Using the Google definitions of the words, health is the state of being free from illness or injury and essentials are things that are absolutely necessary.
So what does this all mean in the real world? Which things do we need to have to help us be free from illness and keep us alive?
As we dive into the things that your body needs to stay healthy (or perhaps even return to health), we can also explain how important each of them are based on how long you’ll manage without them.
So, let’s kick off with the least important of the essentials…
You might be surprised that we’re talking about food not being that essential, but this is in comparison to the other things on this list.
Everyone needs to eat, but everyone needs a different amount and from various experiments it’s clear that humans can survive on sub-optimal intake. Notice the difference between surviving and being healthy!
All that being said, food is the lowest thing on this list because humans can last for 30-40 days without food as long as they have enough water. Next on our list is:
The longest recorded time someone has gone without sleep is just over 11 consecutive days. We’re not recommending that you go and try and beat that record because research has shown that after only 3-4 nights of no sleep your body will start to hallucinate. Which brings us to:
The generally accepted amount of time that a human can go without water is 3-4 days, but even a small level of dehydration will impair the way your body and brain function in a negative way. If you’re unsure about if you’re drinking enough fluid on a day to day basis then you should probably drink a bit more! A simple rule to follow is 30ml per kg of bodyweight, and then add more based on if you’re exercising and sweating. So finally, at the top of the tree is:
It seems to go without saying, but breathing is cool! Our bodies breathe in air, take the oxygen out of it and breathe out carbon dioxide. Oxygen is used constantly by your body (and can’t be stored by your body) which is why you can’t live without it.
So being good at breathing seems like a handy skill to have! In the gym we can stimulate breathing by increasing the amount of work that we ask your body to do. But since you spend more time outside the gym than in it makes sense to breathe through your nose (your mouth works but breathing is it’s secondary function), breathe calmly and spend some time each day just breathing and thinking about nothing else.
Survival experts have a rule of 3s when it comes to food, water and air to make it simple to remember – you can last 3 weeks without food (based on real life conditions where hydration levels are probably also down), 3 days without water, but only 3 minutes without oxygen.
The takeaway message here is that if you are interested in being healthy you should probably start by addressing the things that your body needs first of all rather than getting all wrapped up in the latest training research or supplement marketing.