Okay, so it’s 2013. A new year, and you are thinking, a new you? It’s never too late to get healthy and fit, so start NOW. All it takes is a little effort, a whole lot of motivation, and the ability to incorporate both good nutrition and regular physical activity in your life. The biggest obstacle my clients face is actually starting a program. Many worry they don’t have enough time or money to lead a healthy lifestyle, but I say it’s all about evaluating priorities. If losing weight, gaining strength, or just being a healthy role-model for your children is important, then you owe it to yourself and your family to get fit. And being fit doesn’t mean wearing a size two or gracing the cover of Men’s Fitness; it’s about preventing chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers, having the stamina to play with your grandchildren, or achieving personal goals like completing a 5K. Once eating well and working out become a priority for my clients, the original time and money barriers all of sudden aren’t barriers anymore.
So regarding physical activity, what is specifically required to achieve a healthy weight? According to the latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to maintain a healthy weight adults should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (eg. 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week), and incorporate muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all your major muscle groups. For additional health benefits, the CDC recommends upping the aerobic activity time to 300 minutes per week (eg. 60 minutes per day, 5 days per week). Walking fast, cycling, using cardiovascular equipment (like an elliptical or stair climber) all count as moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Lifting weights, working with resistance bands, yoga, or pilates all count as muscle-strengthening activities. A personal trainer can develop a program that fits your specific fitness needs and goals, as well as keep you motivated and on track.
Good nutrition is essential for improving one’s health, and goes hand in hand with regular exercise. With so much information (and mis-information) available regarding nutrition, it is easy to be confused about what to eat for optimal health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy can decrease the risk of many chronic diseases and assist with maintaining a healthy weight. Limiting your intake of sodium, increasing fiber, monitoring portions, and indulging in sweets and alcohol only on special occasions can also contribute to a sound diet. It is essential to know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight, and then from there you can determine how many you need to shave off daily to lose weight. A dietitian can help you by developing a nutrition plan that is effective and sustainable. Don’t succumb to weight-loss pills or fad-diets! These are temporary fixes that may be ineffective at best and harmful at worst.