What Really Affects Your Health – Genes or Routines?
Health takes different colours at various stages of human life. A child laughing and playing in the yard with his dungarees on, a person in his working age performing his long road cycling route and a senior citizen climbing the stairs to his apartment without any aids are all examples of health.
Health as an ever-changing state
Health is a continuously changing state, that is affected by factors such as genes, disease, our physical and social habitat and, above all, our experiences, values and attitudes. Contrary to popular belief our heritage or genes are not that significant. Genetic factors usually only cause tendency, while other factors determine whether the disease is evolved or not.
Our lifestyle greatly affects our health
Our lifestyle plays an important role in determining how our state of health evolves. Our experiences, values, attitudes, but also knowledge about our current state of health affect the everyday choices we make which ultimately affects our wellbeing.
A recent study showed that about 20% – 40% of cancer cases and half of cancer deaths can potentially be prevented through lifestyle changes. Lifestyle factors that were taken into account in the study were smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and physical activity and the results reinforced the enormous potential of primary prevention or in other words adopting a healthy lifestyle (Song & Giovannucci, 2016).
Small everyday choices reinforce each other in a positive way
We can truly say that we are active participants in managing our own health, and our wellbeing depends greatly on the everyday choices we make. Sleep, alongside a balanced diet, training and recovery, is one of the foundational pillars for the wellbeing of an individual. Small everyday changes in these areas start to reinforce each other and as a result makes it easier for us to continuously make better choices regarding our health.
A healthy sleep pattern maintains decision making skills
Sleep and, in particular, sleeping during the night, is an effective way of recovering physically and ensuring that the decision-making skills are maintained. The need for sleep is individual, but less so than many presume. It is rare for an adult to cope with less than six hours of sleep per night on a regular basis. According to a study only 2-3% of the population are able to manage life well with less than six hours of sleep per night.
Several studies have shown that in order to protect the physical and cognitive recovery, everyone should get a good-quality sleep of at least seven hours per night. Highly active individuals need more. Sleeping is not a sign of being lazy, but a basic need of a healthy person.
Nutrition, a powerful tool to prevent disease
When we sleep enough and when we are well rested we make better decisions regarding our nutrition and the right nutrition improves our wellbeing and health. On the other hand, unhealthy eating can be detrimental to our performance. This is why at Hintsa we encourage our clients to steer away from pre-made, pre-packaged food. We recommend plenty of natural food i.e. that which comes from natural sources. Food that either comes from the ground or trees, swims in the sea, or grazers on the land. The importance of fresh fruit and vegetables cannot be emphasized enough.
Many of us forget to hydrate ourselves adequately during the day. Adequate hydration supports mental and physical performance, which is easy to believe if you think that 75% of the human brain is water. Even a slight lack of fluid in the body causes problems such as muscle cramps, headaches, irritation, fatigue and swelling of fingers and feet. An adult should consume two litres of water per day.
Movement is medicine
When we sleep and eat well we have the energy to be physically active and exercise. Movement is medicine. Regular exercise is one of the most important ways to avoid diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These problems that are so common in our society can largely be explained by a diminution of activity during the last decade. Studies from the last few years have also shown that excessive sitting is detrimental. The risk of sitting is comparable to the dangers of using tobacco.
However, on the flipside, it is also shown that even a few extra steps and a little less sitting each day significantly reduces the risk of these health problems. Daily activity in addition to focused training can greatly help us increase our well-being and quality of life. We at Hintsa encourage our clients to walk at least 10 000 steps per day which is already enough to help reduce weight and high blood pressure.
Change works best with small changes
In our busy lives it takes commitment and active decision making to achieve even the smallest change. Managing habits works best with small changes. Gradual steps and taking bite-sized doses, helps create better habits. These new habits transform into routines and it is the culmination of daily routines that impacts health. Transforming a habit into a routine takes repetition for several weeks. Healthy living habits support well-being and ultimately our quality of life.
It is never easy to change habits and one might maybe think what the point is of only walking a few extra steps everyday. But if we do small changes everyday like jumping off the bus one stop before our stop, or walk up the stairs to our office in the morning we already add quite a few steps to our daily routine, not to mention the amount of steps that are accumulated over a whole year. Our small everyday changes have the potential to accumulate over time and change the trajectory of our lives.
At Hintsa Performance we do our best to support our clients in creating an environment where they can form new healthier habits and eventually form new healthier routines and lives.
1. WHO: Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020
2. Jousilahti P, Laatikainen T, Peltonen M, Borodulin K, Männistö S, Jula A, Salomaa V, Harald K, Puska P, Vartiainen E. Primary prevention and risk factor reduction in coronary heart disease mortality among working aged men and women in eastern Finland over 40 years: population based observational study. British Medical Journal, March 2016.
3. Duodecim 2.3.2015 Article in Finnish: Tietoa potilaalle: Geenitestaus MD Helena Kääriäinen
4. Song, M & Giovanucci, E. (2016). Preventable Incidence and Mortality od Carcinoma Associated With Lifestyle factors Among White Adults in the United States. JAMA Oncology. Retrieved from: Doi: 10.1001/