At Fresh Start, we know there’s is so much more to living a healthy lifestyle than just what we eat. Living a healthy lifestyle means we’re taking action to promote both our physical and mental health.
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Exercise and sleep both play a major role in our physical health status, but also in our mental wellbeing.
Exercise & Movement
Being active and moving our bodies regularly is a key determinant of being healthy.
The NZ Ministry of Health recommends we do at least 2½ hours of moderate or 1¼ hours of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week. If we increase that to 5 hours of moderate or 2½ hours of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week it will provide even greater health benefits (1).
We should aim for at least 2 days where we focus on muscle strengthening exercises to help build muscle mass as this helps to promote our metabolism and keep our muscles functional.
Exercise is also more than just burning calories and getting toned. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases like diabetes type II and cardiovascular diseases by up to 35% (2).
Regular exercise is also amazing for our mental wellbeing! Exercise releases hormones such as endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling. Exercise also lowers the risk of developing brain associated conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression (2).
Some of our favourite ways to move our body:
- Walking, hiking and jogging
- Swimming and aqua-jogging
- Strength-based exercises (this could be using both weights and/or body weight!)
- Dancing, barre and aerobics style classes
- Actively commuting to work e.g. walking or biking
- Boxing classes or if you’re game, a little high intensity interval training (HIIT)
Research has shown that getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night will not only result in reduced energy levels, but it can also increase our risk of weight gain and metabolic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease) as well as impact our immune system, therefore making us more susceptible to illness (3). A lack of sleep can also have an impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing (4). Our body and mind require sleep to reset and rejuvenate – it is a key time for muscle and organ repair and for our minds to rest.
Poor sleep also affects our hunger hormones - ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is our hunger hormone (which signals hunger) and lack of sleep can cause ghrelin production to increase. At the same time, tiredness also reduces production of the hormone leptin (which signals fullness) (5). Tired bodies are constantly searching for more energy to keep them going, so our food cravings and giving in to temptation can be amplified by our tiredness.
We need to make sure we prioritise sleep as a key factor in our health. If getting to sleep is something you struggle with, having a bedtime routine with ‘wind down’ time can promote melatonin production, our sleep promoting hormone (4). Setting a bedtime seems simple but it’s important to have a regular bedtime to help set our circadian rhythm. Our bodies produce melatonin and serotonin (i.e what is responsible for helping us to go to sleep and wake up) based on our circadian rhythm or ‘body clock’. White light, especially from devices like phones and bright lighting can also affect our melatonin production (our bodies circadian rhythm responds to the natural light i.e. day and night!) (6). Over-stimulation of our brain from the content our devices are showing us can also affect our ability to sleep, particularly if the content is distressing. Therefore, having a consistent bedtime routine can assist your body with getting a good night’s sleep!
Some of our favourite bedtime routines to promote good sleep:
- Setting a bedtime
- Putting our phones and other devices to bed an hour before we put ourselves to bed
- Decreasing light exposure around an hour before bed
- Reduce caffeine intake, avoid caffeinated drinks after midday
Read more articles from our Fresh Start Challenge library here.
- NZ Ministry of Health, Healthy Eating and Activity Guidelines
- NHS, Benefits of exercise
- Tobaldini, E., Fiorelli, E.M., Solbiati, M. et al. Short sleep duration and cardiometabolic risk: from pathophysiology to clinical evidence. Nat Rev Cardiol 16, 213–224 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41569-018-0109-6
- Bartel, K, Richardson, C & Gradisar M 2018, Sleep and mental wellbeing: exploring the links, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.
- Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS medicine, 1(3), e62. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062
Meet the Nutritionist
Our in-house nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ was born and bred in mid Canterbury and has the health and wellbeing of Kiwis in mind at all times. As an NZ registered nutritionist (NZ Nutrition Society) with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Auckland, she makes sure we’re all getting our fresh dose of local veggies and our meals are full of nutritious substance – thanks for having our back Em (and our waistlines!). When it comes to New Zealand produce, Emma is a whizz, with fresh berries being her absolute fave. Intrigued to know what food this nutritionist couldn’t live without? Fresh fish and seafood, delivering on both flavour and nourishment. As well as ice cream, especially real fruit ice creams, in the summer time! Life’s all about a tasty balance, right?