Taha tinana – physical wellbeing

Mauri tū, mauri ora

An active soul is a healthy soul

Looking after our physical health is important for our overall sense of wellbeing. Moving our body, eating well and getting enough sleep are key to supporting our body to be as healthy as it can be.

Keep moving

Good physical health looks and feels different to different people, but for all of us moving and being active are important for our physical and mental wellbeing. It can help to lift our mood and  improve self-esteem, and can also: 

  • help to maintain our stress levels
  • improve our sleep
  • increase our energy levels
  • improve our immune system
  • help with concentration and motivation
  • give us opportunities to meet people.

(Source: Otago Polytechnic website)

Diagram showing some benefits of good sleep such as mood and confidence, learning, stress reduction, helps the immune system, helps muscles recover from exercise, eyesight, reducing brain fog and helping with memory

(Image adapted from Mental Wealth).

Start small, make it fun

Balancing study, work and home life means it’s not always easy to find time to move. But the good news is any physical activity is good for us, and the more we make it part of our daily routine, the easier it will become.

It could mean going for a walk, dancing, taking the stairs at work, finding free workout videos online or joining a local sports group. Do whatever is easiest and the most fun for you.

Start small, and slowly work your way up. Aim to get to about 20 to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. You can break this up throughout the day too – do what works for you.

If you can, try and involve friends or whānau. This will help keep you motivated and to get in a regular routine.

Get ideas

There are lots of organisations and resources out there to help you get moving. Check this list on the Ministry of Health website:

Eat well

If we want to nourish our bodies and brains, we need to balance the foods and nutrients we eat.

A well-balanced diet

Our brain and body react to what we put in it. If we regularly eat foods that are highly processed or high in unhealthy fats and sugar, we are not going to feel good – physically or mentally.

A good diet can help give us more energy to do things we want to in life, like catching up with friends, going to work or studying. It’s not about depriving us of the foods we love, rather eating a balanced diet from a range of food groups. Good food equals good mood!

This visual food guide from the Heart Foundation NZ is a good guide for the balance of foods we should be trying to eat daily.

Learn more about what a balanced diet looks like from the sites linked to below:

It can be hard to have the time to prepare healthy meals when we’re juggling study, work and family life. 

With a bit of forward planning it’s possible to eat cheaply and healthily by preparing our own meals. Keep it simple by sticking to a few quality ingredients or following a recipe. Take inspiration from social media, friends or your favourite TV cooking shows, or try the sites below:

If you feel like takeaways look for places that offer healthy options, and order foods that have less sugar or are less processed.

Social time

Mealtimes are traditionally when whānau and communities come together. Eating and preparing food together is a way to be social, relax and put aside what may be weighing on our minds. It’s a good opportunity to put away the distractions of the day, be present, and to eat mindfully.

 Illustration of a group of people of different ages at a table sharing a meal

Sleep well

Having a good night’s sleep can make a huge difference to how we feel. As well as being important for our mental and physical health, it helps support brain function, including our ability to focus and retain information.

Some other benefits of good sleep include:

  • better mood and confidence
  • better learning ability
  • helps to reduce stress
  • helps the immune system to fight bugs
  • helps with memory
  • reduces brain fog and reduces mistakes
  • clearer eyesight
  • helps muscles to recover from exercise.

(Source: Otago Polytechnic website)

Diagram showing benefits of sleep including better learning ability, mood and confidence; improved memory; stress reduction; helps the immunity system; helps muscles recover from exercise; reduces brain fog and better ability to learn

Tips to help improve sleep

The good news is there are things we can do to improve our sleep by making a few small changes to our daily routines and habits.

  • Routine – Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – your brain and body likes routine.
  • Power down an hour before bed – Especially if you have been studying. Doing something calm and relaxing tells our brain to start winding down. Move devices into another room so you are not tempted.
  • Set-up a sleepy room – For the best sleep, aim to have a quiet and dark room, that’s not too hot or cold. If you don’t have curtains or can’t control noise levels, try covering your eyes with something and use ear plugs.
  • Eat well – Avoid coffee, heavy meals, alcohol and smoking before bedtime.
  • Get moving – Thirty minutes a day of physical activity can really make a difference to your sleep. 
  • No nana naps – If you’re having trouble sleeping, try not to nap during the day. If you find you need to nap, it’s okay to do so but only for a short time (less than an hour).

(Source: Mental Wealth website

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep a night for adults to be well rested and ready to take on the day. This changes with age and everyone is different.