How Much Health is ‘Enough’ ?
Recently I got the flu while traveling, and that got me to wondering: how much health is ‘enough’?
It’s easy to say that perfect health means rarely being sick, and that poor health means rarely feeling well. Is there a happy medium between these two poles? That is, ‘enough’ health? Can we measure where we fall on the spectrum?
It turns out the answer is yes.
About 75% of my executive clients are interested in ‘enough’ health to increase their productivity and energy and immunity. Just 3–5 simple adjustments to their nutrition and fitness can put them in the top 15% of their peer cohort (85th percentile). I’ll address how to define ‘enough’ health in a moment.
About 25% of my clients are in interested in elite levels of health and fitness. Their goal is to be in the top 5% of their peer cohort (95th+ percentile). This requires more advanced techniques such as optimizing oxygen and below I outline an O2 self-experiment I am testing.
How much health is ‘enough’ depends on how you define health and its purpose. Possible ways to define ‘enough’ include:
- Sufficient energy to be productive at work as well as enjoy socializing and recreation.
- The margin (or buffer) between demands on our personal energy and our energy reservoir.
- A physiological state in which there is an absence of disease or pathology and that maintains the necessary biologic balance between stress and recovery states.
- A psychological state of well-being and positive behavioral responses to nutrition, exercise, and medical care.
- A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
When I got the flu, I realized that if you combine the above definitions, health can be viewed in a large part as the ‘cushion’ or ‘margin’ between wellness and being sick.
So how can we assess or predict our health ‘cushion’ or ‘margin’?
In simple terms our health can be defined as the interplay between our nutrition and fitness:
Health = Nutrition x Fitness + Other Factors
This interplay has a significant effect on our ‘cushion’ or ‘margin’ against being sick. As you can see from the table below, poor eating and activity habits lead to decreasing health margins over time. And even eating and moving ‘mostly’ right gives us only a slight margin against sickness.
The good news is that just 4 improvements and getting nutrition and exercise right 85% of the time can profoundly improve our margin against sickness, and improve our health and wellness over time.
The Healthy Executive system maximizes health on all fronts: energy, productivity, social, strength, stamina, immunity, and longevity. This is achieved by objectively measuring your personal parameters including your:
- Nutrition (caloric balance, macronutrients, micronutrients)
- Fitness (strength, body-fat, lean muscle mass, aerobic capacity)
- Recovery (stress, sleep, hormones, health psychology)
Recently a client CEO in the pursuit of elite health tipped me off to the Wim Hof Method that got me thinking about the broader connection between oxygen and performance, health, and fitness.
“We conclude that supplemental oxygen provided during high-intensity training yields higher training intensity and evidence of gains in exercise tolerance.” (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2003).
The Self-Experiment Hypothesis
Improvements in my blood oxygen levels may translate to measurable and/or sustainable fitness improvements.
Over the next weeks I will be running the following experiments and expect to publish my results in January 2017.
My Starting Baseline
I am publishing my baseline data here to ensure my experiment results (good, bad, or indifferent) are transparent.
The Role Of Oxygen In Your Health
Our bodies process three things: food, liquid, and oxygen. And while we might enjoy eating and drinking more, it’s the oxygen that actually provides the fuel that runs our body. Oxygen, through a process called oxidation, chemically changes food and liquid into energy. It’s this “oxygen fire” that contracts our muscles, repairs our cells, feeds our brains, and even calms our nerves. Plus breathing is our body’s chief cleansing tool.
Oxygen is critical for multicellular existence. Its reduction to water by the mitochondrial electron transport chain helps supply the metabolic demands of human life. The incompletely reduced, reactive oxygen byproducts of this reaction, however, can be quite toxic.
Executives typically work in cities. Although current research is not conclusive, there is a school of thought that suggests urban environments may be lower in oxygen and higher in oxidants compared rural environments.
Originally published at The Healthy Executive.