By Vic Castellon, PharmD
As we strive to improve our health, we can easily get caught in fitness traps like fad diets and expensive gadgets. But wellness is much simpler than that. Keep these three things in mind as you pursue your fitness goals.
Eat Well for Your Body
Fitness starts with what you put into your body. But everyone’s body is different. What worked for your friend may not work for you. For example, dieters are often advised to cut calories. But in many people, this triggers a metabolic “starvation response” that actually causes the body to store more fat.
The key to lasting diet results is redefining your “normal” based on good nutrition and your body’s own responses. Start with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines and then adjust your proportion of carbs and proteins to suit your body’s needs.
Depending on their genetic predispositions, some people will do better on a low-carb, high-protein diet, while others will do better on a low-calorie diet based on whole grains. Genetic testing can help you determine what type of diet might suit your body. You can also experiment with different approaches to see what brings the best results.
Starving yourself between meals can lead to overeating at the table, so fortify yourself mid-morning and mid-afternoon with some healthy snacks. Walnuts and almonds contain heart-healthy anti-oxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great way to fill up without a lot of calories. Dried fruits like raisins and apricots can satisfy your sweet tooth without loading up on refined sugar. Air-popped popcorn (hold the butter!) is a high-fiber, whole-grain snack.
Consistent exercise is an important component of your overall wellness plan. We often spend whole days sitting at our desks, and research shows that is a major health hazard. Regular exercise is necessary to counteract the effects of a sedentary work style. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers exercise guidelines for children, adolescents, and adults.
According to HHS, adults should do moderate-intensity exercise at least two and a half hours a week. If you’re able to do more vigorous activity, you can do half the duration. Your cardio activities should be done in increments of at least ten minutes. It’s best to spread your activity throughout the week rather than trying to get it all in on the weekend. Remember to included moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
People have different strengths, weaknesses, and affinities. When starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor about your physical limitations. Heart disease, arthritis, and other medical conditions are not barriers to exercise, but they are something to keep in mind when designing a fitness program.
Our fast-paced society pushes us to be constantly working, but our bodies will tell us differently. Instead of working late into the night, sleep when you’re tired. Stop work and e-reading well before bedtime, as studies show that computer monitors, phones, and backlit tablet devices stimulate the brain, making it harder to sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults need about seven or eights hours of sleep per night. Of course, this number varies based on a multitude of factors, including age and health. Some people find they need more sleep, while others are good with less. Try keeping a sleep diary, and note how you feel after varying amounts of sleep.
Healthy eating, working out, and sufficient sleep are the foundation stones of a fit lifestyle. Remember to adjust your current lifestyle one piece at a time; a complete overhaul could result in your feeling overwhelmed. Choose one healthy practice to start today.