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Maintaining a Healthy Body

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Maintaining a healthy body

Sleep, a balance diet, regular physical exercise and mindfulness through meditation help maintain a healthy human body. Avoiding smoking, excess stress and other drugs such as alcohol can help maintain homeostasis. That is, for the body's internal environment to regulate itself and keep things such as body temperature and the pH of the blood (a measure of alkalinity or acidity) at optimum levels.

Sleep is the body's way of restoring itself; people spend on average1/3 of their life sleeping. Good quality sleep takes place in two different alternating phases, non rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). NREM takes up 75% of the sleep pattern. Here blood pressure drops, muscles relax and blood flow is increased to the muscles to help with tissue growth and repair. Energy is also restored and growth hormones are released. REM takes up the remaining 25% of the sleep pattern. Here the brain is active and dreams occur the body becomes immobile and relaxed as muscles are turned off. Good sleep helps us thrive; it contributes to a healthy immune system and can help balance appetites. Far from being unproductive, the rejuvenation processes that take place while we are asleep make sure that the other 2/3 of our lives are full, energetic and healthy. (1)

A Balanced diet based on starchy foods, with plenty of fruit and vegetables some protein rich foods and restricted amounts of fat, salt and sugar will give you all the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy body.

Starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, bread and pasta should make up 1/3 of a balanced diet. Five varied portions of fruit and vegetables per day are recommended as a vital source of vitamins and minerals. There is evidence that taking five portions a day can reduce risk from suffering heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Meat, fish, eggs and beans are the main sources of protein, which is essential for growth and repair of the body. Milk and dairy foods can be a good source of protein and also provide calcium that helps maintain bones. Fats and sugar are a good source of energy for the body but when too much is taken the body turns the excess into fat which can lead to obesity which is a key factor in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain cancers. Another key factor in maintaining a healthy body is calorie intake. Recommended daily amounts for males is 2500cal and 2000cal for females. (2)

Regular physical exercise has numerous benefits in the maintenance of a healthy body. Different types of exercise like aerobic, anaerobic and flexibility exercise all have various different but ultimately beneficial gains for the body.

Aerobic exercise alternates contraction and relaxation of large groups of muscles forcing more respiration to take place. Heart rate is increased to pump more blood to oxygenate the tissues. Walking, running and swimming are classed as aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise involves forceful contraction and stretching of muscle groups until the tissue is fatigued. Weight lifting and sprinting would be examples of anaerobic exercise; muscle strength and bulk are gained here. Yoga would be a good example of flexibility exercise; yoga helps to improve the movements and flexibility of muscles, joints and ligaments.

These types of exercise reduce the risk of cardiac disease, high blood pressure and stroke. They also help reduce body weight and improve insulin sensitivity. Regular exercise also relieves anxiety and stress with the release of endorphins into the blood stream, which can ease pain and control emotion. (3)

Mindfulness through meditation has been brought into mainstream medicine and science by Jon Kabat-Zinn former professor of medicine at the university of Massachusetts. Essentially mediation is the training of attention, the practice involves sitting still with eyes closed becoming aware of the thought process in ones mind and the sensations that occur in the body. While doing this one should try not to judge everything as good or bad. The cognitive skills learned with continual practice of meditation include increases in concentration, monitoring thought processes and how to reclaim attention from automatic processes in the brain. (4) A sense of physical and psychological well being has been reported by



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