Exercise & Nutrition is just the Beginning
By Kyle Riley BSc (hons)
Want to lose weight? Exercise and eat healthy.
More energy? Simple, eat right and exercise.
What about reducing the risk of chronic disease? Duh! Move your body daily and increase your veggies.
The starting point for most health professionals when it comes to helping their clients achieve goals is nutrition and exercise. Two absolutely foundational pieces of the health puzzle. But did you know there are other areas you could address that can in some cases, have just as much of an impact on our clients overall health as a change in activity and nutritional intake?
Let’s explore the uncommon areas of your clients’ lifestyle you might be leaving on the table in your consultation room and how to address these in your next session.
Assessing your client’s indoor places and outdoor spaces.
Because dampness in a home can cause molds harmful for health and clutter can restrict air flow, causing build up of dust and other allergens. In the outdoor setting, particularly if you live in a city or built up area, you have to consider air pollution which can contribute to heart disease and respiratory conditions such as Asthma, as well as noise and light pollution which can interfere with circadian rhythms and sleep cycles.
What can you do as a health professional?
Assess your clients’ indoor and outdoor environment to see if there are any potential stressors or factors that could be influencing their quality of life. Recommend frequent bouts in nature for those who live in built up areas and support the reduction of light and noise pollution to improve down time and sleep patterns.
Seek to increase your understanding around environmental issues relating to health so that you can better support your clients to make changes to their environment.
83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, with 25% saying their job is the number one stressor in their lives. For many it is work that is the cause of poor health habits and the frustration for many health practitioners as it gets in the way of positive behaviour change. Whilst it may seem like the only solution you can provide to your clients is for them to ‘leave their job’. There are many things you can do to help reduce stress at work and actually use it as a place to practice healthy habits.
- Feeling a sense of purpose
When was the last time you sat with your client to discuss their deeper why? Working with clients on finding a sense of purpose can be a powerful way to increase motivation and increase feelings of both physical and mental wellbeing. When they are able to tie this sense of purpose into the work they do, it may help to reduce stress associated with their job, or it might just show them that what they are currently doing is not right for them. Either way it can open a positive conversation to take action on improving their feelings around the work they do.
- Becoming aware of natural strengths
Some of the major contributors to work stress are; poor team cohesion, lack of clarity, insufficient support and poor management/communication. Whilst you may not be able to control the work environment when it comes to management, you can support your client in ‘controlling the controllables’ by increasing awareness of their natural communication styles vs others to help foster better relationships and communication pathways. As well as creating more awareness around their natural strengths (and weaknesses) so that they can meet daily tasks with greater feelings of self-efficacy and clarity.
- Planning and Time-management
Gaining an understanding of your clients typical day at work can help you when it comes to setting realistic and achievable health goals that can work into the demands of the work environment. Supporting your client to plan these health goals into their working day and keeping them accountable to them may also naturally start to help create more structure and routine in other areas of their work schedule as they aim to add new healthy habits into their to-do list.
Workplace wellness has become a hot topic due to the significant risks associated with both physical and mental health. As a practitioner it is important that you have the tools to support people in all walks of life.
Wide-ranging research suggests that strong social ties are linked to a longer life. In contrast, loneliness and social isolation are linked to poorer health, depression, and increased risk of early death.
As a result, assessing a client’s social life and relationships should be as high up the list as looking through a diet diary or exercise history. Does your client spend quality time with friends, family members/loved ones? Are there any relationships that are currently causing stress? Does your client feel loneliness or isolation?
If diving deeper into relationships is not within your skillset or scope of practice, seek out a strong referral network with a psychologist or counselor, so that when you do begin to assess the social aspects of a person’s life, you can safely support your client by referring them to an expert to help deal with any deeper issues should they arise.
Remember, ALL aspects of the environment can influence gene expression and consequently affect health. Just because a person is exercising regularly and eating healthy does not mean your work is done. Sleep, work, stress, social life, the environment all have important roles to play in the overall health picture. It is your duty as a health professional to understand the bigger picture of your clients lifestyle to formulate a personalized and integrative health program, which can and should of course involve other expert practitioners within your network to support as needed.
This is the future of client-centered, precision health care.
Want to learn more about assessing and managing these areas of your clients lifestyle AND join a network of health, fitness and medical professionals who practice with precision?
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