With longer days comes a little more time, a bit more energy and, often, a lot more “oomph,” propelling you off of the couch and onto the workout bandwagon to get back in shape. No doubt about it: Starting a workout (after talking with your doctor first), along with cutting back on the foods you may have overindulged in over the winter months, can jump-start you back on the road to good health, both physically and mentally. In addition to building up your stamina and helping you burn calories to lose weight, exercise also elevates your mood and lowers blood pressure and stress, not to mention boosting your immune system to help prevent you from getting sick.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world, and the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing over 366,800 Americans a year (about one every 43 seconds). It’s the number one killer of women in the U.S., taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Heart issues in women can be more subtle. That’s dangerous, because women often misread the trouble signs while having an actual heart attack for things like acid reflux or flu. In fact, 64 percent of women who die from coronary heart disease (a narrowing of the arteries or blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart) had no previous symptoms. And heart disease is also the number one killer of men. (It doesn’t discriminate.)
What causes a “break” in good food habits? Why get tempted by candy or chips, when you could reach for grapes, or whole-grain crackers? Why is it that you can work out for a few weeks, then end up in front of the TV for days later? These questions can haunt even the most dedicated of those trying to follow a healthy lifestyle. (No one’s perfect!)
A CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) sampling of five to 17 year-olds showed that almost 60 percent of children that were overweight had at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 25 percent had two or more risk factors.
Concussions in sports (especially professional, contact sports) have been all over the news, largely because of what can be accumulative effects of repeated “hits” to the head. That’s long-prompted discussion about the safety of kid athletes.
Whether to stay in shape, relax, or just cool off, swimming is one of the best exercises around, because you work all muscle groups. Great for arthritis sufferers, you’re also buoyed by the water, which means less muscle and joint strain.
Learning how to swim through a trained and certified professional in swimming and water safety (at your own level and pace) can help replace any fear of the water with a healthy respect and love for it. The place to start is with a visit to www.redcross.org for a state-by-state list of Learn-to-Swim Providers, as well as your local beach, community center, or parks and recreation department. You’ll find classes for everyone from six months old up to adult.
If you thought that healthy snacks are important energy boosters in between meals, you thought right. As much as portable, healthy snacks have hit their stride when it comes to the grab-and-go for the commute, or having something at the ready when “parking it” at your desk, they’re really on a roll when it comes to fueling bike rides.
You’re feeling the seasonal or environmental assaults on your respiratory system, triggering an allergy or asthma attack. Do you push through your workout, or hold off on exercise until you feel better?
Face it: You just feel better when you eat right, and exercise more. From lean chicken and fish, to healthy fruits, and veggies; from low-fat or skim dairy (or vitamin-fortified soy milk, or yogurt), to whole grains – plus water for optimal hydration – good food is like fuel for your body. What you eat and how much you move matters when it comes to weight or developing a chronic condition like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure. Making wise choices now can have a huge impact on both longevity and quality of life as you age.
If you’ve ever gotten off track with exercise and struggled with getting back to your usual routine, you know this drill of then and now: You committed to keeping fit, with a regimen that you’ve enjoyed, and reaped its benefits. But over time, life has gotten in the way with a lack of time and energy (plus some added weight), along with a beckoning couch after a long day at work, lengthy commute, or driving the kids to activities. You know you feel and look better when you exercise, but having the energy to start it up again is, well, another story.