Maintaining Physical Health

Physical health

Looking after your body is essential to wellbeing and there is a huge range of advice available to everyone about aspects of physical wellbeing.

  • There are ways to maximise your wellbeing through optimal exercise programmes.
  • There is infinite dietary advice available and although much of it is contradictory, there is general consensus that a balanced diet is good for you and excess of anything is bad, but excess of sugar, salt and fat is worse.
  • There is advice and support for limiting harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and recreational drugs.

So far so good.

The problem less frequently addressed is why some people seem to be unable to take the advice.

  • Although exercise has been repeatedly demonstrated in research to have protect against depression, an inability to exercise can be a symptom of depression.
  • Physical disabilities can also make exercise more difficult.
  • Many, many people seem to struggle to eat healthy food, and the rising epidemic of obesity would imply that there is something more complex going on than laziness and poor choices.

So if you can’t follow the sensible and well intentioned advice of your (no doubt slim and athletic) friends, what can you do?  This question is genuinely worth asking.  If you can’t run, can you walk? 

  • Among 72,488 female nurses, walking at least three hours a week was linked to a 35% lower risk of heart attack and cardiac death and a 34% lower risk of stroke.

3 hours a week is 27 minutes a day.  If that seems daunting, start with 5 minutes and work up to 10.

Catherine says “I suffered from childhood with a debilitating, paralysing depression.  When the bad feelings descended I would go to bed and pull the duvet over my head and stay there until something changed.  Sometimes that would take a very long time.  One day, after I had been in therapy for a long time (more than 2 years) I woke up with the same feelings of dread and loneliness, and the physical sensation of walking in treacle with the weight of the world on me, but this time I got up. As I left my bedroom and walked downstairs, I started to cry.  The tears flowed all the way to the bathroom and while I was in the shower I sobbed.  As I was getting dressed, I still felt exhausted, and I still cried on and off, but gradually the crying subsided and I began to be able to carry on.  It occurred to me then that one of the functions of my depression was to prevent me from crying.  As a child my mother had found my tears intolerable, and would become enraged to the point of violence if I cried, so this made sense in a way.  I’d like to say I never got depressed again, but that wouldn’t be true.  What would be true is that I got better at functioning when I felt bad, and the depressions were of shorter duration and less frequent.”

Maintaining Physical Health means getting professional help when necessary.  We all have to exercise our own judgement about when that is, but if you have a habit or physical or mental symptoms which prevent you from carrying out your normal activities (of eating, sleeping, exercising, working, or resting) then you should probably consult a doctor.

Click on other elements to continue:

A problem solving approach


Managing emotions or the willingness to learn

Faith, Religion and Spirituality

Commitment to a valued and meaningful cause