Spring is in full force. All of the things that you have been putting off until now are staring you square in the face. And for many of you, taking positive steps towards better health is probably on the list as it should be! Weight loss may be at the forefront of your goals to achieve better health, among other areas we wish to focus on as we take steps to improve our health and well-being.
What have we hopefully left behind from the winter? Overeating and inactivity. Although the incentive might be there to start taking better care of our health and to lose weight (your clothes may be tight), it is very difficult to get back to good healthy habits once we have gone off of our eating and exercise programs. But now is the time to get back to healthy habits. If you have been neglectful of your health for a long time, now is the time to make a plan you can implement and maintain. The weather is warming up, getting outdoors will be easier and the extra bit of appetite from the cold winter won’t be a factor. So, let’s take a look at how we can accomplish this.
The first things first: Don’t go on a fad diet. The statistics speak for themselves. DIETS ARE FAILURES! About 95% of people that diet gain it all back or more within a few years. (For more on the topic of why diets don’t work: Getting Back on Track—It’s After the Chagim, Don’t Make Weight Loss Mistakes.)So if not a diet, what should I do? Get a food plan made for you by a registered dietician and make sure it is truly YOUR food plan. That means it is doable, you won’t feel deprived and you won’t get hungry—but you will lose weight slowly and steadily.
Second, the temptation to go all-in and change your life around may be great, but research has shown beyond a doubt that small changes one at a time is the way to go. A good idea might be to make one change to correct a bad eating habit (eating too late, snacking all day, not sitting down when you eat, or drinking 10 glasses of water throughout the day) and work on that. At the same time take on something in the realm of activity and exercise that you aren’t currently doing (start using the stairs instead of the elevator, walking 30 minutes briskly every day, doing 15 push-ups twice a day before I eat breakfast and supper). But only take one in each area. Only when that becomes a firm and anchored behavior, should you move on to the next change. As we mentioned, the weather is now ideal for outdoor workouts and activity!
Good for Walking
Scientists have already concluded in countless studies, that, exercise is essential for good health and disease prevention. The simple act of walking, if done properly and regularly, can be beneficial in many ways. Brisk walking can help to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer and depression. It is important for both weight control and weight loss.
How often should you walk and at what pace? The answer to this question depends upon your personal goal. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, then you should count on walking every day. If cardio-vascular fitness is what you are looking for, then every other day (4 times a week) may be enough for you. Obviously, the longer and faster you can go, the more beneficial it will be, but, be careful that you don’t overdo it! People that have been sedentary must start slowly and build up gradually. It is essential that before you begin a walking program, you visit your doctor first for a complete medical evaluation.
Start at a comfortable pace; walk as though you are slightly late for an appointment. Use the “talk test.” If you can’t say your name three times in a row, you are pushing too hard. You should aim for a minimum of 3.5 miles per hour. For those of you who may want to work up to a power walk, you will want to eventually reach 4.5 mph or more. The recommended minimum time for walking is 30-40 minutes, however if you are a beginner, start off slowly and build up to that amount.
Maintain good posture while you are walking and look straight ahead. Swinging your arms will increase your caloric burn greatly, but make sure your arms are going in a forward direction and not crossing in front of you. A good sturdy pair of proper walking shoes is essential and they need to be replaced about every 600-750 kilometers of walking. If you don’t have proper shoes or your shoes are worn out, you probably will suffer some type of injury in the lower extremities.
Vitamin D Benefits
One of the great benefits of outdoor exercising in the summer is that sunshine is the primary source of Vitamin D. Even in the more northern latitudes, where in the winter vitamin D is impossible to get from the sun, in the summer, it is abundant. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that having adequate amounts of Vitamin D in our bodies prevents many cancers, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, asthma in children and diabetes. Later research seems to connect low levels of Vitamin D with a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Just this past month another new and extensive study proved the Vitamin D helps your overall heart function and efficiency. In addition to heart disease, many cancers and immune system diseases like MS; it seems to help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases such as the flu and perhaps mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. So it seems that a little sunshine can go a long, long way. 20 minutes per day without sunscreen 4 days a week from 9:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon should do the trick.
Here is perhaps the best reason of all to exercise outdoors: A February 2011 study found that outdoor workouts showed an improvement in mental well-being, compared with exercising indoors. Exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
Caution in the Sun
Because the weather is now warmer, take caution to start early in the day or do your walking or jogging toward the evening hours. Drink plenty of water before, after and during your walk. Once you’ve had your daily dose of sun, wear clothing that is lose-fitting, but covers much of your body on sunny days and wear a hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun and also to retain water. Most water escapes through the head.
Although there are many other aspects to exercise that should be included in your overall program, working out in the outdoors is a great way to get started and this is the ideal time of the year for it.
If you want to make this season different from the previous ones, work on changing one habit or behavior at a time, stay away from those fad diets that ALWAYS fail and use the outdoors for your exercise. Putting that all together will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”