Introduction: How to Maintain Personal Wellness - Free From Gimmicks and Artifice

Every day we see a new commercial for the next greatest weight loss drug, or an advertisement for the new book on the secret of being healthy.  The truth is, there is no one secret to living in a manner that maintains one's health.  Since personal wellness is defined differently from person to person, it is impossible to formulate a set of rules that everybody can follow, but there are certain guidelines that can be modified for most people. 

I refer to the maintenance of an able body as personal wellness.  It is a individual understanding of ones capacity to live and act in a manner that promotes an active and healthy lifestyle.

The purpose of this Instructable is to outline some broad concepts of maintaining  wellness that I personally have been able to incorporate into my life, while hopefully giving you an idea about what you can do to adapt these concepts into your own healthy routine.

Additionally, this Instructable was inspired at least in part by my mother,  a board certified Pediatrician and trained nutritional consultant.  With her guidance, I have been able to maintain my personal wellness, and I hope you can learn from my experiences.

This Instructable was entered into the "Active" category of the Humana Health Challenge. 

Step 1: The Morning Routine

The way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day.  That is why it is important to get yourself off on a positive note which you will be able to feed off of as the day goes on.

When should I wake up?
In contrast to many of my teenage friends, I find that waking up early is one of the most important tasks that I need to do in the morning.  On days without class or work, many find it tempting to sleep in and catch up on sleep.  But when I wake up at 11am, I feel that a great chunk of the day is wasted.  Waking up early when I've had a good nights rest,  hitting the gym first off, and getting my day off to an active start is one of the best habits I've incorporated to set myself off on a great route for the day.  I'll discuss exercise in more detail in a later step.

On average, the time between last night's dinner and today's breakfast can be from 7-12 hours.  This is a huge amount of time for your body to go without any nourishment, and your body is essentially in a starvation mode by the time you wake up.  By eating breakfast, you let your body know that it does not need to feed off of it's reserves, but rather it can gain new energy from a well balanced breakfast.  We are always told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it really is true.

My breakfast  varies from day to day, but here is a list of typical breakfast options that I choose from.  (All of these breakfast options should have a side of fruit or orange juice.)
  • Yogurt/Milk with Granola
  • Oatmeal/ Cream of Wheat
  • Cereal - (Whole grain cereals,none of that sugary junk!)
  • A toasted whole grain bagel with eggs - (Typically eaten after a morning workout)
  • Quiche or a Frittata
I will stress this throughout the Instructable, but consistency is the key to maintaining your personal wellness.  Eating breakfast twice a week is not good enough.  If you have the opportunity to eat breakfast daily, it is highly recommended that you do so.  Some people are able to function with just a cup of coffee, but they are missing out on some crucial energy!

Step 2: The Importance of an Exercise Regiment

Exercise is a vital aspect of any personal wellness regiment.  The positive effect of a consistent exercise routine on your body and health is undeniable.

I am not going to teach you how to train for a marathon, but rather, I will explain my personal exercise ideology that has allowed me to maintain health and wellness, despite a very busy schedule.

As I explained in the last step, I like to get up early and go to the gym.  Making a habit of being an early bird, and not sleeping in until noon allows me to start my day on the right foot by getting my blood moving. 

My Routine
I am not training for any specific event, but I do like to maintain a consistent level of physical fitness.  Each day of the week (except for Sunday) is reserved for a different muscle group.  I stick to one or two muscle groups when lifting weights, because once the blood is focused in that area, it is best to continue working out that muscle.  Depending on how intense you are, you can repeat muscle groups as the week goes on.  Consult the trainer at your gym for tips on how to perform these exercise correctly.

In addition to lifting weights, I also try to get some cardiovascular exercise in as well.  Any of the exercises below can be easily done.  You can do one, or two, or three of them!  But if you want to maintain consistency, and have enough energy to do more the next day, I reserve my cardio exercise to one or two choices.  This includes:
  • 2 miles on the bike
  • 2000m on the ergometer (rowing machine)
  • 1-2 miles on the treadmill
  • Step-climber (10-15 mins)
  • Elliptical Machine (15 mins)
The choice is yours, but I want to continue emphasizing that being  consistent with your exercise regiments will get your so much closer to having a great level of physical wellness.

Exercise as a Tool for Relaxation
After a busy work day, or a long weekend of cooking for friends and family, my mother tells me that her best tool for relaxing is to exercise.  She finds that exercise allows her to reboot herself and release some built up steam.  After a full day of classes, I find that exercise allows me to sweat off some of the everyday stressors that the day produces.  Instead of jumping right into homework, incorporating this break in the day is crucial for maintaining my healthy personal wellness.

Step 3: Drink Water!

An inside family joke of ours concerns my mother's personal knowledge of every public restroom in our area.  No, she doesn't have a bladder control problem, but she just drinks so much water!  She tells me that there is evidence that proves that those that drink water regularly are healthier in general, and that drinking a cup before every meal helps to control weight as well.

Of course, the amount varies from person to person, and also on their level of activity. I typically drink up to 2 liters per day, and have essentially cut out sugary sodas, replacing them with the occasional sports drink and water.

You can drink from the tap with a Nalgene bottle, or any other reusable water bottle.  If you don't like drinking from the tap, then you can purchase a Brita filter, or any other related water filter. 

Studies have shown that many people are chronically dehydrated, and that by drinking more water they can improve many aspects of their personal health and well being.  As the human body is approximately 70% water, it seems to make sense.

Step 4: The Importance of a Family Dinner

I am 18 years old, and my family has tried to eat a family meal together for as long as I can remember.  Although some of the meals have certainly not been gourmet, and may even include some takeout on occasion, the important aspect of this tip is that we sat down as a family for even as short as 20-30 minutes at least 4-5 days per week, and were able to talk, relate to each other and discuss the days events.  Studies show that families with children, who eat an evening meal together have far less incidence of drug and alcohol use, and tend to have better grades in school. 

