Bio-individuality is a concept coined by Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, currently the world’s largest nutrition school. The principle behind the term is simple: each person is unique and has specific dietary, genetic, environmental and lifestyle needs.
Much like fad diets, trending exercise routines are often a ‘one size fits all’ kind of deal. But while on TV or Instagram this seems attainable, it doesn’t work that way in the real world.
Bio-individuality is the concept that each of us has unique exercise needs, and one person’s ‘prize’ can be another person’s ‘poison’.
Here are a few examples of bio-individuality, and why recognizing individual differences in relation to physical activity is a crucial step towards creating a sustainable, tailored approach to overall health and wellness.
Alice and James strive to eat a healthy diet. Alice thrives on a diet rich in dairy and whole grains, but James has lactose and gluten intolerances – that means that foods Alice can enjoy before exercising cause bloating and discomfort in James. In this case, Jame’s bio-individuality means he cannot consume certain foods such as cheese before exercising, while Alice can.
Nat is naturally slender and performs best in endurance sports like marathon running or long bike rides. Kim, on the other hand, has a more muscular frame and has better results with strength training. Each womens different body type and genetic predispositions makes certain exercises and workouts more effective and enjoyable for them. By understanding their bio-individuality, they can customize their fitness routines to suit their personal strengths and preferences.
Emma and Pete both try to exercise regularly and get a good night’s sleep. Emma is a night owl who enjoys working out in the evening and likes to sleep late in the morning. Pete, on the other hand, is an early bird who rises at dawn with loads of energy, and needs to hit the sack early. Both achieve a full, restful night’s sleep, but their schedules differ based on their individual circadian rhythms.
Importance of Bio-individuality
Each person’s body responds differently to exercise, food, and sleep. Designing exercise routines without considering bio-individuality can lead to monotony, increased risk of injuries, physical discomfort, and potential health complications.
Some people are genetically inclined to excel at certain sports or activities. For one person that might be running, while for another it is yoga or weights training.
Attempting to mold a person, genetically inclined towards one fitness type, into another often backfires, culminating in disappointment, injuries, and emotional strain. A better approach would be to customize workout routines to maximize each person’s individual capabilities.
Influence of Environment and Age on Exercise
Where you live can influence the type of exercise that suits you best. For instance, if you live near mountains, hiking in the woods or heading out on a trail horse riding might be an easily accessible exercise for you, whereas if you live in a city, these activities require more planning and commuting.
A city dweller might find a local gym or group classes make more sense than nordic walking, while a country dweller might prefer walking the dog and engaging in a virtual session online makes more sense than driving into town to get to the gym.
Age is another factor to consider when planning an exercise regimen. This is because as people age, their bodies undergo significant changes – muscles lose strength and flexibility, bone density decreases, and metabolic rates slow down.
These changes can influence both the effectiveness and the safety of certain types of exercises. High-intensity workouts, while beneficial for young people, might be unsuitable or even dangerous for older, less fit adults. The risk of injuries such as sprains, fractures, or even heart complications can increase, especially if the person has pre-existing health conditions – so exercise routines for older adults should be adapted accordingly.
Lifestyle Influence on Exercise Routines
A person’s lifestyle can also influence their exercise routine. Many people juggle demanding workloads, family commitments, and other obligations, leaving little time for exercise. For these people, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts centered around short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief recovery periods offer a high return on a short time investment.
For others that place more importance on social interactions, group activities or fitness classes (virtual or in-person), might be more satisfying and engaging.
The sense of community, mutual motivation, and shared experience in these activities can boost morale and commitment in the long run more than individual workouts.
Personal Preferences: The Key to Consistency
Consideration of personal preferences and resistances is also crucial. Often overlooked, having fun while exercising can be a significant motivator and a key to consistency.
If someone enjoys dancing, for instance, enrolling in a Zumba or hip-hop dance class might be a more appealing, enjoyable, and thus enduring form of exercise than traditional fitness activities.
Similarly, people who prefer outdoor settings might prefer activities like hiking, biking, or horse riding over gym-based routines. In the end, the best exercise plan is the one that a person finds enjoyment in. After all, you’re much more likely to stick with something if you look forward to it, rather than seeing it as an obligation.
Embracing Bio-individuality for Optimal Fitness
By recognizing and embracing our bio-individuality, we can tailor exercise regimes to better serve our unique body requirements, yield the best results and lower injury risk to enable a safer exercise experience.
Some people need more time for their muscles to repair and grow after a workout, while others can handle back-to-back training days and HIIT workouts and fitness, like nutrition, really shouldn’t be a one size fits all sort of scenario.
We often talk about embracing how unique each person is, but truly understanding this concept can be challenging. It’s easier for us to accept individual differences at work, or in the context of beauty than when it comes to working out, and we often compare ourselves to a single standard and anticipate identical results.
Bio-individuality is really about embracing the truth of ‘what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone’.
We all have different needs. Let’s embrace them!