As a fitness and public health practitioner, I am asked about how to achieve six-pack abs, lose a pesky lingering 10kg or gain the ever-elusive muscular “tone” that so many of us are seeking. I am pleased to say that these questions come from every demographic of our society and despite their often narcissistic origins, they highlight for me an increasing interest in our health and fitness as Namibians.
The sad part of this story is the response I often get to my consistent and possibly boring answer that so many are not happy to hear: Eat well, move often and maintain some level of joy in your life. It is just too simplistic for most. It seems we want to hear the impossible: an elusive fitness, food, supplement, time-sucking and money-draining quadratic equation that makes it challenging enough to pursue when we are bursting with confidence and hope for a healthier, more vital version of ourselves, but also complex enough that it plays on our psyches and becomes easily excusable when we fall off the bandwagon.
So what is my equation? What is my suggestion to your healthiest, fittest, happiest self? Your guide to a summer (I prefer “all-season”) body? Well here goes:
The first part of the equation is movement. Why? Well mostly because our bodies are designed to move and in honouring this design, there are many benefits we can achieve. Individuals who are more active:
have lower rates of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer, and depression;
are likely to have less risk of a hip or vertebral fracture;
have a higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness; and
are more likely to achieve weight maintenance, have a healthier body mass and composition.
My recommendations are always in line with World Health Organizations recommended levels of physical activity for adults which basically suggests that we should all try to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity as well as conduct muscle-strengthening activities for all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. Hard to believe that the time it takes to watch 5 episodes of your favourite series is enough to protect your health for life!
So what does this actually mean? It means get moving more! Climb stairs, walk to the nearby store, park a distance away from your workplace. Some of us prefer a more formal approach to movement, in which case it may be best to learn about gyms or fitness classes in your area. Some neighbourhoods have walking groups, and if not, why not start one? Just get active and do that for 150 minutes per week. Some popular training methods like my class, Hiitcamp, or others like bootcamp or Crossfit, offer a combination of cardio, strength and high intensity, which help you achieve the requirements in a shorter period of time. Consider checking these options out for a serious jolt to your metabolism.
When we eat a balanced and nutritious diet, we lay a foundation for healthy cellular operations. Think of it as your home. Good nutrition ensures we not only build and maintain a solid frame (bone and joint health), it also ensures that the occupants in the house are working well with one another and practicing good relations.
Nutrition literally impacts everything in your bodies from minute details like healthy membranes around your eyes to the mother of all systems – a strong well-functioning heart and blood vessels! How well we eat determines the quality of all of these cells and even determines how well we are able to process things like sugar and fat in our diets.
Eating a balanced diet doesn’t have to be hard or confusing. It simply requires a sensible approach and some good planning. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, good grains, high quality proteins and fats and water galore. In the age of the internet, the secrets of a balanced diet are not so much of a secret anymore, but it can be challenging to navigate all the information out there. There are many questionable resources out there which tout diet-extremism, which we all need to be wary of.
One can find great advice and meal-plans at reputable organisation websites. One of my favourites is www.choosemyplate.gov. This model provides a memorable way of knowing how much to eat of what and when. Check it out and learn what a healthy balanced plate looks like.
Last but not least is what I like to call “Play”. Play is my way of describing that sweet place where our mental spiritual health meets ease and flow. Play looks very different from person to person. For some, it may be a fine balance between getting enough good quality sleep, meditating daily for 15min and enjoying a good meal with family and friends. For another, it may mean whipping out some paintbrushes and easel, running a 5K with your best friend or baking up a storm with loud music blaring. Different strokes for different folks. The most important thing about Play, is that it should relieve stress for you and only you know what can do that for you. When you play, you are not thinking about anything but that which you are engaged in. This in and of itself reduces stress and connects you to your deepest and truest purpose. What does this have to do with a healthy fit body? Well just try it and then you tell me!
When you need to make a healthy decision in the absence of a fitness of health expert (or Google) by your side, my advice is to always ask yourself these simple questions:
does this advice sound healthy?
does this advice sound sensible?
what body of evidence underlies this advice?
would I feel good about myself and my choices if I followed this advice?
So go ahead and give it a shot! A summer body may be what you aspire to for now, but when you start experiencing the benefits of a well-thought out fitness and food regimen; you will want to keep it going all year-round!
About the author:
The creator of a short intense workout called “hiitcamp”, Nangado is passionate about resistance training and body conditioning workouts, especially for women who classically hold now-disproven beliefs about weight-training and fat-loss. Her classes focus on form and intensity while increasing individual strength and improving self-concept. In addition to this, she enjoys educating women about commonly challenging wellness topics ranging from disease-management to softer issues of body-image, for example. Nangado is a graduate in Exercise and Health Science from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is currently taking a leave of absence from her Master’s in Public Health (UCT School of Public Health: Epidemiology and Biostatistics) while she enjoys the sacred moments of early motherhood. She has accumulated a total of 15 years’ work across the public health and fitness industries.
About Pulse Health and Wellness:
At our fitness and wellness studio in Windhoek’s CBD, my team and I work tirelessly to help Namibian’s learn a new approach to fitness and health. We aim to tackle challenging self-talk, increase confidence and raise people into a place where all they can find is love and gratitude for their bodies. We do this through a vibrant group-training model which delivers your fitness needs in a nicely-packaged community of like-minded people. We also work with progressive corporates to deliver programming in the workplace.
Located at shop 42B at the Old Breweries complex, we offer classes throughout the week, balancing disciplines such as strength and conditioning through hiitcamp and Pilates, cardiovascular fitness through Zumba and flexibility through yoga. Our instructors are well-trained and passionate about what they do and are determined to help you achieve your goals in your personal wellness journey.
By Nangado Kauluma