Truth or Consequences: What Popular Health Adages Mean

By Martha Michael

Success in Life is Good Health

Pithy sayings are passed from person to person, generation to generation, often blindly believed but sometimes having only a grain of truth to them. That’s fine if you’re talking about taking “the road less traveled” or following your dreams. But where your health is concerned, it pays to check the validity of conventional wisdom.

American entrepreneur P.T. Barnum -- born 209 years ago on July 5 -- made a lot of memorable statements as a showman, politician and businessman. Called by many “the world’s greatest showman,” his most notable success was the Barnum & Bailey Circus, which survived nearly 150 years in business before closing in 2017 due to failing ticket sales.

Many suggest it was the health and welfare of the animals that led to the demise of the circus, which outlasted Barnum by 126 years following his death at age 80. One of Barnum’s best-known statements was related to wellness, but it was about people, not animals.

‘The Foundation of Success in Life is Good Health’

Does a healthy lifestyle lead to a higher income, aka success? Job site CV-Library, an internet resource based in the United Kingdom, has an article about the link between healthy eating and career success.

“During the recruitment process, people are judged on their appearance and attitude as well as experience and achievements,” it says. “Particularly for more front-line roles such as field sales, promotional, presentation and consultancy positions. After all, a healthy employee is more productive and less likely to take much sick leave.”

Bailey may have been on to something. Eating right boosts your energy level and improves brain function. Those byproducts, combined with a better ability to concentrate, all contribute to the quality of your labor.

Like you’ve heard since childhood, breakfast really is an important consideration. Because your metabolism slows while you sleep, morning sustenance is energizing. Grab-and-go food tends to be inferior to a balanced, freshly prepared menu, which may mean you wake up earlier to make time for food preparation.

Lunch is a good time for some exercise. A brisk stroll enables you to stretch your legs and burn fat while also loosening up joints and muscles in your torso. Carving time for aerobic exercise increases circulation and strengthens your heart and lungs. You can choose any cardio exercise from cycling to swimming, which are also good ideas for reducing stress.

Lifestyle change could lead to a happier, healthier, more energetic and fulfilling career, not to mention the benefit of attaining balance in your personal life.

‘A Merry Heart is Good Medicine, but a Crushed Spirit Dries up the Bones’

An article in Psychology Today has a prescription for health and happiness -- and claims that linking the two can lead to a longer life. Meg Selig, author of “Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success,” proposes areas that need attention if you want to boost wellness in your body and soul.

She suggests that you focus on making changes regarding:

  • Nature - Spend more time hiking, gardening or other activities that put you in direct contact with flora and fauna or Mother Earth in general.
  • Exercise - Work on increasing muscle strength and lowering blood pressure by moving your body. Byproducts include physical benefits, including less back pain, as well as decreasing the threat of depression.
  • Healthy food - Find a healthy food plan and you lower the risk of heart attacks, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, plus gain a boost in brainpower.
  • Stress management - Make changes to your life or career to avoid fatigue and the life-shortening effects of chronic stress.

If you want to crush depression, there are ways to raise the spirits.

‘A Few Germs Never Hurt Anyone’

There’s a lot of truth to the idea that germs aren’t all bad. In fact, there are specific types of germs that do you good.

We all tend to think of bacteria’s devastating effects, such as Salmonella giving us food poisoning and Streptococcus causing pneumonia or strep throat. The presence of these culprits makes us aware of the need for handwashing and disinfecting our kitchens and bathrooms.

Not only are there “good” types of bacteria, our bodies have approximately 100 trillion of them in our bodies, mostly in the gut region. And they aren’t just static -- we need them, says an article in Healthline. They produce Vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid and niacin, which help with metabolizing food. Studies have shown they also may stimulate the immune system, crowding out harmful bacteria in our gastrointestinal system.

The more the “good” bacteria multiplies, the greater internal protection our bodies have.

The idea that consuming microorganisms could improve your health was proposed 100 years ago by Nobel prize-winning Russian biologist Elie Metchnikoff. A product known as “probiotics” was created, which contains beneficial bacteria that companies claim offers health benefits.

Foods containing friendly bacteria include:

  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Cheeses with live active cultures
  • Sauerkraut
  • Beer
  • Sourdough bread
  • Chocolate
  • Kimchi

Experts suggest probiotics to treat a range of health conditions including:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Eczema

It’s always a good idea to look at what you believe. In many cases, you can see the logic in the words of your elders, which may have seemed like throwaway comments at the time. But don’t just internalize them without weighing them against the laws of nature. After all, you don’t want to fall prey to another adage attributed to Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

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