I am amazed by how many people I meet who are in poor health. Wander around in a crowd at an event or in a shopping mall and people just don’t look good. Worse, talk to people and listen to their long list of ailments. People are out of shape, weigh too much, and have little energy. So what can people do to stay healthy?
1) Eat properly
Obesity is a huge issue in this country, pun intended. Over two thirds of Americans are overweight and 36% are obese! Further 32% of children and adolescents are overweight. This is unbelievable. As recently as a generation ago you would rarely see obese people. For sure, some of this is hereditary. But most of the issues are due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles.
Volumes of books have been written about diets. Over the past decades we’ve seen low fat diets, no fat diets, low carbohydrate diets, low simple carbohydrate diets, high complex carbohydrate diets, high protein diets, low protein diets, water diets, cookie diets, milkshake diets, etc. Seemingly, just after everyone rushes to try these diets someone issues a study saying the diet doesn’t work or isn’t very healthy. It’s frustrating.
The best diet is one that has a balance of nutrients measured by calorie intake. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that you eat more:
• Fruit and vegetables.
• Whole grains.
• Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
• Lean protein.
And consume less:
• Fats and sugars.
• Refined grains.
• Dietary cholesterol.
While these guidelines are useful, it’s hard to follow all of this in day-to-day life. The most important thing is something my grandmother always said: “moderation in all things.” Don’t over-eat, and eat a variety of foods. Balance your intake. The way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories over the course of each day. Another important practice is to eat breakfast. Studies show that skipping breakfast triggers the body to eat more later in the day and store calories. Other hints are to eat smaller quantities in each of the three main meals with healthy, small intakes in between.
Once you’ve balanced your diet and limited calorie intake, you need
to balance your calorie expenditure. “Calories in and calories out” is a good focus. If you burn more calories than you consume, weight will drop. If you eat more calories than you burn, usually you will gain weight as the body stores the excess.
Again, volumes of books have been written about various exercise regimens. The most important thing is to shut off the television, put away the electronic games, and get out and do something. Anaerobic exercise (weight or strength training) helps form bone density and builds muscle that more efficiently burns calories. Aerobic exercise also burns calories, helps with endurance, heart health, lung capacity, and strength. Studies show that metabolism increases during exercise but also continues at an elevated rate for hours afterwards
Be careful: don’t go from a sedentary life to full throttle. Make sure your doctor says you’re healthy enough, and then start slow and work your way up to an exercise regimen. Be sure also to drink enough water as you increase your exercise.
The best exercise in my opinion is walking. Walk outside when you can, or go to a shopping mall and walk inside in inclement weather. But move. Walking at a pace of 20-minute miles burns about 240-300 calories per hour depending on weight. And walking helps strengthen your heart, increase bone density, and builds endurance. Get out after dinner and go for a stroll.
Finally, after eating right and exercising, you need to sleep. The average adult needs about eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep is the great cure-all. It is a time when your body recovers, and when your immune system is improved. A survey conducted by the American Cancer Society concluded that people who sleep less than 6 or more than 9 hours per night had a death rate 30 percent higher than those who regularly slept 7 to 8 hours. Even those who slept 6 hours or less who otherwise had no health problems had death rates 1.8 times higher than those who slept “normal” hours. So don’t cheat your sleep!
Eat sensibly with moderate calorie intake, exercise and burn at least as many calories as you consume, sleep 7 to 9 hours per night, and live forever! OK, not forever, but live a healthier, higher quality life.