Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging because so many factors that can negatively impact us can seem so far out of our control. Even regularly active people are affected by air and water quality, especially since so many of us work full days or sedentary jobs that don’t afford much time to be active. Fortunately, there are simple ways to help protect yourself. In this post, we will look at how exercise can positively affect your environmental health and what that means.
What is environmental health?
Environmental health is a field of study that focuses on the relationship between people and their human environment. The objective of environmental health professionals is to promote health and well-being as it relates to communities, location, and environmental factors including healthcare and air and water quality.
Factors that affect environmental health
There are many new factors in our modern environment that directly impact our health. Social and technological changes over the last several hundred years require a new approach to protection against:
- chemical hazards and the pollution of the air
- natural disasters and climate change
- access to healthcare
- issues related to infrastructure
- poor water quality
- global environmental issues.
We continue to experience this with COVID-19 and can see the ripple effect it’s had on environmental health—it revealed vulnerabilities and gaps in the healthcare system as a whole. We have seen a great effort recently to fix such issues and different strategies to provide care for everyone around the globe.
How to improve your environmental health
The Benefits of outdoor exercise
Physical fitness has many benefits, including protection against a wide range of chronic diseases. It is recommended that you perform 3 20-minute sets of cardio workouts each week to improve your overall health as well as your nervous system—both can help protect your body from environmental factors.
Increased Endorphin levels
Exercise improves brain function and memory in all age groups largely because it increases your endorphin levels. Endorphins, also known as the ‘feel-good hormone,’ can alleviate feelings of anxiety and frustration. They can also improve the quality of your sleep, reducing fatigue from a well-known environmental factor: the 40-hour work week.
Carrying too much weight can be uncomfortable and limiting. The food we eat is one of the most important components of our environmental health, as common processed foods are often filled with chemicals and preservatives that contribute to weight gain. Exercising can help you lose any excess weight you may not want as it increases your metabolism because it helps with weight management as the body burns calories as it spends energy on wellness activities.
Regular physical activity helps with the movement of large muscles. Running or cycling are good ways to do just that and keep the heart rate up. You can go at your own pace whether it be a 2-mile walk or a 10-mile run. Going for a swim or a game of tennis keeps your body moving, and spending more time outside can also improve your environmental health—especially if your home or workspace is stuffy or poorly ventilated.
Reduce the risk of heart disease
Exercising regularly will benefit your overall heart health. As a result of regular activity, blood pressure is lowered and heart health is improved, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Exercising regularly slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure, helping to offset the effects of unhealthy processed foods.
Yes, exercise can also improve mental stimulation. Exercising supports your brain and cognitive functions by reducing the natural degradation of the hippocampus (which affects memory and cognitive thinking). It improves memory, reasoning, and other cognitive skills that can be negatively impacted by a sedentary life. It protects and keeps your blood flowing to and from your brain.
Regular Checkups with a Physician
We saw in 2020 that access to basic medical care isn’t always guaranteed. Due to COVID-19 and quarantine, many people were unable to see their doctor or have regular checkups. According to The Common Wealth Fund, we saw a 60% decline in ambulance care.
It is vital to have regular checkups with your general practitioner. It is recommended that if you are over the age of 50, then you should be visiting your doctor at least once a year. If you have a chronic disease then you may need to visit the doctor more frequently, but there are a number of free clinics available for those who do not have health insurance.
Having regular checkups allows your general practitioner to catch problems early and confirm healthy vitals such as blood pressure before something goes wrong. A physician can put you on any required medication or treatments you may need to stay protected from environmental factors.
Pain Relief during exercise
Chronic or temporary pain isn’t standalone symptoms—there are almost always factors in the environment that contribute to it. Medication may be required along with healing modalities for the whole body—regular sleep, exercise, and mental health all play a part in the healing process.
Many injuries from daily life may need attention in patients over 60. Injuries acquired from sporting activities may result in inflammation (such as tennis elbow from playing a simple game of tennis) or even diabetic wound care. It is best to consult a physician to identify the best options for you.
The use of compression wear can also aid pain relief on the parts of your body most acutely impacted by your environment. High-quality compression wear targets muscles that need it the most, providing relief from endurance sports, reducing swelling, and improving blood flow. It provides all-day-long support as well as a relief after a hard day’s work.
A part of daily life
Exercise is an important routine that can add years of quality to your life by offsetting negative environmental effects and hazards. If you are not doing so already, now is the time to build some into your week. A 20-minute walk, a cycle, a swim, or a session of yoga? Whatever you choose, know you are on your way to stronger environmental health. Once you’ve built up some endurance, be sure to check out our strength conditioning exercises to take your environmental health to the next level.