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Today's Life Solutions / Health & Fitness /

Five easy ways to create an active and healthier lifestyle

March 4, 2012

(ARA) - Outside of the economy, fitness and healthy eating are among the most critical issues facing Americans today. Only 31 percent of Americans are getting adequate exercise and 68 percent of men and 53 percent of women are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview survey released in March.

The good news is that the tried-and-true approach of regular exercise and smart nutrition will go a long way toward managing weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle. In fact, the benefits of being more active can be seen within a short time after starting a new routine and include more energy, less stress, lower blood pressure, improved digestive health and a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.

A fitness program doesn't have to take place in the gym. Beverly Abbs, an award-winning ultra-runner, recommends outdoor fun to get started on everyday fitness. 'You don't have to run long distances in order to reap the health benefits,' says Abbs, a member of Ultra-Running Team Sunsweet. 'Short distance runs and even outdoor walks are a great way to stay fit and have fun. I got my start competing in athletic events with just 2- to 3-mile runs. That turned into a life-long love of ultra-running.'

When you add in smart nutritional choices to your exercise routine, the positives pile up further. 'As a triathlete and a sports dietitian, I can tell you that plenty of healthy choices are convenient and taste delicious,' says registered dietician Dr. Katherine Beals.

So, whether you aspire to overhaul your diet and exercise program or are just thinking about taking a few first steps to a healthier life, smart choices can start with a few simple steps. Abbs and Dr. Beals offer these tips for getting started on achieving overall better health.

1. Get and stay active: Adults should get 2.5 hours of aerobic physical activity per week and perform strengthening activities two days a week, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services department. Fortunately, it is easier than you might think to incorporate exercise into your routine. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator and find the parking spot that is farthest away to get extra steps in between your car and your destination. Play tag with your kids, or consider signing up for a community fun run 5K. Not only do these runs usually provide an opportunity to race for a good cause, you can use it as training motivation.

2. Use interval training: Experts say varying your cardio work with a combination of easy/hard intervals will result in faster fitness gains. It also mixes up your workouts and staves off boredom. Next time you go for a run, instead of keeping the same pace, try mixing in a few sprints. Start with 30 seconds on hard and 10 seconds on easy.

3. Go for convenience: Abbs says dried fruits like Sunsweet Ones, individually wrapped prunes, are a convenient and nutritious snack whether you're training for a marathon or just a busy person on the go. 'These delicious snacks are portable, don't spoil and deliver calories that count.' Plus, prunes are known to support digestive health.

4. Fill up with fiber: High-fiber foods are critical to digestive health and any weight loss program because they fill you up and help keep the hunger pangs at bay. The typical American eats only about 11 grams of fiber a day, according to the American Dietetic Association, and health experts recommend a minimum of 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day for most people. Fruits (dried and fresh) and vegetables are great fiber sources including apples, pears, prunes, peas, broccoli and sweet corn.

5. After an intense workout: Carbohydrate-rich foods that are energy dense, easy to digest and familiar and appetizing - like bagels, granola bars, crackers, dried plums and fruit juices - are good choices for post-workout fare to replenish any lost nutrients. Exercise also increases the loss of water from the body, primarily through sweat, so the harder and longer the workout, the more lost fluid that needs replacing.

'Drinking fluids like water, sports drinks, and fruit juices or eating water-containing foods can replace these lost fluids and, in the case of fruits, fruit juices and vegetables, replace much-needed potassium,' Dr. Beals says.

Regardless of your current level of activity and commitment to nutrition, it is never too late to make smart decisions. Make the commitment today and take these steps toward a more fit and healthy you.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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