Six Essential Pillars to Support Your Health

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

In order to stay on track with your goals, consider how the The 6 Pillars of Health can be applied to your health goals. The Pillars of Health make up the basic foundation that supports a healthy lifestyle, and they consist of healthy mindset exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management and sense of community.


Mindset is everything. A healthy mindset can push us in the right directions of achieving our goals and maintaining a positive attitude. How we think and feel about ourselves will effect our level of motivation and willingness to make healthy changes. Regardless of your circumstances, a positive outlook on life, can become a powerful motivator in changing your life. Believe in yourself and remember that failure is part of the journey.

TIP: Celebrate every little success.

Instead of looking at how far you have to go, focus on every little success that you have! Remember that failure is part of the journey and everyones! Also, try to set small and attainable goals and remind yourself of them often.


Most of us know that exercise has many benefits and will lead to a healthier lifestyle. Weight loss is a top new years goal for many, and gyms are busier than ever in January. Studies have shown that combining cardio with strength training can maximize fat loss and muscle mass maintenance, compared to cardio alone. (J. Eriksson: Exercise and the metabolic syndrome). For cardio exercise, we should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week (or a combination of both). Cardio exercise is beneficial for supporting cardiovascular health, immune function, diabetes and mood enhancement to name a few. It’s especially beneficial for your mental health as your body releases endorphins which leads to an increased sense of well-being. For strength training, you should aim for at least 2-3 times per week. Top benefits of strength training is that it helps you build muscle mass which will boost your metabolism, meaning you’ll burn calories even while resting.

TIP: Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day at least 5 times a week, whether it’s walking your dog outside, taking a fitness class, weight lifting or snowboarding - there are so many ways we can be active each day. Interval training, like HIIT , for example, offered by Urban Athlete, is a fast and effective form of exercise that helps to boost metabolism and burns fat in half the time. Ultimately, you want to engage in exercise that you find most enjoyable and will be able to stick to long-term.


Another top resolution is diet. Many people go into the new year with a goal to eat healthier or start a new diet (often some fad diet), which usually consist of low calories and even skipping meals to lose the weight. However, dieting is not sustainable and can damage your metabolism, trigger hunger, and even lead to binge eating or food cravings. A healthy, balanced diet is one that provides nourishment and energy in the form of vitamins and minerals from whole foods and leaves us feel satisfied and helps us kick those food cravings. For optimal health, you should aim to cut out processed foods, also known as “convenience foods”, that have been modified, contain a long list of ingredients, artificial flavors and have minimal nutritional value. Examples would be microwaveable dinners, frozen pizzas, sugary drinks, and breakfast cereal bars. When buying foods that are packaged, you should read the Nutrition Food Label and consider the amounts of sodium, sugar and trans fat. For instance, a food that states its ‘trans fat free’ may in fact contain up to 0.5 grams of partially hydrogenated oils, a source of trans fats, in the ingredient list. Trans fat has been shown to increase levels of "bad" cholesterol while decreasing levels of "good" cholesterol. On the other hand, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds offer quality nutritional value and you don’t have to worry about labels.

TIP: Eat less processed food and more whole foods.

Try to eliminate as much processed foods and refined sugars from your diet as you can and you’ll notice a difference. Just because a food is labeled natural, gluten – free, or low- fat doesn't mean it's healthy or free of added sugars. In fact, added sugars are used in low-fat foods to improve taste and consistency - a common example of this is yogurt. Choose whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. For protein, you also want to aim for at least 20 grams of protein with each meal. Having protein at breakfast will help stabilize blood sugar levels and regulate appetite throughout the day. The right amount of protein you require will specifically depend on the individuals needs and lifestyle. *For help on reading labels or how to eat a more balanced diet, consider how a Health Professional can support you.


The circadian rhythm regulates many physiological processes and that tells our bodies when to sleep, wake, and eat. This internal body clock is affected by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature. When we get a good, quality sleep, it allows our bodies to repair tissues, improve memory, and release hormones like human growth hormone. The growth hormone release (stimulates growth, and cell reproduction and regeneration) is highest during the first part of the night, which is why getting to bed at a decent time for a good nights sleep is so important. When we cut our sleep short, we limit our recovery and muscle growth ability. Lack of sleep also plays a role in weight loss and disrupts the normal balance between the hormones leptin (appetite suppressant) and ghrelin (appetite stimulant). The balance between these two hormones are related to the body’s internal urges to sleep and to eat. Adequate sleep helps normalize the balance between these two hormones and helps the body achieve normal body weight and overall better health.

TIP: Establish a regular bedtime routine and good sleep hygiene.

We should aim for at least 8 hours of undisrupted sleep and avoid caffeine late in the day. Establishing regular bedtime and regular wake up time can also be helpful for staying on track with your health goals. For good sleep hygiene, shut down electronics at least an hour prior to bed as this can impact production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. In addition, aim to engage in relaxing activities like having a warm bath, reading a book or drinking a herbal tea like chamomile to help you fall asleep.


Stress is a part of life, and some stress is healthy and even essential. However, when we have chronic stress, it can become unhealthy for your mind and body. As a result, you may feel fatigued, unable to concentrate, and even irritable. In addition, it can negatively impact our health and result in elevated blood sugar, suppressed immunity, and cause weight gain. With all this in mind, it is essential to properly manage stress on a day to day basis and identify what is causing you stress.

TIP: Engage in relaxing activities in the evening and weekend.

Destress by making time for yourself and engaging in things you love. Some effective ways to destress would be to practice deep breathing or meditation, practicing yoga, go for a walk or have warm bath with Epsom salts.


We are better together! Social connection and maintaining healthy relationships can positively influence our physical health and mental and emotional well – being by lowering stress levels, boosting mood and promote longevity. Those who feel connected have lower levels of anxiety and depression, higher self esteem and greater sense of belonging. In addition, we have a 50 % increased chance of longevity (Standford Medicine). Its no wonder that fitness classes are popular as they offer social inclusion, motivation, comaderie and support. Its also another way to help you stay on track with your goals.

TIP: Find a community that will support you!

It can be challenging or even intimidating at first to start a new program, but accountability and support of a community can keep you going. You can accomplish these goals by getting extra support: workout with a partner, sign up for a fitness class or workout with a Trainer at Urban. Here at Urban, we value community want to help you with your goals!

Making health and fitness a lifestyle is a commitment - both physically and mentally. Don’t give up – you got this!

*If you want to dig deeper with your health and learn how holistic nutrition can help you, contact Nicole Barnes.

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Nicole Barnes

Calgary, Alberta