The key to leading a healthy lifestyle is simple: Eat a balanced diet and exercise. But as a Registered Dietitian, I understand that marrying these two things is more of an aspiration than a reality. Unfortunately, of the two, exercise is often found at the bottom of our list of priorities. And it is this disconnect that is driving poor health.
“The Weight of the Nation,” a four-part HBO documentary, took on the issue of Americans’ expanding waistlines from the angle of what’s in our refrigerators and pantries. The series focused heavily on certain foods and beverages as a reason for America’s weight problems, followed by lack of exercise.
Easy Steps to Start an
Effective Fitness Regimen Any Time
The truth of the matter is that studies show that calorie balance – equalizing our food and drink consumption with calories burned through physical activity ¬– is what truly makes the difference.
It’s well known that our physical environment also contributes to our ability to be active and healthy. Those living in safe, walkable communities with playgrounds, trails and parks are more likely to be active than those without such facilities.
In Southern California we spend more time behind the wheel than people in other regions of the country where walking and biking are more common.
So even if we’re practicing the common-sense principle of eating in moderation, it’s difficult to reach optimal health if you live a mostly inactive lifestyle.
The current physical activity guidelines for Americans, set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Currently, only about half of Los Angeles County adults meet these physical activity recommendations.
Here’s what you can do to change that. With summer not too far off, you will likely find yourself outdoors more often because of warmer weather. Take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy a few of these fun outdoor activities to help boost your fitness level:
Forget the sweaty cycling class at the gym. Biking can be a pleasurable way to get around your neighborhood or spend a sunny Saturday afternoon outside.
Head to the mountains for a strenuous hike or go to your local park for a leisurely stroll. Keep a pace that works for you.
These group exercise classes focus on building strength and fitness. Participants often meet in public parks and at the beach.
One of the simplest forms of exercising is walking. It’s beneficial for weight management and lowering blood pressure.
Whether you want jog around the block or train for a marathon, running can be accessible to people of varied fitness levels.
Jump into a pool or the ocean and work on your backstroke. If you are not a strong swimmer, consider taking lessons or a water aerobics class.
In addition to these activities, there are a lot of other easy ways to integrate more activity into your daily routine without feeling it’s like a chore.
For example, walk to the store instead of driving, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do push-ups during television commercials. Set modest goals at first and be accountable for them. Find a friend or two to join you and keep each other motivated.
Finally, be sure you stay hydrated when engaging in exercise, especially in the summer heat. The good news is you don’t have to stick to just plain water because all beverages hydrate – even coffee, tea and diet sodas.
Keeping an eye on your health doesn’t have to be extreme. Just make sure that your recipe for fitness includes equal parts balanced diet and exercise. That can take you, and our community, a long way toward winning the battle against weight.
LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian, food- and nutrition writer, and author of the “Everything Glycemic Index Cookbook.” She has contributed to TV and radio shows as well as print media, including Cosmopolitan, Fitness Magazine, US Weekly, Today’s Dietitian, the Renal Nutrition Forum, and the Journal of Renal Nutrition. For more information, please visit her blog at www.halfacup.com
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