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The Role of Exercise and Diet in Healthy Living
Small lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on your long-term health and fitness. It doesn’t have to be difficult! What can you do?
Eat breakfast every day: Do you skip breakfast and in the morning and reach for coffee/tea, biscuits and/or chocolate? Your body cries out for energy in the form of blood glucose to fuel your brain. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Here are some quick easy ideas to help you on your way.
- Have a bowl of whole grain cereal (eg Oats or muesli) with low-fat milk and fruit.
- Most offices have refrigeration to facilitate, take advantage of this and save some wholegrain or fruit bread, English muffins, etc.
- Keep a can of canned fruit on hand and have low-fat yogurt.
- Make a low-fat smoothie with bananas, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt and honey.
Start your day this way and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel.
Fruits and Vegetables:
“Eat the rainbow”. The more color in your diet the better. Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important addition to your diet. The current recommendation is “2 and 5” – two servings of fruit and five of vegetables.
How can we achieve this?
- Have a piece of fruit with breakfast as well as a mid-day snack.
- Have a salad and some lean protein for lunch or vegetable soup.
- For dinner have a stir-fry where the vegetables take center stage with a small amount of lean meat complementing (rather than dominating) the dish.
Drink more water. If we just replaced all the drinks and other drinks in our diet with water, we would all lose weight! Imagine, every time you get a soft drink, fruit juice, alcoholic drink, energy drink, coffee or tea, you have to drink a glass of water. You will immediately shed unwanted body fat. Water has no calories and is essential for daily functioning. Most people don’t drink anywhere near as much water as they need during the day. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re partially dehydrated!
Working in an air-conditioned environment, drinking certain beverages such as coffee, energy drinks and alcohol actually increase fluid loss. The best thing is to have a bottle of water on the table and drink it regularly every day. This means you need to go to the toilet at regular intervals throughout the day and pass a clear, copious volume of urine – which is good for you!
Eliminate fat. The goal is to reduce the amount of fat in your diet, especially saturated fat and especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Fat per gram provides more than twice the energy concentration of protein or carbohydrates so volume wise you can eat more if your food choices are low in fat. It is relatively easy to reduce fat consumption. Here are some tips:
- Buy lean cuts of meat at the supermarket or keep your meat trimmed of excess fat.
- Look for leaner cuts of meat. White lines on red meat indicate greater fat content or “marbling”.
- Remove the skin from the chicken before cooking.
- Use low-fat cooking methods like spraying a non-stick pan with olive oil spray, grill, steam or BBQ your food.
- Read labels and choose lower-fat alternatives (eg, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt versus higher-fat alternatives).
- Reduce the consumption of processed foods and processed foods – these are high in fat.
Five small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. Eating smaller regular meals throughout the day will help raise your resting metabolic rate and keep you expending energy at a higher rate. Enjoy healthy snacks throughout the day. Snack on fruit and vegetable sticks, dry biscuits topped with vegemite, low-fat cheese and tomatoes. Your options are only limited by your imagination.
Mobile! Probably the single biggest thing you can do to improve your health and fitness is to be active. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be painful to be good for you. Walking at a moderate intensity – 100 steps per minute is fast enough – for 30 minutes a day on several days a week is enough to improve cardiovascular function and body fat levels if you have been sedentary for some time. As your health and fitness adapt to this level of activity, you can go further and harder. Huffing and puffing to the point where you break into a sweat 2-3 times per week will improve heart and lung function.
Stretching and strengthening exercises are also important and should be done 4-5 times and 2-3 times per week. If you find it difficult to walk alone, do it with a friend. If walking is boring, you look for other exercise options, join the gym, team sports, cycling or swimming. It really doesn’t matter – your heart doesn’t know what makes it beat, use it!
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