08 July, 2011
How to Get Really Fit
An active, healthy lifestyle can improve your quality of life. In addition to looking and feeling better, getting fit can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent injuries, boost your mental wellness and reduce your risk of serious diseases, such as certain cancers, stroke and high blood pressure. In addition to eating healthy, getting fit requires regular exercise. Fortunately, this doesn't have to mean doing hours upon hours of exercise and living in the gym. Slight adjustments to your lifestyle can make exercise part of your regular routine.
Reduce your weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week if you need to lose some weight. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, weight loss at this gradual rate is easier to maintain long-term than faster weight loss. To achieve this expert-recommended weight-loss rate, accumulate a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories by working out and dieting.
Consume a nutritious diet that includes foods from all of the basic food groups. Eat a variety of veggies and fruits; get protein from lean sources, such as poultry and fish; choose dairy products that are low-fat or fat-free; and include whole grains, such as oatmeal and brown rice.
Limit saturated and trans fats since they raise your blood cholesterol levels, which in turn can heighten your risk of heart disease. Avoid foods such as butter, lard, and stick margarine. Choose heart-healthy fats from foods -- such as unsalted nuts, soft margarine, and canola and olive oils -- instead.
Incorporate cardiovascular exercise into most days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention favors at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio a week. This can include walking briskly, water aerobics, riding a bike or exercising on a stair climber, a rowing machine or an elliptical machine. Exercise at an intensity during which you can still talk but not sing, and start gradually. Depending on your beginning fitness level, you might only be able to do 10 minutes of cardio a day. Slowly increase your duration as your physical fitness improves. If desired, split your workout into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions throughout the day.
Strengthen your large muscle groups -- including your hips, chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs and abdomen -- with targeted exercises on a minimum of two nonconsecutive days of the week, as suggested by the CDC. Strength training preserves and builds muscle tissue, which boosts your metabolism, increases bone density, improves your balance and stability, and reduces the symptoms of various diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Use machines, free weights, your body weight or exercise bands. Do exercises such as bench presses, lunges, squats, lat pull-downs, crunches and pushups.
Add variety to your workout routine. According to a study at the University of Florida, adding variety prevents boredom and can help you stick to your workout routine. Participate in group sports, take different exercise classes in the gym, exercise outside if you always work out indoors and incorporate free weights if you always use machines.
Incorporate high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, when you're up for a challenge and have developed a stable fitness level. The American Council on Exercise states that HIIT boosts your workout intensity and can increase your physical fitness, taking it to the next level. Alternate between short bursts of speed and a less intense recovery pace for about 20 minutes. For instance, jog for two minutes and then burst into a sprint for 30 seconds to one minute. To take this down a notch, walk briskly for two minutes and then speed up to a jog for 30 seconds to one minute.
Consult your doctor before starting to diet or exercise, particularly if you have been inactive or suffer from a health condition or injury.
- University of Minnesota: Why is Physical Activity & Fitness Important?
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Aim for a Healthy Weight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Strength Training?
- University of Florida: Adding Variety to An Exercise Routine Helps Increase Adherence
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- Increase your exercise time as become more physically fit to maintain steady gains and avoid hitting plateaus.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid getting dehydrated during a workout and to help curb your food cravings.
- Consult your doctor before starting to diet or exercise, particularly if you have been inactive or suffer from a health condition or injury.
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