Exercise – An Important Nutritional Element, Even When On Vacation

It’s great to take a vacation from your normal daily routine and your work, and to have some down-time from stress. And while you are on vacation it is very important to maintain good health.  None of us ever want to experience a serious interruption in our vacation because of an urgent medical issue, and for sure no one wants to come home from vacation feeling ill. Exercise is an important nutritional element and part of maintaining optimal health – all the time, even while vacationing.

Vacationing family running on the beach

How can exercise be a nutritional element?

The concept of Primary Food and Secondary Food is a holistic nutritional philosophy that I learned through my Health Coach Training, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. It embraces the idea of two kinds of food: Primary Food and Secondary Food.  It may seem logical to assume that Primary Food is the physical food you consume on a daily basis, and that Secondary Food includes less important food elements. This is incorrect.  The food you eat is Secondary Food. Primary Food is all of the other very important elements in your life that keep you healthy, happy and nourished on various levels.  It keeps you rolling along happily ‘singing your song’.

Primary Food can be viewed as a wheel. The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) refers to Primary Food as The Circle of Life.  Each spoke of the wheel is a different vital element in your life, such as (in random order) physical activity; spiritual connection; love, family and relationships; education; career, finances; joy; creativity; food and cooking; health.  All the spokes of the wheel work together and are important, keeping you healthy and helping you maintain a happy, balanced life. When one or more spokes of the wheel are overlooked or disregarded it creates discord and imbalance.  The wheel is lopsided, out of shape and no longer round.

Secondary Food, the physical food you consume on a daily basis, fits perfectly into Primary Food as one of the spokes of the wheel labeled ‘Food and Cooking’.  Your Secondary Food is also a very big influencing factor in your ‘Health’, which is another spoke of your Primary Food wheel.

Exercise plays a dual role

In the above holistic nutrition philosophy, exercise fits into both your Primary Food and your Secondary Food:

In the Primary Food wheel – Exercise / Physical Activity forms one of the spokes of your wheel of Primary Food. It has an important role to play all on its own as a healthy lifestyle element.

As part of your Secondary Food – Exercise has a great impact on your body’s absorption of nutrients from the food you eat. This affects you right down to the cellular level.

What impact does exercise have on the absorption of nutrients from food?

The answer can be found by taking a deep look at two things that happen within your body when you exercise:

1. Increased heart rate, healthier circulatory system 

When you eat, the food is digested and the nutrition from the food is absorbed into the blood. Your blood distributes the nutrients to your cells, tissues and organs. Blood flow is the only way that your cells, tissues and organs receive nutrition.

Exercise increases your heart rate, which in turn helps your circulatory system by increasing your blood flow, delivering more nutrients to your cells, tissues, organs and body systems.

2. Increased breathing capacity, healthier respiratory system

Every cell in your body needs oxygen in order to function. When you breathe, the oxygen is transferred into the bloodstream, which delivers it to all of your cells.

Exercise increases your breathing and your lung capacity so you are able to take more oxygen into your body. The increased amount of oxygen in your bloodstream means that your cells, tissues, organs and body systems are receiving increased nutrition.

Absolutely every system in your body is affected by blood flow and oxygen, including your brain and cognitive functioning, as well as your body’s ability to produce hormones and enzymes, which are very important.

When you have poor blood circulation and/or a low amount of oxygen in your blood – your health may be compromised as less oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to all of your cells, tissues, organs and body systems.

Conversely, when your blood circulation is increased and/or your oxygen level goes up, every cell, tissue, organ and system in your body is healthier. Increased circulation and oxygen means increased nutrition to all of your cells, in every part of your body.

9 other major benefits of maintaining good exercise all the time. Exercise:

1. gives your internal organs a gentle massage, which helps all of them work better

2. helps your body digest your food.

3. is beneficial for your colon / digestive tract as exercise helps it to eliminate waste products more quickly and efficiently. This goes hand in hand with having lots of fiber in your diet (from fresh vegetables and fruit) and lots of water.

4. gives you more energy.  You have to expend some energy to exercise yet it will give you energy!

5. works many muscles throughout your body – including your heart muscle as well as other major muscle groups which allow you to maintain balance and move properly.

6. increases your metabolic rate, so you can burn calories more efficiently even when resting.

7. helps cognitive health and brain functioning.

8. helps reduce stress.  Travelling on vacations, whether driving long distances or flying many miles, can be stressful at times. Having the right foods plus exercise can help you handle the stress.

9. will help regulate your blood sugar naturally, resulting in your body producing less insulin (the fat storing hormone).

Keep it simple!

Exercise can be super simple while on vacation.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or even involve going to a gym or a fitness centre. Walk!  Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. Walking for 10 to 20 minutes, twice per day is great!  If you need to go between floors in a tall building (or on a cruise ship) – use the stairs both going up and going down instead of taking the elevator.  Stair climbing is a great cardio workout, good for muscles and doesn’t require any specific equipment, except the staircase itself.

A trio for digestive health – super important!

Exercise is part of a trio of ‘must have’ items that will help your digestive system, whether you are on vacation or at home. This trio will help you quickly recover in the event of a minor case of over-eating or a case of eating foods that are wrong for your unique body, and it will help alleviate any issues with constipation.

1. Exercise – for all the reasons previously mentioned

2. Fiber – Eating enough foods with fiber from good carbohydrates, mostly in the form of fresh vegetables and fruit. This helps eliminate waste products and toxins and it is very important to keep the elimination system in good shape. Avoid foods that are nutritionally empty such as sugary, highly refined junk foods and foods full of harmful fats.

3. Water – consuming enough water is important, especially when you are exercising because it will replace the fluids lost through sweating. Water is important for so many aspects of your health, including brain function, muscle function, digestion and so much more.

No matter how you look at it, exercise and nutrition go hand in hand for a healthy, happy life. Keep in mind that you ‘cannot outrun a bad diet’ with exercise, meaning that exercise is not a substitute or a total solution to compensate for an unhealthy diet.

All aspects of your health are related to your Secondary Food, the physical food you consume on a daily basis, so it is extremely important to consume healthy, nutritionally dense foods all the time.  This includes healthy protein, lots and lots of healthy vegetables, some fresh fruit, the right portions of good quality protein, lots of fiber (from vegetables and fruit), enough healthy fats and plenty of clean water.

How is the your Primary Food Balance? Do you need support to maintain the balance between Primary and Secondary Food in your life?  Contact me to find out more information about how health coaching can help you bring more balance to the Food in your life!


Info Resources:

American Lung Association


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