In Focus: The Island With Bear Grylls

For those of you out there who are partial to a bit of 'reality TV', I'm going to discuss one of my favorite TV shows "The Island with Bear Grylls". For those of you with better things to do with their time than me, here are the basics:

Group of people get cast out on a dessert island where they have to survive for 1 month without any outside assistance, and it's all filmed and edited into a TV show.

The reason I want to talk about it, is that it does give us a (all-be-it very exaggerated) view of what happens when you don't look after your body very well.

Obviously, the conditions are not like anything most of us have to experience, but we do all deprive ourselves of some very important things which we need. When we go on a diet, when we don't get enough sleep, when we don't get enough water - it all plays a big part on our mental and physical health.

In the show, Bear Grylls talks us through the important elements of how to survive in the wild, and then our hapless contestants give us a good example of how not to do it.

Water - Obviously, this one is always a priority. Water is the most important ingredient to staying alive (after oxygen). As 65 percent of the human body, water is essential to people. Water flows through the blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and flushing wastes out of our bodies. It cushions our joints and soft tissues. Without water as a routine part of our intake, we cannot digest or absorb food. When we exercise, obviously we lose/use more water than normal through perspiration and these processes, so it is really important to hydrate yourself. You should make sure you drink before, during and after exercise. Water is also crucial to keep your skin healthy.

Food - This is the one that the islanders struggle with as it is so hard to come by. We’re all familiar with the concept of something needing fuel to keep it going. Just as a power station requires gas or coal to power its turbines and generate energy, so we need fuel – in the form of food – to power our continued existence. The foods we eat provide us with a range of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, and protein. These nutrients are put to different uses — as building materials to construct the tissues and organs from which our bodies are made; as the components of the molecular machinery that keeps our cells running as they should. All of these uses are unified by a common theme: a requirement for energy to make them happen. When we exercise, we essentially ask the body for more energy so it is important to give your body the right fuel to process. You should aim to eat at least 30-minutes before exercise so that you have time to start digesting the food, and ideally you should try to eat within 15 minutes after finishing an exercise - ideally with a good portion of protein.

Sleep - Not many people consider this one when thinking about their health, but you only need to watch an episode of this show to see just how important sleep is - and I'm not just talking about how much sleep, but also quality of sleep. The islanders are plagued with biting insects, the elements and having to sleep in very uncomfortable conditions and you can see what a toll it takes on their health. We have all experienced being in a bad mood after a poor nights sleep, and we all know how much better we feel after a good night in the sack. So take some time to audit your sleeping conditions. Is your room dark enough? Is the temperature right? Do you nod off straight away or do you stare at a screen until you can't keep your eyes open anymore? And of course, are you getting enough sleep?

The show gives us a very stark picture of what happens when you deny your body all of these things. You see in a short time them go through a range of emotions as the affects take their toll, they become irritable, depressed, extremely tired and the arguments that break out over the most trivial of matters. And as a contrast, when they do get some food the mood instantly changes as they cheer, smile and celebrate.

Of course, all of this is an exaggeration of what we put ourselves through, but lessons can be learned!

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