Beginning a new diet and workout regimen may seem simple enough. Are you looking to lose weight? Start jogging and eat nothing but salad (or better yet, invest in the latest non-FDA-approved herbal weight-loss supplement). Do you want to bulk up and stop the “Skinny Minnie” jibes? Lift weights and drink a ton of protein shakes (you’re not there until you can bench press your body weight!). Or are you more concerned about the status of your health? Maybe you should start an organic raw food diet and take up yoga (join PETA while you’re at it). If all of these ideas seem pretty extreme, it’s because they are. And if you listen to what doctors recommend, the best approach to improving your health through diet and exercise involves everything in moderation.
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Only your doctor can make specific recommendations concerning which forms of diet and exercise will best meet your health needs, so before starting a new routine, consult with your personal physician (and possibly a personal trainer and nutritionist). From there, you should begin by addressing your goals, whether they include weight loss or gain, improved heart health, reduction of pain, or simply the ability to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. This will, to some extent, determine the course of your specific diet and exercise plan. That said, there are a few simple guidelines to getting your health up to spec.
In terms of exercise, an overall physical fitness plan will probably include a number of different types of activities (or cross-training). Aerobics (running, biking, swimming, dance) will rev up your heart rate and get you burning calories, which is not only good for weight loss, but also improves the function of your entire body as your heart strengthens and is able to pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout your body with less effort. Add in some weight-training to improve definition or build up muscles. You can round out your routine by throwing in some yoga, which will allow for greater flexibility and range of motion in addition to stretching tired muscles and leaving you relaxed and focused. And you can certainly try out fads like TaeBo, Kettlebell, and Pilates to spice things up, but the basics are always a good place to start (and fall back).
Diet is equally simple. You know what’s good for you if you pay attention to the food pyramid, and unless you have some serious health issues or suffer from food allergies of some sort, most doctors will recommend a balanced diet. Here’s what it entails: color! That’s right. Colorful fruits and vegetables provide the many vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at peak levels, so don’t skimp on the leafy greens and citrus fruits (although, it really couldn’t hurt to add a daily multivitamin to the mix to ensure you’re hitting all the requirements). You also needcomplex carbs (whole grains are a good source) for fiber and energy. These are your main source of fuel, which is especially important for feeling good when you add exercise to the roster. Then make sure to get plenty of lean protein (like chicken and fish), and even red meat once in awhile (it’s not all bad – red meat is a great source of iron, which a lot of women could use in their diet).
Most doctors agree that a combination of balanced diet and moderate exercise (3-4 sessions per week at 30-45 minute intervals) is the key to a long and healthy life, so get on board. It’s not rocket science, despite what you hear from all of the so-called experts selling the current fads. If you’re unsure how to proceed, or all of the options leave you feeling a little overwhelmed, simply visit your own trusted doctor to get the skinny on health and fitness. It’s the best way to ensure that you start a regimen you can live with for the rest of your life.