Physical wellness means being able to care of your body by consistently making healthy lifestyle choices. These include:
- Being physically active (i.e., engaging in physical activities that you enjoy- daily or at least twice per week)
- Eating healthy foods (i.e. eating a balanced diet of protein, whole foods, fruits, and vegetables- see Canada’s Food Guide)
- Staying hydrated ( i.e. drinking enough water or decaffeinated tea throughout the day)
- Getting enough sleep (i.e. sleeping 6-8 hours per night)
- Avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
- Scheduling annual medical check-ups and screenings (i.e. getting a physical, blood tests, pap tests, etc.)
Research has shown that physical wellness is an important part of our overall health. Did you know that physical activity and a healthy diet can help to reduce stress and can positively impact our mood and brain function? While anxiety and stress can weaken the body’s immune system, disrupt hormonal balances, and affect sleeping patterns, regular physical activity and a balanced diet can help you feel healthy, happy, and more energetic.
Benefits of Physical Wellness
Emotion and Mood
Self-esteem and Sense of Mastery
- Aerobic exercise has been associated with stress reduction and decreased risks for anxiety and depression. In fact, research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication in treating mild forms of depression and anxiety.
- Exercise and healthy eating also help to improve physical self-perceptions (i.e., positive body image), self-esteem, and confidence.
- Those who lead healthier lifestyles generally have less disturbed sleeping patterns than those who do not.
- Research shows that living a healthy lifestyle can improve brain function. Specifically, a balanced diet and regular physical activity have been shown to have positive impacts on memory and concentration.
- Eating well and exercising are also important ways to decrease your risks for many conditions including heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
Eating and Physical Wellness - Quick Tips
- Eat a healthy breakfast that is high in protein and fiber within two hours of waking.
- Eat well balanced meals (50% vegetables, 30% fats –including oils, and 20% carbohydrates/grains).
- Dried and canned beans, whole grains and nuts and seeds, are excellent non-meat sources of protein, iron, and fiber.
- Vinigarette salad dressings are much lower in saturated fat (i.e., “bad fats”) than creamy ones like Caesar dressing.
- A healthier alternative to white or instant rice is brown (whole grain) or basmati rice, which contains fiber, protein, and calcium.
- Recipes that use cheese or canned goods don’t require as much salt to be added as they already contain salt from processing.
- Omega-3 fat is an essential fat that you should include in your diet every day. Sources of omega-3 include salmon, trout, tuna, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soybean products, and canola oil.
Busy schedules and tight budgets mean that many students struggle to maintain a healthy diet. International students in particular may also encounter cultural differences in the types of food available on campus, in grocery stores, and at local restaurants. Despite these challenges, it is not impossible for you to maintain a healthy diet of foods that you enjoy. The International and Exchange Student Centre (IESC) offers a special session about healthy eating in Canada and can refer you to other on campus resources depending on your needs. The International Student Handbook also includes a useful list of ethnic food stores in London where you might be able to find products from your home country (see p.83).
Alcohol & Physical Health
Un-safe consumption of alcohol can affect your physical health. Alcohol poisoning occurs when so much alcohol has been consumed that the body can no longer uphold vital involuntary functions like breathing, gag reflex (for choking), temperature regulation, and consciousness. Hypothermia (very low body temperature), hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar), seizures,and death are a few of the potential results.Some of the critical signs of alcohol poisoning are: slow or irregular breathing, pale or light bluish skin tone, seizures, and vomiting. If someone appears to have alcohol poisoning call 911 for help immediately.
Alcohol Safety Tips
- Eat before and while drinking. The presence of food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol into the blood.
- Pace yourself. Having more than one drink per hour will be start to overload your body with alcohol. Stay away from drinks with unknown amounts of alcohol.
- Drink lots of water throughout the night to decrease the concentration of alcohol in your stomach and to lessen the potential impact of a hangover (i.e. nausea and headaches the day after drinking)
- Do not mix drugs and alcohol. Even acetaminophen (Tylenol), acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and ibuprofen (Advil) can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and severe liver damage when used in conjunction with alcohol.
- Don’t drive. Four Canadians are killed every day and over 170 Canadians are injured each day from impaired driving (MADD Canada). Instead, take the bus or a taxi or get a ride with someone else who has not been drinking.
- Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Avoid carbonated beverages as they can enhance the effect of alcohol on the body.