Tips for a healthier lifestyle: smarter choices and active living
Images of perfect men and women flicker in and out of the public eye. These media images, of what is considered the “perfect body”, is often couples with the idea of achieving optimum health and fitness. People who view these images as the epitome of beauty and supremacy strive to lose weight, gain muscle, and become the unrealistic images they see in the media. What these people fail to realize is that a healthy lifestyle simply involves conscious choices about what we are eating and how we are spending our time.
Achieving a healthy lifestyle is something that takes time and effort and does not happen overnight. A healthy, balanced diet is important as well as physical activity. According to the United State Department of Agriculture, “…physical activity should be moderate or vigorous and add up to at least 30 minutes a day.” Here are some tips that can help anyone start a program to improve health and wellness.
• One step at a time:Optimum health does not happen right away. It is important to begin by setting small, realistic goals for yourself. If you are accustomed to an inactive lifestyle don’t expect to be able to run for miles the first day. Give it time and you will see results. “The biggest thing is that anyone starting an exercise program needs to have a goal. If they have no goal to go for then it’s real easy for them to stop exercising,” Solano Community College Coach Curtiss Brown said.
• Consult a doctor:If this is your first time living an active lifestyle a healthy diet can be a drastic change. Consult with your primary physician about what your best options are. A doctor can help you attain realistic goals and monitor your progress.
Plan a Healthy Diet
• Know your food:It is important to know what is in the food you are eating. A good resource for this information can be found at whfoods.com. This website gives you detailed nutritional information on vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, and meat. There are also a number of books available that contain similar information.
•Eat breakfast:A healthy breakfast each morning releases enzymes in the body to break down the food taken in and expends calories. According to the University of Georgia, “If you do not eat fairly soon after waking up, you may experience a drop in your blood sugar, which can make you feel tired or excessively hungry.”
• Eat your colors:Add a variety of colored fruits and vegetables to your diet. Reds, purples, greens, yellows, and oranges should be a part of each meal. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the amount of vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. The USDA recommends for people age 19-30 is 3 cups of vegetables for men and 2 ½ cups for women. The recommended amount of daily fruit for men and women between the ages 19-30 is 2 cups.
• Portion control:It can be difficult to look at a label and measure out the actual portion size of any given food. Try to keep measuring cups and spoons near your favorite packaged items. Those of you who are programmed to fill up your entire plate with food should try buying a set of smaller plates and bowls to use. By doing this you can fill up your dish and avoid eating too much.
• Good fat vs. bad fat:Your body needs good fat to maintain proper functioning. Good fats are fats that are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated according to mypyramid.gov. They help provide energy, protect organs, and form cell membranes and hormones. These fats are present mainly in different oils such as corn, sunflower, soybean, olive, canola, and cottonseed. Some common foods that contain these “good fats” are avocados, nuts, fish, and olives. According to the USDA, “fats should make up only 30% of your daily calories, with no more than 10% saturated fats.” Saturated and trans-fats are “bad fats” because they raise cholesterol.
• Consider taking a multivitamin: When you decide to lead a healthy lifestyle and incorporate a healthy diet, there can be essential vitamins and minerals missing from your diet. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “nutritional supplements are meant to complement a healthy diet, not replace it.” Multivitamins contain a variety of vitamins and minerals in one capsule and have numerous health benefits. However, not all multivitamins work for all people. In an article entitled “Multivitamins- Are they the best thing for you?” Health professionals Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D. write, “Consider your current state of health, talk to your doctor and/or dietitian, and weigh the possible benefits and risks of a multivitamin and mineral supplement for you.”
• Drink water: People tend to drink a portion of their calories per day in the form of sugary soft drinks and the like. Drinking more water as opposed to drinking other beverages has numerous advantages. According to USDA, “water helps regulate your body’s temperature, suppresses your appetite, and helps keep muscles loose.” Drinking water also hydrates you better than other drinks. For those who exercise mypyramid.com recommends you “drink 10 ounces of water just before exercise and again during exercise; and 20-30 ounces after exercise.”
