Health Focus! Fitness, Self-care and Wellbeing Vocabulary

health landscapeWe are a few months into 2021 now and if you’re anything like me, your enthusiasm for those New Year’s resolutions you made back in January is already waning.

For many of us, each new year represents a fresh start and we are filled with good intentions as we make our resolutions, hopeful that this year will be better than the last – but it’s often much easier to make resolutions than it is to stick to them and it can be tempting to revert to our old ways. Nonetheless, it’s surely still good to have goals to work towards, even if we only go part-way to achieving them.

Common New Year’s resolutions include things like exercising more, eating more healthily, giving up smoking, taking up a new hobby and spending more time with family and friends – in short, things to boost our physical and mental health. The uniting theme, then, could be said to be self-care.

Self-care is one of the new words we added to OALD online in our most recent update to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries website. It is defined as ‘the act of caring for yourself, for example by eating and sleeping well, taking exercise and getting help so that you do not become ill’. Indeed, many of the new words and meanings that were added in this update are from the field of health and wellbeing, reflecting the fact that this is a hot topic at the moment, no doubt as a result of the pandemic that has gripped the world for over a year now.

The physical effects of Covid-19 can be anything from unpleasant to debilitating to fatal, but the measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease (isolation, social distancing, restrictions on freedom of movement…) are in themselves hard to bear and can take their toll on our mental health. In such a climate, the importance of self-care is clear.

Back to those resolutions then: did you decide to get fitter this year? If so, maybe you’ve taken up CrossFit™ or Tabata™, or perhaps you do exercises such as burpees, planks and mountain climbers, or you might even use equipment like a foam roller or a kettlebell. These are among the fitness terms recently added to OALD online. Crucially, in this Covid era, they are all things that can be done by yourself and from home.

Unsurprisingly, many of the new additions relate to the pandemic. Some of the new words highlight the more positive aspects of the last year, such as the clinical trials that preceded the approval and then the roll-out of the various Covid vaccines. Many people also formed support bubbles to help each other and give emotional and practical support when they were ordered to lock down, sometimes for the second or third time. (Lockdowns and shorter circuit breakers were imposed to reduce transmission of the virus, when less severe measures, like staying socially or physically distanced, weren’t effective enough.) On the negative side, we are unfortunately now learning more about the effects of long Covid on people who have had the virus and survived but can’t seem to shake it off. This takes us up to 53 coronavirus-related words and senses added to OALD since May 2020.

You may like to browse the full list of recent additions to OALD online or take a look at our Topic Dictionary on Health – consider some time spent expanding your health and wellbeing vocabulary as part of your self-care regime.


Kallah Pridgeon studied languages and translation before joining the ELT Dictionaries department at Oxford University Press in 2014 where she is now a Development Editor. She has never stuck to a New Year’s resolution in her life.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and learners top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help people around the world to learn English.

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