What Is Optimal Health?

Optimal. Adj. Most desirable or satisfactory.


Do you strive to achieve optimal health? Have you ever thought about your health this way?
When I was younger, I took my health for granted. I was never particularly ill during childhood, just the usual colds, viruses, and occasional ankle sprains. In my 20’s and 30’s I could be pretty certain that if I didn’t feel well or got injured, the problem was likely to fix itself given enough time. As I entered my 40’s, things began to change. My near vision went kaput, forcing me to use reading glasses. My ability to recover after hard workouts decreased. I sprained my thumb and it took 9 months to feel right again. I will freely admit that none of these is particularly awful, and that in general I have been blessed with good health. The point for this post is this: although I had noticed my body changing, I really didn’t do anything differently with my approach to health. I continued to ignore my health, except for attention to exercise, unless something was wrong.
But what if health doesn’t have to just “happen to” us but we could be proactive to shape our health. Not a revolutionary concept, right? Doctors have been trying to get us to lose weight, exercise, stop smoking, and eat healthy for decades. This is where the optimal health concept
comes in. Let me throw out a definition to work with:
Optimal health is the most desirable or satisfactory state of health one could achieve given one’s genetic makeup, current mental and physical conditions, time, resources, and other constraints.
I like this as a concept. Let’s notice a couple points when we think about your health.

  1. Optimal is defined by you. You know your story, you know your commitments, you know your desires, so you should get to define what optimal is.
  2. Optimal is not the same as perfect. We would all love to have perfect health, but that is not going to happen. At some point, we all suffer setbacks due to illness and injuries, and sometimes develop conditions that cannot be cured.
  3. We all have constraints on our pursuit of optimal health. For example, work, commitments to family and friends, and financial resources all impact our ability to pursue optional health.

Here’s the point for today.
You should be actively thinking about and pursuing optimal health. That is, I want to encourage you to be proactive with your health. Don’t just deal with health concerns as they happen, but rather be instrumental in shaping what your future health might look like. Do you need help to get started? Take a look at this worksheet mentioned in my last post so you can think about how well you function in various areas of your health. Now, knowing what your low scores are, or knowing where you have energy and time (and perhaps money) to devote to your health, develop a strategy to make improvements and then start! Have you been meaning to start exercising
regularly? Well, hire a trainer or buy those new shoes or find a friend to walk with, but get it done! Don’t put it off! Are you still struggling to quit smoking? Why not unleash a full-fury attack on this addiction using all the tools available – medications, counseling, support from friends and family, apps for your phone – so you can finally be free? Get started! What if you
say, “I feel pretty good right now.” That’s great! Is there anything you are doing, or might start doing, to help maintain this healthy state? Do it!
What is the best you can be? Take steps today to be that! Be intentional about your health.

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