While Americans seem more health-conscious than ever, our eating and exercise habits still leave a lot of room for improvement. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only one in seven American adults get regular physical activity and consume five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in a 2011 study that weight loss and exercise combined greater improvement in physical function than weight loss or exercise alone. Another study led by Dr. Anne McTiernan of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that a healthy diet and regular exercise done together are more effective at helping women lose weight than diet or exercise alone.
Start Slow and Increase Gradually
“This study shows that you get the biggest bang for your buck by combining a healthy weight-loss diet – which in this case meant reducing calories by cutting fat intake and boosting the consumption of low-calorie foods– with regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise,” McTiernan says. “You don’t need to be an athlete; walking, biking or gym cardio machines all work well. Start slowly and gradually increase to 45 minutes of activity a day, more if you are able.”
It’s obvious that a healthy diet and exercise is the ideal combination for weight loss, physical fitness and lower risk of chronic diseases. But because so few of us incorporate both into our lifestyles, America is encountering a major health crisis. Rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems are at an all-time high.
While some people can lose weight by only restricting caloric intake, the results are unlikely to last without physical activity. And to keep a body healthy and able to exercise, a healthy diet is necessary. The two factors of healthy eating and exercise are vital components of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy body, and of lowering risks for disease and other health complications.
For adults, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a publication by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends aerobic as well as muscle-strengthening activity regularly. For example, combine two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as vigorous walking) every week with muscle-strengthening activities two days a week. The CDC offers more suggestions on physical activity at www.cdc.gov. According to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can not only control weight and fight disease; it can also improve your mood, boost energy, promote better sleep and enhance your sex life. And the Journal of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry reports that exercise can improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative moods by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. With a myriad of physical activities to choose from, you can pick one that’s best for you. Better yet, choose several, such as jogging, swimming and Zumba, for example, and rotate to prevent boredom and burnout. Experts recommend switching up your routine every 12 weeks, making sure you vary exercise type, frequency and intensity.
Just don’t forget the other part of the equation. Exercising without a healthy diet is futile. To benefit the most from exercising, you need to feed your body everything it needs to respond in the best way to physical activity. In order to build muscle, you need protein and amino acids. You also need complex carbohydrates to have enough energy to exercise. According to the CDC, adults should consume whole grains, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts in addition to five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. You should also consume a diet that is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s www.choosemyplate.com, you can get a personalized eating plan that will work best for your age, gender, body type and amount of physical activity.
Reducing food intake alone may provide short-term weight-loss results. Exercising without supporting your body with a healthy diet can lead to health problems. For a winning combination, incorporate a healthy diet with regular physical activity. Make these two vital components a permanent part of your lifestyle and watch every aspect of your life improve!
Source: The Challenge Magazine by Deana Nall