The Four Things We Should Focus on For Health and Wellness

by | Oct 31, 2018

In February I attended the three-day Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute’s Corporate Athlete Program (“HPI”). It was so good that last month our firm brought in a coach from HPI to our Principal Retreat to lead a one-day session on  health, wellness and engagement. Both the three day program in February and the recent one-day program were fantastic. I’ve previously written about how I learned from HPI that oscillating throughout the day is important for having more energy and focus. That IFOD is here: Oscillation.

At our recent retreat our coach drew an important concept on a whiteboard relating to health and wellness. I’ve recreated it:


These are the four things to focus on for health and wellness and sleep is the most important thing, followed by good nutrition, then resistance training and lastly cardio.

The coach’s point in drawing this wellness pyramid is that while all four areas are important, in terms of priority start at the bottom of the pyramid and work up (like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). Thus, it is most important for our wellness to get enough quality sleep and then eat well. Sleep and nutrition are more important than exercise. In terms of exercise, resistance training is more important that weight training. More on Each of the Four:


From the Wall Street Journal last week:

A new study of the sleep habits of more than 10,000 people around the world suggests that the amount of sleep adults need is universal. The massive survey, published in the journal Sleep, demonstrates that adults everywhere need 7-8 hours a night—no more and no less—in order to be mentally limber. When we habitually stint on those hours, higher-order cognitive processing—such as the ability to see complex patterns and solve problems—is compromised.

From the New York Times two days ago:

Imagine this: Someone walks up to you and pitches you on a brand-new, magical pill.

This pill can measurably improve your memory, overall cognitive performance, ability to learn new information, receptivity to facial cues, mood, ability to handle problems, metabolism, risk for heart disease and immune system.

Would you buy it?

Yeah, yeah, you saw this coming: That pill exists, but not in pill form. You can have all of those benefits cost-free, and all it takes is going to bed a little bit earlier. That’s it.


Nutrition/diet has a much bigger effect on healthy weight than exercise. See: Exercise and Weight Loss: a Conundrum

Additionally, adopting a healthy diet has been showing to have a material effect on mortality. One of many examples, this study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that over a 12 year time span that “among participants who maintained a high-quality diet over a 12-year period, the risk of death from any cause was significantly lower — by 14%.”


A number of things happen to us as we age, including losing about 1/2 pound of muscle per year from our thirties on. As such, resistance training is very important. IFOD: Three Things That Happen to Us As We Age.

Additionally, lower levels of strength are associated with greater all-cause mortality: Some Gripping Facts


Cardio is important, even if it is ranked fourth in terms of importance in the pyramid. Here is a good article from US News & World Report which concludes that while weight training is more important than cardio, that cardio still has benefits:

There are the obvious cardio benefits of performing cardio workouts – hence the name “cardio.” During cardiovascular workouts like running, cycling or swimming, your heart and lungs have to work faster and harder than they do during strength sessions, meaning they become stronger and more efficient than they would during a given strength workout, [exercise scientist] says. In fact, research published in The American Journal of Cardiology pinpointed aerobic exercise as the most efficient form of exercise for improving cardiometabolic health.


  1. I would like to see what a 1950’s health and wellness pyramid looked like

  2. John- I love this but I would add another component to your pyramid, which is emotional wellness. You can do all of the things in the pyramid, but if you are not emotionally well, through a practice of gratitude or mindfulness, then your physical body will suffer. Keep these ideas coming!

  3. Loved this pyramid to a balanced healthy lifestyle.


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