Effects of Nutrition, Exercise & Environment on Health

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

In this lesson you will learn about how nutrition, exercise, and environment affect your health. A quiz following the lesson will test what you have learned.

What Does it Mean to be Healthy?

Are you healthy? You might say ''yes'', but it isn't really a yes or no question. Health exists on a continuum; a person can be extremely unhealthy, unhealthy, somewhat healthy, or very healthy. Maybe you're healthy right now, but could be even more so. Before we get into why that is, we should answer a simple question: what exactly is health?

Health is a measure of how functional or metabolically efficient a living organisms is. A healthy person is lacking in disease and is not in a state where they're extra susceptible to future disease. If you're sick and your body is using most of the energy in the food you eat to fight that disease, your body is not being efficient. Therefore, you are not healthy. If you're not eating enough nutritious food, your body might not be able to operate as fast or as well as it normally would, so you are not healthy.

In this lesson, we're going to explore some of the main factors that decide whether or not a person is healthy: nutrition, exercise, and environment.

The Effect of Nutrition on Health

Nutrition is the amount and quality of food that your body receives. When you eat food, your body breaks it down to get the molecules that it really needs: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. If you don't have these things, your body is unable work properly. And the effects of bad nutrition can be terrible.

The most dramatic effect is death: if you don't eat enough, your body will simply shut down and die. This is something people in the western world rarely think about, but people die of starvation in certain parts of the world every day. But you can also eat too much, and that can be highly damaging. Being overweight puts you at risk for all kinds of life-threatening issues and diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, kidney disease and many others. People who are overweight live significantly shorter lives than people who maintain a healthy weight.

But it isn't just about how much you eat, it's also about how nutritious the food you eat is. If all you eat is 'fast food', you most certainly are not healthy. Fast food, along with other processed foods, tend to be low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. That's why it's important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. In fact, if you eat unhealthy foods, your body can be so in need of nutrients that your body will stay hungry for longer to try to get you to eat the things it needs. So, not eating vitamins and minerals can cause you eat too much and become overweight.

Lacking the vitamins and minerals your body needs can cause many problems. Iron deficiency makes it hard for your body to make new blood. Vitamin A deficiency can cause people to go blind. Vitamin B deficiency can cause nerve and muscle damage, diarrhea, skin problems, and stop your brain from developing properly as you grow. The list goes on and on.

Fruits and vegetables are central to good health
Fruit and vegetables are central to good health

The best thing to do for your health is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and to eat a wide variety of them. The phrase to remember is eat a rainbow. You should try to eat a fruit or vegetable of every color in your daily life.

The Effect of Exercise on Health

If food is the most important part of health, exercise comes next. If you want to live as long as possible, one of the worst things you can do is spend all day sitting down. Standing for even just two minutes out of every hour will make a difference. You should also exercise for at least 20-30 minutes per day. And that exercise should be vigorous - if you're not sweating, it definitely isn't enough.

Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic Exercise

People who spend more than 4-8 hours a day sitting down without breaks are around 50% more likely to die over the next three years than those who don't. The exact figures vary by study, but they're all really bad. At the moment, we have no idea why this is. But it seems that extended sitting increases the risk of every disease: cancer, heart disease, everything. So, we know that spending too long sitting is not healthy.

The Effect of Environment on Health

The other effect on health that most people don't think about much is environment. We absorb a lot from our environment every day: we breathe the air, we drink the water, we hear sounds, and we see sights. All these things can effect our health.

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