Wait. One second. Think it through
before you start. Radical changes are
often abandoned after a week or two.
First, decide which health results you
want, and then implement the changes that
will generate these results – working slowly and
steadily until you reach your health goals.
The first thing that usually comes to mind when
thinking about health is weight – often, losing it. And
though the idea of losing weight is associated with
looking good, it's much more than that. Carrying
around extra pounds can literally cut someone's life
short. Overweight people are at much higher risk of
developing diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attacks and
some cancers. They are also more likely to die of
complications of these diseases.
Overweight people also suffer from technical, but
uncomfortable difficulties. Simply put, they're heavy.
When individuals are heavy, it's harder for them to
move around. Walking up the steps is difficult. Sitting
on the floor to play with their kids is a challenge – and
getting up from the floor once they've sat down is even
harder. With their extra padding, heavy people are
often hotter and more uncomfortable in the summer.
Curbed by their physical limitations, they often miss
out on good old-fashioned fun.
Okay, so you've decided that losing weight is one of
your weight loss goals. Don't get overwhelmed if you
have a significant amount of weight to lose. Studies
prove that losing even 5% of your weight can reduce the
risks of disease. This can mean that losing even 10 to 15
pounds is well worth your effort.
So now the big question: How should you lose this
weight? Through dieting or exercise?
Losing weight is a simple math equation. If someone
burns more calories than she consumes, she will lose
weight. This is true whether you increase your activity
level, you burn more calories, or if you decrease your
Unfortunately, the reality is that people who exercise
but don't cut down on their calories, lose only a very
small amount of weight. In contrast, those who decrease their food intake, even if they don't exercise at
all, can say goodbye to many pounds.
Why this discrepancy between dieting and
exercise? Here again, mathematics explains what
happens. To lose a pound a week, a person needs
to cut about 500 calories a day. It would take about
an hour a day of moderate aerobic activity to burn
500 calories. Most people can't invest this much time: it
takes much less effort to cut 500 calories from one's
food intake. For some, swapping soda for water is
enough to do the trick. Others just need to eliminate
When focusing on losing weight, counting calories is
not the only important thing. Eating the wrong types of
calories will leave you hungry and depressed. If you live
on high-calorie foods like cake and chocolate, and cut
down to half a piece of cake and half a bar of chocolate,
you’ll be starving by lunchtime. Instead, choose
low-calorie, filling foods. For example, three cups of
air-popped popcorn has the same caloric content as 1/4
cup of potato chips. You’ll feel fuller while consuming
High-fiber foods and proteins are also healthier
choices. Try eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole
grains, vegetables, legumes, eggs, non-fat dairy
products, and even starchy vegetables like potatoes,
yams, and corn.
Another diet-related tip is associated with meal
spacing. What you eat and when you eat it, affects your
energy level. Spikes and drops in your blood sugar level
parallel increases and decreases in energy. To keep
your blood sugar levels at an even keel, eat about once
every three hours. Obviously, if you consume 600
calories at each meal, you'll gain weight. 200 calorie
snacks between breakfast, lunch, and supper should be
enough to keep your energy levels even.
Now you've decided that your health goal is losing
weight. You're going to cut calories by switching your
sweetened breakfast cereal for healthy oatmeal, and by
eliminating your 10 o’clock coffee and cookie break. You
did the math and figure that this will help you lose ten
pounds over three months. But this calculation didn't
figure in exercise. If you can lose weight without it, is it
necessary to sweat?
Perspiration isn't a necessary component of weight
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“Studies have shown that people who are fitter
are at a significantly lower risk of developing
dementia when they grow old.”
loss, but it has its own health benefits.
Exercise lowers cholesterol, increases blood
flow, and also reduces stress. These three
benefits are important for heart health. In addition,
aerobic activity reduces blood sugar, blood pressure,
and the risk of diabetes and bone fractures, while
increasing muscle mass.
To achieve these health benefits, you should incorporate about 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and 40
minutes of strength-training into your week. These will
encourage your heart to pump more blood, strengthening it.
Oh, come on! Do you really think you need more
exercise? If you’re like most busy women, you probably
rarely make it to the gym, but you’re on your feet most
of the day. At work, you sit at your desk, but once you
leave the office, you're on the go. On a typical day, you
may pick your kids up from school, push them on the
swings, do errands, cook supper, give baths, – it's not
like you have a sedentary lifestyle.
Is this really true? Check it out by wearing a pedometer, which counts how many steps a person takes
during the day. The target for an average adult is 10,000
steps. You might think that you're always on the move,
but the pedometer might indicate only 5,000 steps a
day. Incorporate a brisk walk to increase this number
and keep your body healthy.
Another reason to exercise is to keep your mind
sharp. First of all, for long-term benefits: Studies have
shown that people who are fitter are at a significantly
lower risk of developing dementia when they grow old.
But there are also short-term benefits. Exercise fights
depression and encourages optimal acuity. If you're
feeling sleepy and uninterested in the job at hand,
whether sitting at the computer or playing with the
kids, do some exercise to wake your brain. Jog around
the block, and take the kids with you- they'll love it!
THE FINAL VERDICT
So what have you decided? Will it be diet or exercise, or
a combination of both? Each one has its benefits. Losing
weight will make you look great and healthy; exercise
will keep you feeling that way.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to stick to your
decision. Most studies show that no matter how much
weight a person loses through diet, there's a high
probability that s/he'll regain it within a year. How
The key to keeping the weight off is to ensure that
your dieting plan isn’t too painful and uncomfortable to
maintain long-term. You're doomed to failure if you've
decided to eat bean soup, a low-calorie filling food, at
every single meal. The same is true of exercise. If you've
decided to wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to jog for
an hour, then go to the gym, you're bound to give up the
routine when life gets a little busier.
It’s much wiser to incorporate smaller changes, like
switching from sweetened cereal to oatmeal, reducing
the amount of snacks you eat, and walking briskly three
times a week. Once you've successfully assimilated
these lifestyle changes, think of others. Perhaps you
can start eating whole-wheat bread instead of the
processed white kind. Turn your brisk walk into a jog or
walk for a longer period of time.
Most of all, don't throw out the scale after you lose
weight. Monitor yourself. Weigh yourself once a week or
once a month. If you regain a pound or two, cut your
calories to lose it again. Don't wait until you've regained
five or ten pounds; then the thought of a big diet will be
overwhelming and depressing.
Keep your weight down, increase your exercise, and
may we all merit to live long and healthy lives!
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