Those of us who are fans of the famous film “The Lion King” are of course familiar with the movie’s beloved song, “Circle of Life.” From the specifically human point of view, we may consider the “triangle of life” as a set of activities that supports and enables the “circle of life.”

The circle of life is a metaphor for the deeply complex web of interconnectivity that creates relationships, known and unknown, between all living entities on planet Earth. Usually these relationships are not immediately present to conscious awareness. As humans, we frequently fail to notice that our actions have consequences in realms other than our own. More typically, we become mindful of these links when something goes wrong, as for example when the collapse of bee colonies worldwide is related to the spread of man-made environmental toxins such as pesticides and inert pesticide additives.

From another perspective, if we are going to be able to fully participate in the circle of life and contribute meaningfully to the welfare of our family and friends and that of the wider world around us, we ourselves need to be healthy, fit, and well. The triangle of life provides the structure from which we derive our own health and well-being.

The tripartite or threefold nature of this triangle consists of physical fitness,1,2 nutrition, and rest.Physical fitness, in the form of five 30-minute sessions of vigorous exercise each week, strengthens our heart, lungs, and every muscle fiber in our body. Ongoing physical fitness reduces our resting heart rate by increasing our heart’s ability to pump more blood with each beat, increases our respiratory capacity to take in more life-giving oxygen with each breath, and causes our muscles to burn more energy even while we’re at rest, resulting in reduced fat stores and a leaner, trimmer body. High-quality nutrition helps make these benefits possible. By consuming an appropriate amount of calories within a specified healthy range, making sure to eat at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and drinking plenty of water every day, we provide a sufficient energy source for all our physical needs. Getting appropriate amounts of rest on a regular basis helps our body recover from the day’s activities and replenishes our mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves so that we can function effectively to meet the needs of a new day.

Thus, to be fully effective, the triangle of life requires a full contribution from each component. We don’t need to be rigid and obsessive about how we’re fulfilling these requirements, but overall we derive the most benefit from consistency. As we ensure our participation in our personal triangle of life, we are simultaneously helping to strengthen and deepen our connection to the Circle of Life of which we are a critical and integral part.

1Alosco ML, et al: Obesity and cognitive dysfunction in heart failure: The role of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and physical fitness. Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs 2014 May 14. pii: 1474515114535331. [Epub ahead of print]

2Yang Z, et al: Resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med 44(4):487-499, 2014

3Saxena A, et al: Protective role of resting heart rate on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality. Mayo Clin Proc 88(12):1420-1426, 2013