October 2, 2012

Wellness defined in terms of health care


---- — Since I work at a wellness center, I should talk a little about wellness and what it is. 

If you do a simple Web search, you'll find several definitions that are along the lines of “the state or condition of good health." It is easy to find a definition, but how far does this get us? How do you achieve it? How “well” are you right now? These are good questions, but there really is no specific test of wellness. 

I believe the best way to describe wellness from a health-care perspective is by using one of its antonyms, which is illness. Put simply, wellness is about preventing and managing illness. There are many different forms of illness; therefore, there are many forms of wellness. Wellness centers promote wellness through exercise and proper nutrition.

Before diving into wellness, let's talk about the importance of stress. In our modern society, it is easy to perceive stress as bad and rest as good. This simple dichotomy isn’t so simple. Stress can be good as long as it is well-managed. In fact, stress is needed in order to stay healthy. Stress is what we experience when working to reach a goal. This goal could be handing in a work assignment on time, finishing a workout or going to an audition. Without stress, we cannot really experience the true feeling of accomplishment. 

Rest, on the other hand, is not always good. Too much rest can decrease our resistance to stress. This concept of balance between stress and rest is explained through what is called general adaptation syndrome. It generally states that with an optimal amount of stress, we will adapt and overcome the stress. If the stress is too little or too much, however, this will not happen.

So what does stress have to do with wellness? It has everything to do with wellness. Wellness is about balance and management of stress. It is about knowing how to properly stress your body physically and mentally in order to keep it healthy. It is also about providing proper nourishment and rest in order to facilitate this effect. 

Exercising is the practice of using a stressor to prevent or manage certain illnesses — coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. For example, cardiovascular exercise stresses the heart so it will adapt and become stronger, reducing the risk of heart disease. This is why prescribed exercise is promoted so thoroughly at wellness centers. I say prescribed because exercise should be instructed by an exercise professional. Just as taking the wrong medication can be dangerous, so can exercising inappropriately. Likewise, too little or too much exercise can have detrimental effects. Qualified exercise professionals follow certain protocols to ensure that the exercise program is right for the client. These protocols include a health-history screen, fitness assessment and regular reassessments to make sure that the program is safe and effective.

Wellness is an important part of the health-care continuum. It is the long-term care that is required to keep us healthy and avoid a relapse. Although it can have many different meanings, in the health-care world, it means preventing illness through promotion of healthy habits.

Ted Santaniello, CSCS, is a certified personal trainer and the fitness manager at the Wellness Center at PARC, located at 295 New York Road (next to ARC) in Plattsburgh. For more information, call him at 324-2024.