• Make it fun: Exercise does not have to be something you dread doing, but instead should be an enjoyable experience. Finding the right activity for you means trying a lot of different things. How will you know that you might enjoy a particular activity if you haven’t tried it yet? A variety of activities such as biking, swimming, running, tennis, baseball, softball, basketball, and yoga are just a few examples. There are endless possibilities for enjoyment in the realm of fitness.
• Strength in numbers: Finding a workout partner that you can set fitness and nutrition goals with is something that can help keep both you and your partner on track. “Find a workout buddy that way you both challenge each other, in that you both keep on your program,” Brown said. “I think the closer you are in shape to each other, the more you’re going to push each other to keep going. I think when you have a real discrepancy in fitness level that it’s real easy for one person to give up on the other,” Brown said.
• Classes:Taking a class is one way to learn the basics of physical fitness and nutrition, but also allows you to do so with others who have similar goals. Solano Community College offers physical education classes in many disciplines including Pilates, swimming, fencing, weight training, body conditioning, yoga, fencing, cardio conditioning, and a variety of sports, even bowling. Most gyms offer a variety of physical education classes along with membership.
• Strength training:Lifting weights can benefit more than just body-builders. Lifting weights builds muscle tone and the more muscle tone one has, the more calories that person is able to burn while working-out and while doing nothing at all. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “When done correctly, weight training can help you lose fat, increase your strength and muscle tone, and improve your bone density.” Make sure to lift with correct form to prevent injury and warm-up before each lifting session.
• Stretching:Stretching assists in lengthening muscles and becoming more flexible. “…I prefer to teach stretching that is dynamic, it involves movement,” Brown said. “Yoga makes you stronger, increases your flexibility, teaches you balance. It teaches you more about your body. It is a great exercise,” Brown said. Yoga can be done in a group or classroom setting or can be done individually. Stretching is something that can be done every day. According to an article written by yoga instructor Lucas Rockwood on yogabodynaturals.com, “yoga has done me more good than 7 specialists’ treatments combined, so keep coming to class. But if you want to improve your stretching flexibility, do these stretching exercises every day.”
• Cardio:In order to burn fat and calories simultaneously, some form of cardiovascular exercise is a must. Aerobic exercise increases heart rate and burns fat more easily than other forms of exercise. “Exercise should get their heart rate up to 60-90% of their MHR (Max heart rate),” SCC Volleyball head coach Darla Williams said. Increase your heart rate by running, biking, swimming or a number of other activities.
• Mix it up: It is important to keep variety in your workout routine to avoid boredom and to strengthen different parts of the body in order to improve fitness. “As long as there is a progressive overload, there is a plan in place, you can always make adjustments to your workout so that it’s always challenging,” Brown said. Sometimes a change of scenery can make a difference in how you view your upcoming workout. If you enjoy jogging outdoors, try to change locations every once in a while. Experiment with different variations of a workout routine. For example you can change a cardiovascular workout to a resistance training exercise, or to a routine designed to increase endurance. A healthy variety will not only keep you interested, but will cause your body to adapt to the changes and increase fitness.
• Calories in, calories out: Weight loss encompasses a lot of changes. One simple thing to keep in mind when starting a program geared towards losing weight is the idea of “calories in, calories out”. “We know that we shrink fat cells because we take in less and we expend more,” Brown said.
• Sleep, rest, and listening to your body:With all these tips in mind, it is important to note that your body needs down time. Rest gives your body time to recover, and your muscles time to recuperate and rejuvenate. For most college students it can be difficult to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. According to a study done by the “Harvard Women’s Health Watch” in 2006 having adequate sleep each night helps with learning and memory, disease prevention, and mood. “Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.”
• Keep at it:One of the most difficult things for both active people and those who want to make an active change in their life is keeping the ball going. Things may happen to prevent you from working out; you may reach a point where you slip up on your healthy diet. These things can happen and when they do, it is important to take it one day at a time. It is not the end of the world if you are not able meet every goal you set right away, stay motivated and keep trying.