Living healthy

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- May is physical fitness and sports month, perhaps the perfect time for you to start that new workout plan you've been putting off for the past few months. Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. You can still exercise even if you have a health condition like heart disease or diabetes. In fact, physical activity may help. If physical fitness has not been a priority in your life, it's time to start making it a priority. Whether your young or old, skinny or fat, you can find some type of activity that suits you.

I want to emphasize that exercise is beneficial to everyone. Exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity. Wrap your mind around this: nearly 60 million Americans are obese. More than 108 million adults are either obese or overweight. That means roughly 3 out of 5 Americans carry an unhealthy amount of excess weight. It is scary to think that obesity, which is completely preventable, is now recognized alongside heart disease, cancer, AIDS, and drug abuse as among the nation's most expensive public health problems" The solution you ask? Get moving and start eating healthier. Easier said than done, right? Actually, it's really not that difficult. Small changes here and there can make the difference

Start slowly, especially if you haven't been active for awhile. Understand that taking small steps will benefit you much more and for a longer period of time than making drastic changes that will last but a few days. Whatever your reason for wanting to get in shape, you need to set realistic goals for yourself. Be very specific about those goals. Instead of saying, "I want to start exercising," try "I'll run for twenty minutes today." The more specific you are with your goals, the easier they will be to achieve.

Don't overdo it. Starting off too aggressively with the, "too much, too soon" syndrome can do more harm than good. Start any new exercise at a relatively low intensity and then work your way up from there over the next few weeks. Hitting a spin class probably isn't the best way to start off a workout, especially if you were not previously very active at all. Use the "10 percent" rule: in general, don't increase your training load--the length or frequency of workouts, the intensity, or the distance--by more than 10 percent a week.

"No pain, no gain," right? As much as I personally agree with this statement, it really is not a safe way to gauge your workout sessions. Pain is a warning sign that you should never choose to ignore. After starting a new workout, general muscle soreness is expected, however, listen to your body and stop if something doesn't seem "normal" to you.

Bottom line: Start moving. Try things that are fun to you. If you enjoy team sports, sign up for your squadron football or softball team. Do you enjoy being outdoors? Go for a run or invest in a bike and start cycling. How about some dance classes? The important thing is that you stay active and keep yourself moving.

Gradually build up your levels of fitness and be sure to change it up every once in awhile to avoid boredom with your workouts. Once you've gotten into a routine, start building some muscle.

Fact: Muscle burns more calories than fat. Lifting weights or doing calisthenics burns calories and spikes your metabolism to build lean muscle and stronger bones.
If you're unsure of how to start strength training, ask a trainer at the gym. The Health and Wellness Center is also a good place to start. Don't be afraid to ask questions and remember lifting weights is not the only way to go (ladies). However, if you have the urge to start lifting weights, don't let yourself be intimidated by the weight room, it's really not that big of a deal. As I mentioned before, if you need help, the staff at the Mathis Fitness Center will be happy to help you--if you're unsure of how to work a piece of equipment, need more suggestions on exercises, or even if you just need someone to spot you, the staff is there to help you.

While exercise is very important, proper diet and nutrition is just as significant.
First and foremost, as far as nutrition is concerned, avoid eliminating entire food groups from your diet. This is most certainly not the way to go.

Carbohydrates are bad for you right? Wrong! The body needs carbohydrates for energy. Your body uses carbohydrates to make glucose, which is the fuel that gives you energy and helps keep everything going. I'm sure you've heard references to "good" carbs and "bad" carbs and here is an easy way to explain this popular topic. "Bad" carbs talk about foods with refined carbohydrates, meaning they're made from white flour and added sugars, such as white bread, cakes, and cookies. "Good" carbs are used to describe foods that have more fiber and complex carbohydrates (carbohydrates that take longer to break down into glucose.) Just keep this in mind: choose fiber-rich carbohydrates from the vegetable, fruit, and grain groups, and avoid added sugars. Forty-five to sixty-five percent of your calories should occur in the form of carbohydrates.

Fat is bad for you right? Once again, wrong! Do not avoid fat. You want to limit your intake of fat, but you don't want to stop eating it altogether. Your body needs a small amount of fat to function. Fat is part of our cell structure and the body can't make some essential fatty acids on its own, so it needs to obtain them from an outside source. Moderate, but do not eliminate.

Speaking of moderation, here's another popular topic of discussion: added sugars. What am I talking about? Soda, of course. Up until a few years ago, I consumed at least one can of soda everyday. A bit of knowledge for you: just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 42 grams of sugar. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 25th, 2004, found that drinking just one 12-ounce can of sweetened soda or fruit punch every day doubled the chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Their conclusion: "Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a greater magnitude of weight gain and an increased risk for development of type 2 diabetes, possibly by providing excessive calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars." I'm not saying you need to go cold turkey with your soda intake, but slowly cut back on how much and how often you consume those beverages. Remember, every little bit counts.

If I skip a meal, I'll lose weight faster. Yeah, that's called starving yourself; don't even think about starvation as a means to lose weight because it will not work for long-term success. Not to mention, it's far from healthy. Eating consistently throughout the day, stabilizes your blood sugar levels--so you feel energized and experience fewer cravings.

The idea is to never experience that "hungry" feeling. When you do sit down to a meal, take your time. Slowing down can help because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize how much is in your stomach. This will make it easier for you to determine whether or not you should go for that plate of seconds--which, more than likely, you don't need.

Personally, I disagree with the whole obsession with "dieting." Denying yourself entirely of all the foods you have grown to enjoy is no way to live. As I said before, drastic changes are not the way to go. Keep enjoying your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream; just don't eat the whole gallon at one sitting.

Another tip, don't base everything on the scale. "Since a scale can only measure weight, not body fat percentage or lean muscle mass, it can easily de-motivate or give false hope to someone who's dependant on nothing more than the number they see in front of them," advises Michelle Ammon, Goodfellow Air Force Base Sports Director. The scale can be frustrating, so I avoid it altogether. Inches lost are a better way to gauge your progress than stepping on the scale.

The key to long-term success is to make healthier choices most of the time. As I said before, I am no expert on fitness and nutrition, but I know what works for me. Finding what works for you may take some time and effort on your part, but I can tell you it is well worth it in the long run.

Information for this article was taken from www.americanheart.org, www.mypyramid.gov, www.nutrition.gov, and www.military.com.