Definition: Two or more parts functioning together to produce a result that cannot be obtained independently.
Synergy is an important concept when we discuss wellness. Whether the subject is nutrition, exercise, or emotional wellness, a state of wellness cannot be obtained without the cooperation of multiple parts.
Let’s take nutrition first. This is an area of our lives that most individuals seeking wellness begin first. The way we eat in this culture has changed dramatically in the last 50-80 years. In the 1950′s there was a push to identify and improve life through chemicals. Since then, we as a species have done an amazing job breaking substances down into their individual pieces. Then, we put things back together in combinations that we think are useful such as “protein” bars or other convenience foods. The problem with this process is the loss of synergy.
Nature is pretty smart. In fact, much smarter than we are. When we eat a fruit or vegetable in its whole form, we get synergy. All the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, etc. work together and have an additive effect on our health. For example, most fruits contain potassium and magnesium, folate, and fiber. The folate helps lower homocysteine levels in the blood, the potassium and magnesium lower blood pressure, and the fiber helps to lower cholesterol. All of these actions together lower our risk for heart attacks and increase our cardiac health. So, if we eat an orange, we get the full benefit nature intended, but if we drink orange juice, we get only part of the part of the deal. Hence, the effect on our health is negligible. That’s the power of synergy.
The same is true of oatmeal. Oatmeal is touted in the media as a great source of dietary fiber. This is true, but it is not just this fiber which lowers our risk for heart attacks and strokes. Oats contain a laundry list of other compounds including beta-glucan, a beneficial amino acid, magnesium, folic acid, tocotreinols, and a phytochemical so far only identified in oats only – avenanthramides. The protective effect of oats is from all these parts working together, not just the fiber.
Exercise is also synergistic. Our bodies were designed to move, and move frequently. The most recent research that I heard on the nightly news, said “that more than 6 hours of sitting daily can lower your longevity even if you exercise.” Wow! While that is definitely an powerful statement, it is also important to think about how we move and why.
There are three types of exercise: aerobic, resistance, and flexibility. Aerobic exercise benefits our cardiovascular system. We are better able to use oxygen for energy, if we use our body aerobically on a regular basis. It strengthens our heart, our lungs, and our blood flow.
Resistance or strength training exercise builds our skeletal and muscular systems. This is especially important as we age. Resistance training helps offset the natural occurrence of bone and muscle loss as we age. The biggest issue for seniors is a loss of power. Power is what enables us to get up from a sitting position, climb stairs, or even get in and out of the car. Resistance exercise keeps our power going.
Finally, flexibilty exercise or stretching keeps our joints moving with a full range of motion. Reaching, bending, tying our shoes all requires flexibility. A regular stretching routine keeps us limber with good coordination. Just participating in aerobic exercise will not guarantee a state of wellness.
All three types of exercise are needed to keep our bodies running strong, and they work together. For example, I love to run, and for a long time that is all I did. I added yoga to my weekly routine because I realized I had reached a plateau in my running and had lost flexibility. After just a few months of practicing yoga, my running improved. My core had gotten stronger which impacted my posture and my running form. Good form in running equals better performance. The additive effect of both types of exercise have increased my overall physical health which is, once again, synergy.
The final consideration in wellness is one’s emotional health. One could eat a perfectly nutritious diet and be well balanced in their exercise routine, but still be lacking wellness. Our emotional health is impacted by many variables. The relationships (or lack of) in our lives, our sense of purpose, our career, and our environment all contribute to our overall health and longevity. Ultimately, the stress that bad relationships or a unwanted job can cause can undo the good of a healthy diet. Stress causes a hormonal response in our body which can raise blood pressure and increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
When considering the next great supplement, take the time to discover the source. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes will provide a nutrient dense supply for your body to nourish, energize, repair and protect your health. Create time to move your body. Join a yoga studio, take zumba classes, or join a running club. You can even make exercise a social event and invite your friends or family to join you. Those supportive relationships will keep your motivation fresh and fun.
Want to talk to someone who has been through it? Call me for a free consultation. A health coach can be your ally in a journey to good health and a sustainable lifestyle.