Submitted by Dave Draeger, CDM, CFPP,
Director of Dietary and Dining Services
February was American Heart Month and March is National Nutrition Month, so blending the two in this article makes perfect sense. Nutrition and heart health go hand-in-hand to improve overall well-being. Past national guidelines suggested 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two strength training sessions weekly. This amount does seem daunting to most individuals who are sedentary or have a life full of current obligations. Almost 80% of Americans don’t meet exercise recommendations.
Chronic diseases are preventable with regular physical activity and a healthy diet. Newly updated guidelines from November 2018 take a new approach to exercising and physical activity. The consensus is that “something is better than nothing” and that “moving more and sitting less” is beneficial. Studies show that even just a few minutes a day of light intensity physical activity may have substantial benefits.
Exercise in structured settings often makes individuals feel uncomfortable, intimidated, paranoid and stressed. The good news is that physical activity can take place at any moment and any place! It involves movement of skeletal muscles that requires energy. Exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movements to improve or maintain fitness. A recent study found that one hour of physical activity per week decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. As the amount of activity increases, so do the benefits, working up to exercise as the ultimate goal.
Advice for increasing physical activity includes taking the stairs, walking or stretching during work breaks, parking at outlying lots, housework, walking the dog, mowing lawn, and (unfortunately to say) shoveling snow. Activity should be spread throughout the week. Numerous technological advances allow individuals to track and monitor physical activity.
A healthy diet is a lifestyle and overall pattern of choice. Take simple steps in your life for long-term benefits.
- Burn up the calories you take in.
- Review food labels – monitor the good and bad contents.
- Diet fads come and go; do not get caught up in the yo-yo cycle.
- Pick a plan that you are willing to implement and follow.
- The right number of calories to consume each day is based on age, gender and physical activity.
- Utilize the web, phone apps, and social media to assist in making choices you are willing to live with.
- Challenge a friend to join you to make the change fun.
- Plan outings to get physical activity, share goals, strategies for success, and recipes.
Good luck to you. Coming next month we will look at steps, techniques and guidelines to eating healthy.
Until then, eat well, enjoy life and improve health.