Once a focus of the particularly healthy-minded, active health and wellness has become quite popular in the past decade or so. People all over seem to be much more focused on finding their healthy, with everything from holistic self-care to interesting new ways of working out (3D exercise, boutique boxing, or active family workouts, anyone?) taking center stage in our cultural conversation.
Whatever your wellness looks like, it's always a good idea to remember that what you do when you're not working out is just as important as what you do when you are. In fact, living an active, healthy lifestyle is key for supporting your fitness efforts.
With that in mind, we've come up with our top seven tips for embracing active wellness in every part of your life, from mindset to metrics. They're perfect for keeping yourself happy, healthy, and strong, both when you're working out and on your off-time––and they're particularly important if you're looking to uplevel an already strong workout routine.
Top Ways to Support Your Workout
Chances are that you're already aware of at least a few things you can do to support your fitness efforts. Things like using the right equipment, following a workout schedule to reduce decision fatigue, and getting an accountability partner are all widely talked about, and for good reason, because they're effective. But true active wellness requires a deeper level of support. Consider trying the following—you might be surprised at what a difference they make in your wellness.
1. Practice clean hydration.
You may already know how important it is to stay hydrated, but did you know why it's so very important? Besides replacing the water you lose sweating your way through a workout, water also keeps your brain functioning, maintains your blood volume so your heart doesn't have to strain to pump it through your veins, and even helps you maintain an appropriate body temperature, among many other things.1
If you've fallen into the habit of relying on sports drinks or one-use water bottles for your hydration, consider this a gentle wake-up call. Many beverages marketed as "healthy" sports drinks are actually full of sugar or sweeteners and artificial ingredients that can make your blood sugar skyrocket and put your microbiome out of whack.
Drinking out of plastic water bottles exposes you to other risks like BPA, chemicals that can disrupt the balance of your hormones and endocrine system, and even runoff from pesticides or the byproducts of digested medications! So stay hydrated by all means––just do it with filtered water and a BPA-free plastic, glass, or copper water bottle.2
2. Protect your skin and hair from harsh chemicals and sun damage.
This one might seem a little out of left field, but if you think about it, living an active lifestyle can put you in line for some less-than-ideal effects on your skin and hair. The simple act of bathing more often––especially if you're regularly using harsh chemical cleansers like those found in many gym shower rooms––can disrupt the balance of your skin microbiome, leaving your skin and hair dry. If you exercise outside, you're also increasing your exposure to certain pollutants and giving your skin some extra time under the sun, which can lead to unwanted changes in cell reproduction down the road. (You're not off the hook on cloudy days, by the way––research shows that the sun's rays can affect your skin even through cloud cover.)3
But there's a reason to care beyond aesthetics and surface-level skin health: your skin microbiome connects to your gut microbiome, and can have a big impact on your overall health via the gut-brain-skin axis.4 Overenthusiastic cleaning or exposure to chemicals can have an extended effect on your moods, your immune function, and even your weight. These are all very good reasons to use organic, non-toxic products on your skin and hair, and always wear an effective, chemical-free sunscreen when you're working out outside, even if the sun doesn't seem bright. Looking for suggestions? Try deeply moisturizing prickly pear or tamanu oil––perfect for those who love to be active outside!
3. Support digestion with a healthy diet and supplementation.
One of the less glamorous sides of living a healthy, active lifestyle is that your digestion can sometimes be a bit...idiosyncratic. Whether you're spending more time than you'd like in the bathroom or you've experienced the ever-popular "runner's gut," putting your body through strenuous exercise can really do a number on your stomach.
The problem with this (besides simply being uncomfortable and inconvenient) is that when your digestion is off, your body probably isn't breaking down and absorbing nutrients the way it should, which means you're not getting the building blocks you need to maintain or improve your fitness. What's more, an upset stomach often goes hand in hand with an unbalanced gut microbiome, and since your gut microbiome affects everything from your energy to your immune function, it's really important to keep it balanced if you want to stay active and well.5
Your first step here is to make sure that you're actually eating a diet that's going to support you. This means eating as much seasonal, local, and organic food as you can, and avoiding any GMO-based, artificial ingredient-filled supplements or bars. Since your gut microbiome responds very quickly to changes in diet, you may be able to tone down some tummy rumbles with shifts away from gluten, sugar, or processed foods. This applies to your supplements too! If you're looking to improve a certain area of your fitness with supplementation––say, increasing your endurance with maca powder––make sure that whatever you're taking is organic and as clean as possible so you don't accidentally undermine your dietary efforts with lower-quality supplements.