But what does a family dinner have to do with physical wellness?
More often than not, I find myself scrounging for unhealthy food choices when I am not eating with my family.  When we eat as a family, we usually have a salad, some bread, and the main dish that varies from day to day.  It  seems that our meals are more balanced when we eat together, and additionally, we tend to eat slower than if we were eating by ourselves which is also healthier for our bodies and weight control.These are the reasons I recommend to you, as a reader to try to incorporate the family meal  into your lifestyle.

Family dinners also help mental wellness.  At dinner, we discuss our day, our problems, and plans for the rest of the night or the coming weekend.  By reflecting on our days and conversing with one another, we are maintaining the special relationship that we have with our family members.  This is healthy on so many levels, especially for children.

Step 5: Summer 5K Runs

Last summer, my family and I began entering 5K runs around the area.  The runs always benefited an organization we were happy to support and there was always a great atmosphere at the races.
For a small fee of $20 or so per participant, that went to the particular charity, we were to able to do something as a family, get some great exercise, commraderie, and tasty snacks at the end!
We started mid-May, recorded our times, and tried to beat our best as the summer went on.  Personally, having a 5K run on my calendar helped motivate me to train better and to keep in shape in order to beat  my previous time (and my brother!).
Our races were all fairly local, in and around our town.   Larger cities have races often, so look online or at a schedule on a website that relates to your area.  We checked for ours on a site called   Some of the organizations that we ran for this past summer included our hometown, The Kennett Run, Kids Kickin' Cancer, The Delaware Perinatal Center, Livestrong, B-Positive, and this fall, Girls on the Run. 

In conclusion, 5K's are just another option that you can incorporate into your schedule to aid you in your goal for a balanced personal wellness, while also contributing to a worthy cause.

Step 6: The Importance of Playing a Team Sport

What sports did I play?
Ever since I was 7 years old, I have played a team sport of some kind.  I started out playing club soccer in the fall, then joining the club lacrosse league in the spring.  In middle school, I joined the school lacrosse and soccer teams.  In high school, I played lacrosse for four years and soccer for two.  And finally, in my freshman year of college, I joined the rowing team.

What is the effect of playing a team sport?
For me, playing a sport has afforded me many benefits.  In addition to the obvious training and exercise, it forces me to budget my time more efficiently to complete my required schoolwork.  I consistently get better grades when I  participate in an extracurricular sport, and I credit the combination of exercise, stress relief and time management for that.  Additionally, as a member of a team, I learned important aspects of teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership.

Step 7: Find an Interest in the Outdoors

I learned to ski at 4 year sof age, and I have loved it ever since.  Skiing, another form of exercise, is a release for me because I am able to immerse myself in an outdoor environment that I love, while having a  lot of fun, and getting great physical exercise. 

It is a great release from the sedentary lifestyle that often binds us to our computer chairs.  It is a time to get up,  get out, and experience the great outdoors!  Whether it is cross-country skiing, hiking, rafting, being outdoors has a great effect on one's physical and mental wellness.

I had read that Harvard University researchers found that residents of Colorado have the longest life span.  They are often participating in outdoor activities, getting exercise, eating healthier and getting sick less than the rest of us.  Now, I am not recommending that everyone move to Colorado, but I am  trying to emphasize the fact that increased outdoor activity  may have more of a positive effect on our health and wellness than we realize.

Step 8: Remember to Treat Yourself!

As the son of a pediatrician and nutrition fanatic, I am pleasantly surprised when I find a package of Oreos in the pantry.  Keep in mind, she also bought fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and the other healthy foods that we regularly eat.  My mother has taught us to live by the 90-10 rule, which is to watch what we eat and keep it healthy and simple 90% of the time, but to let loose and splurge a bit the other 10%.   We try to live by the "everything in moderation"  rule as well.  Living with these guidelines, I find that I never feel deprived of anything, and it can also lead to diminished cravings and episodes of binging. 

You don't need to go to extremes in diet and exercise to maintain a healthy personal lifestyle.  My mother has raised me with that ideology, and I feel I have been able to incorporate those theories into my own personal health plan without any difficulty.  

My mom calls it the 90-10 rule.  90% of the time, you should be eating real food with real health benefits.  10% of the time, you should treat yourself.

Step 9: Keep Your Mind Sharp

Your personal wellness is not always physical.  The mental aspect of well being is equally as important to maintain. 

My parents always encouraged me to pick up a book or read the newspaper.  To be honest, becoming  knowledgeable about world current events, or reading an interesting novel has, over the years, made me more well versed, smarter and probably healthier.  We were probably one of the only families growing up who never had a game box for the TV or computer.  I recall being angry about that at times when I was younger, but now can see the benefits of how engaging in other activities instead, have shaped our personalities and physical health.  

Accomplishing a daily newspaper puzzle, or finishing a novel, gives me a sense of accomplishment  that arises out of the feeling that I am smarter than when I began.  In the long run, I see how avoiding certain activities such as gaming and videos has probably kept me healthier in general.

Step 10: In Conclusion...

It is difficult to highlight a specific set of guidelines that everyone can follow to maintain health and well being.  That would always need to be individualized for the specific person and their situation.  What I have attempted instead, is to describe what I personally, with the guidance and participation of my family have done to maintain my own level of fitness and wellness.   The ideas are however, broad and general enough so that I hope others can incorporate at least some of them into their own lifestyle and experiences.

Don't hesitate to ask me any questions about the guidelines described in this Instructable.  (I'll be sure to enlist the help of my mother, as well!)

Humana Health Challenge

Participated in the
Humana Health Challenge