foundation
  • CSIRO
  • Precision Nutrition 
  • Nutrition & Physical Degeneration - By Weston A Price
  • Big Fat Lies - By David Gillespie