Second, ensure that your gut has an appropriate balance of bacteria by supplementing with a premium probiotic formula. Your gut microbes play an integral role in digestion, helping your body break down foods, protecting the lining of your intestines so you can absorb nutrients properly, and even producing some of the most important enzymes and vitamins for health.
And if you really want to go for the hat trick of digestive health, combine that good diet and probiotic with prebiotic powder: prebiotic fibers feed probiotics and serve as the base material for short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, which helps your body maintain an appropriate weight and reduces temporary inflammation in your intestines that can have you headed for the bathroom at inopportune times.6
4. Protect your body from wear and tear.
Workouts and light damage to your body go hand in hand; even if you're not pushing your body past its boundaries, the simple physicality of working out means that you're going to break down some cells here and there.
Of course, your body is pretty good at building itself back up, given the right materials and enough recovery time. But unless you're making it a point to give your body these things, it's easy to accidentally overlook them. Let it slide long enough, and you'll increase your chances of unwanted changes in your muscles, bones, and joints.7 The good news is, you can do a lot to prevent this with a combination of nutrition, flexibility, and rest. Focus on giving your body enough of the nutrients it needs to reform and maintain muscle, bone, and joint cells, including vitamin D, calcium, and the often-overlooked selenium, zinc, phosphorus, and collagen. (Collagen is particularly important for active people, as it both increases joint resiliency and promotes faster muscle recovery. It can be tricky to get in your normal diet, but there are some excellent collagen bars out there.)
Also, be sure to include some sort of flexibility in your workout routine, whether that's in the form of a yoga day, a short stretching routine that you do morning and evening, or a little extra stretching time in your warm up and cool down. Flexibility is the foundation of good fitness, and without it, you're much more likely to do something to put yourself out of commission for a few days.
Along those same lines, make a point to give your body enough time to recover after workouts. When you're really into fitness, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of over-working out, but this is a recipe for trouble. Your body needs time to rebuild itself after workouts, so give it what it needs! It might feel "slower," but it's actually going to give you faster, more lasting results in the long run. While you're at it, make sure you're getting enough sleep, too. It's not only good for your energy and a key time for your body to heal itself, it's also critical for the health of your gut microbiome.
5. Ease muscles with massage and magnesium.
If you're from the "push through the pain" school of fitness, this tip is especially for you. While some soreness is totally normal after a workout, pain isn't––it's a signal that something's off, and that you need to take care of it before working out again. One way you can avoid things getting to this stage is by taking care of your muscles as you go with a combination of regular massage and magnesium oil.
This one-two punch is perfect for easing sore muscles so you can keep working out consistently, and lower your chances of something going wrong with your muscles. Massage not only feels great and loosens up tight muscles, it helps keep blood flowing through your muscles, which is essential for avoiding tears and delivering the nutrients your muscles need to rebuild themselves. It also helps keep your lymphatic system working at its best, filtering out unwanted substances that can build up in your muscles, including lactic acid.8 The best part? You don't have to go to a masseuse to start getting the benefits of massage; even using a simple foam roller on your trigger points can give you some basic help.
While the benefits of massage are fairly well known, magnesium tends to fly under the radar, unfortunately. Many Americans are deficient in this critical mineral, and it shows up in chaotic sleep cycles, muscle twitches, and soreness. Magnesium plays a key role in muscle contraction; when you don't have enough of it, your muscles can't relax properly.9 Over time, this can escalate from soreness to the kind of situations that have you seeing a physiotherapist––so it's well worth supplementing with magnesium or, even easier, using a topical magnesium oil to deliver this crucial nutrient directly to your bloodstream.
6. Cultivate a resilient mindset to maintain motivation.
The importance of mindset has been making quite a splash in the workout world over the past few years, and for good reason. While the "willpower above all" approach might have been more popular in the past, our minds and bodies just don't work that way, making it important to protect and nourish your mindset just as much as you do your body.
Studies show that deliberately cultivating a positive mindset helps elite athletes from the local level right up to the top of the tops perform better and maintain higher standards of performance long term.10 While you might not be going for the gold, using the same methods can help you keep your own mindset positive so you can reach your personal best.
