The 3 Pillars of Health

Navigating the world of health and wellness can often feel like trying to find your way through a maze. 

Except in this maze, there are a bunch of people giving you a bunch of conflicting directions. 

“Fats are good for you.”

“No, fats are bad.”

“True health starts with yoga.”

“Sleeping with your feet facing South is bad for blood circulation.”

“Breathing is the best way to stay healthy.”

Turns out, these seemingly objective statements can be subjective at times.

Medical advice seems to grow more complicated by the day, with new studies, diets, and fitness regimes all claiming to be the secret to longevity and vitality. 

However, maintaining your health doesn't need to be a complex puzzle. And although optimizing health practices is a good practice itself, this maze doesn’t have to be so confusing — self-imposed or not.

In fact, basic health and wellness can be distilled into three straightforward and attainable pillars: exercise, sleep, and nutrition. These foundational aspects of wellbeing are not only simple to understand but are also within the reach of nearly everyone, making a healthier lifestyle an achievable goal for all.

Pillar #1: Exercise

Let’s start with the most physically demanding pillar. 

A well-rounded exercise regimen is crucial for maintaining good health. Exercise can look different for different people (we’re not all David Goggins), but there are common truths and benefits to intentionally moving your body.

This pillar can be broken down into three main types: cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and mobility work.

Cardiovascular Exercise: Activities like walking, running, swimming, or cycling are essential for heart health and endurance. These exercises help control weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, and boost overall energy levels. It’s common knowledge that movement is good for the joints and muscles in motion, but there are additional benefits. 

Engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise can improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. It also helps in the regulation of blood sugar levels, which can prevent or control diabetes. 

Cardiovascular training also plays a crucial role in enhancing brain health; it increases blood flow to the brain, which brings essential oxygen and nutrients to our central nervous system. This increased circulation helps in clearing out the buildup of plaque and debris, which can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Strength Training: A more challenging type of exercise is strength training. Incorporating strength training into your routine, helps build muscle, increase metabolic rate, and strengthen bones. 

What comes to mind when we think of strength training is usually some jacked dude in a gym throwing weight around - but strength training can actually leverage body weight exercises. Pushups, squats, pullups, and burpees (ugh) are all body weight movements that can improve strength and keep individuals healthy.

Strength training also plays a critical role in managing chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Moreover, it improves posture, balance, and stability, which can prevent falls and maintain independence as you age. It’s clear that strength training is an important piece to the pillar of exercise. 

Mobility: Although not “traditionally” regarded as exercise, regular stretching or engaging in activities like yoga can enhance flexibility, reduce the risk of injuries, and improve your overall range of motion. This intentional movement keeps your joints healthy and functional. (You can read more about mobility here in our Range of Motion blog!)

Enhancing mobility not only supports athletic performance but also facilitates everyday tasks and movements, making them easier and less tiring. Furthermore, mobility exercises can help alleviate chronic pain and stiffness, particularly in areas like the back, shoulders, and neck. If you find yourself in need of movement but may be limited with exercise equipment or environment, stretch it out! 

Pillar #2: Sleep

As a wise man once said: "It's better to catch Z's than L's." It may be surprising, but getting quality shuteye is considered one of the pillars of health.

Quality sleep is just as vital as an exercise routine. Creating a conducive sleep environment — and maintaining a regular schedule — can profoundly affect your physical and mental health. Here are some guidelines to consider:

Scheduled Sleep: Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule to regulate your body's internal clock, which can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Consistency in your sleep schedule aligns with your circadian rhythm, reducing instances of insomnia and improving sleep quality. 

This regularity also supports better hormonal balance, which can affect everything from your appetite to your mood. Avoiding electronic screens and stimulating activities close to bedtime can further enhance your ability to fall asleep at a set time each night. As light tells our bodies to “wake up”, it’s not too hard to see why bright lights before bed send confusing messages to the body.

Comfortable Sleeping Environment: Ensure your sleeping environment is optimal for rest. (I like my sleeping environment like I like my coldbrews.) This means:

Duration: Most adults need 7-9 hours per night, though the exact amount can vary. The best measure is waking up feeling refreshed and staying alert throughout the day. Consider the quality of sleep, particularly the amount of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep you get, as this stage is crucial for emotional regulation and memory consolidation. Typically, REM sleep makes up about 20-25% of total sleep in adults, occurring in cycles throughout the night approximately every 90 minutes, highlighting the importance of uninterrupted sleep to allow complete cycles.

Achieving adequate sleep duration on a regular basis is linked to improved immune function, better memory, and decreased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

Because each of us vary in all of our preferences and needs, noticing patterns in your needed duration is a strong strategy to employ. Tracking your sleep with a wearable device or a sleep diary can help you understand your personal sleep needs and adjust your habits accordingly.

Let us help you navigate your health maze. Contact Carbon PT today.

Pillar #3: Nutrition

Eating well can be one of the trickiest parts of the maze to navigate, particularly since there are so many variables involved. Nutrition is about balancing the nutrients that your body needs to function at its best, as well as listening and learning from your body for what makes it work (and feel) healthiest.

To do this, we must understand both the science behind it and your own body's responses. Here are some practical tips to help you optimize your diet with nutrition in mind:

Diverse Diet: Aim for a diverse diet that includes a variety of foods. This ensures you get a wide range of nutrients necessary for your body’s functions. 

Include colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals. (Notice we didn’t include a soda or Oreo intake metric.) Each food group offers unique nutrients that contribute to your overall health.

Mindful Eating: Listen to your body and practice mindful eating. This involves paying attention to how food makes you feel and what your body needs, rather than following strict dietary rules or eating out of boredom or emotion

Mindful eating can help you recognize your body's hunger and fullness signals, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

Balance Macronutrients: While individual needs can vary, maintaining a balance of macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) is crucial.

Each macronutrient plays a unique role in your body, and finding the right balance can help enhance energy levels, improve body composition, and regulate bodily functions. Using tools like the MyPlate guidelines can be a helpful start in balancing these nutrients.

Prioritize Micronutrients: Don't overlook the importance of micronutrients, which support various critical functions in your body. Minerals - such as calcium and iron - are vital for bone health, muscle function, and overall body regulation. 

Similarly, vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, and iron absorption. Leafy greens, nuts, and seeds are rich in minerals and vitamins that support everything from brain function to blood health. (All this talk of micros is making me want to make a smoothie!)

Stay Hydrated: Speaking of hydration via smoothie, water is crucial for every cellular activity in your body and helps with digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste. Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day, not just when you feel thirsty. 

“How much is enough water?” you might ask. Our answer would be to consult your physician about your specific needs. But while you’re on hold, a general rule of thumb for men is about 125 ounces of fluids a day, and for women about 91 ounces of fluids a day. (It's important to note that about 20% of your daily fluid intake usually comes from food, and the rest from drinks.)

Adjust as Needed: Recognize that your nutritional needs can change due to age, activity level, health status, and other factors. Be open to adjusting your diet and seeking guidance from nutrition professionals to cater to your evolving needs.


While the details of what’s healthiest for each person can vary, these three pillars of health — exercise, sleep, and nutrition — form the foundation of a solid health plan. By focusing on these three areas, individuals can manage much of their well-being effectively and simply. 

Remember, the journey to better health doesn’t need to be complicated; sometimes, the simplest methods are the most effective. Whether you're recovering from an injury or just looking to improve your overall health, these pillars are a great place to start. 

At Carbon PT, we hope to help you navigate your own health maze. Visit our physical therapy clinic to learn more about how we can help you incorporate these pillars into your recovery and wellness strategy.