Exercise and Fitness: A To-Do List for Good Health

June 10, 2010

Whether you begin an exercise regime to lose weight, get into shape, or reduce your risk of diseases like cancer, there are numerous benefits to exercise and fitness. Unfortunately, exercising puts extra stress on the body, so it’s extra important to make sure you pay special attention to the health of your body whether you’re just beginning an exercise program, or you’ve been doing it for years. Always consult your doctor when beginning a new exercise regime, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.

Although diet is potentially more important than exercise, one of the benefits of exercise is that it creates motivation for healthier eating choices, and for many people, creates cravings for foods like fruits and vegetables where they used to crave processed sugar. If you currently eat poorly, you may want to begin with simple exercises (see below) and a multivitamin. If you have the willpower and determination, you may want to begin by overhauling your diet. Reducing (or, preferably, eliminating) foods that contain sugar, preservatives, or are in other ways processed, will help you feel better and create more room in your diet for a balanced meal of whole foods including lots of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and lean meats. If you have a sweet tooth, focus on sweeter fruits like strawberry and pomegranate, and consider reintroducing baked goods, etc., once you’ve established healthy eating patterns that you won’t fall out of.

Once you do begin to establish healthy eating patterns, you may also want to detox the bad habits out of your system. A safe detox allows for the consumption of at least 1200 calories a day, so be careful not to confuse a fad diet with a system designed to safely (and naturally) clean out your liver or digestive tract of any built up toxins.

Depending on your current level of exercise and fitness, you may want to ease into an exercise routine by starting with simple stretching exercises that prepare your arms, legs, back, etc., for a greater range of movement. If you aren’t inclined to work out, you may also want to start by making small changes in your everyday routine (parking farther away, taking stairs whenever possible, anything that you do on a regular basis). Depending on your health, you may want to consult a doctor about what the best stretching exercises are for you. There are numerous dvds available, as well as (depending on where you live) yoga and community centers that provide critiques of your stretches to ensure you are doing them properly. Always listen to your body about how far it can stretch, and never let instructors or classmates push you further than you are able.

Once you begin working out, schedule your weeks (depending on what level you begin at and what you are capable of based on your health) to increase the amount of time you exercise until you are spending 30-60 minutes a day on it (alternating days with sprints, steady cardio, and weight training). If your goal is muscle and fitness you may want to consider a protein supplement to ensure you are getting enough protein to build muscle (many people use whey), and make sure that your drink plenty of water or electrolyte-filled low sugar beverage (or sugar free supplement).

Protecting your joints is key if you are going to exercise every day. To protect your joints you can choose water aerobics and lap swimming as a low-impact alternative to running. There are also products you can buy to put on joints that specifically need more support, either during or after exercising. You may want to consider a supplement targeted to optimal joint health, such as Joint RLF.

It’s also important to protect your heart health. Exercising is a great way to strengthen it, and you can protect yourself further with B vitamins and folate–both tied to lower homocysteine levels, which is in turn tied to a lower rate of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Whatever your fitness level and particular athletic interest, make sure to pay attention to the needs of your body, and to treat it kindly as you go forward. Consider professional help from a doctor or certified trainer (in yoga, weightlifting, etc.) to make sure that you perform all movements correctly.

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