One great way to keep yourself feeling positive about your athletic endeavors? Tracking your progress. Our brains respond really well to rewards: that's why we find it so easy to get hung up on games. You can use some of the same psychological mechanisms to gamify your workouts.11 Make it a point to note your progress and celebrate it regularly, and you'll find it much easier to maintain your motivation. Get a couple of little wins under your belt, and it's amazing how the momentum just flows after that!
You can do this in all kinds of different ways, depending on the metrics you're tracking, but one of the easiest is to use a Fitbit or similar tracking device. That way you have easy access to your performance metrics so you can set up goals, track your progress, and celebrate when you "level up."
7. Use probiotics to support your immunity and supercharge your performance.
It's widespread, yet surprisingly unknown outside the workout world: the dreaded "post-event bug." People who regularly do strenuous exercise are more prone to upper respiratory issues, and they always seem to show up at the worst possible time, right after a competition, or just in time to tank your momentum when you're about to reach one of your long-awaited fitness goals.12
The reason this happens is because a hard workout does more than give your muscles a beating––it also temporarily reduces your immune function. But you can do a lot to offset this effect by supplementing with a premium probiotic formula that's specifically designed to support athletic performance, like PRO-Compete. Researchers are just starting to understand the effects that certain strains of bacteria have on the body. One strain called L. plantarum 6595 might as well be called "the athlete's friend," since it not only supports your immune function, which can help keep you well enough to train continuously, it is also designed to promote better athletic performance.13
PRO-Compete contains this powerhouse strain along with a targeted blend of strains specifically chosen to support your performance by enhancing digestion, promoting energy and endurance, and even helping your body build muscle mass!
Your body really is your temple, and what you put in it and on it is just as important as what you do with it, so make sure that you're paying attention to all aspects of active wellness. Living an active life can make all the difference in how you look and feel now, not to mention your experience of aging, so see what you can do to incorporate at least a couple of these tips into your routine, and you'll be ready to both level up your training and enjoy its effects for years to come.
1. Kempton, M. J., Ettinger, U., Foster, R., Williams, S. C., Calvert, G. A., . . . Smith, M. S. (2010). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping, 32(1), 71-79.
2. Hunt, P.A., Koehler, K.A., Susijaro, M., Hodges, C., Ilagan, A. . . . Hassold, T.J. (2003). Bisphenol A Exposure Causes Meiotic Aneuploidy in the Female Mouse. Current Biology, 13(7), 546-553. doi: 10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00189-1
3. Truhan, A.P. (1991). Sun Protection in Childhood. Clinical Pediatrics, 30(12).
4. Bowe, W. P., & Logan, A. C. (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future? Gut Pathogens, 3(1).
5. Panda, S., Guarner, F., & Manichanh, C. (2014). Structure and functions of the gut microbiome. Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets, 4, 290–299.
6. Morrison, D.J., Preston, T. (2016). Formation of Short Chain Fatty Acids by the Gut Microbiota and Their Impact on Human Metabolism. Gut Microbes, 7(3): 189–200. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1134082
7. United States Bone and Joint Initiative: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States. Rosemont, IL; 2014.
8. Hemmings, B., Smith, M., Graydon, J., Dyson, R. (2000). Effects of Massage on Physiological Restoration, Perceived Recovery, and Repeated Sports Performance. BMJ Sports Medicine, 34(2), 109-114. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.34.2.109
9. Bilbey, D.L., Prabhakaran, P.M. (1996). Muscle cramps and Magnesium Deficiency: Case Reports. Canadian Family Physician, 42, 1348–1351.
10. Hardy, L., Jones, J.G., Gould, D. (1996). Understanding Psychological Preparation for Sport: Theory and Practice of Elite Performers. Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
11. Sailer, M., Mandl, H., Klevers, M. (2013). Psychological Perspectives on Motivation through Gamification. Interaction Design and Architecture(s) Journal, N.19, 28-37.
12. Gleeson, M. (2015). Immunological aspects of sport nutrition. Immunology and Cell Biology, 94(2), 117-123.
13. Chen, Y., Wei, L., Chiu, Y., Hsu, Y., Tsai, T., Wang, M., & Huang, C. (2016). Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10 Supplementation Improves Exercise Performance and Increases Muscle Mass in Mice. Nutrients, 8(12), 205. doi:10.3390/nu8040205
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.