This is our fitness column from the July/August issue of Gainesville Magazine. Click here to see the issue
Balance These Six Areas to Improve Your Health
The process of educating ourselves about out fitness and health can be a daunting one. We are besieged by ads for “gimmick” products and foods, devices promising shortcuts, and self- promoting gurus who really are only interested in lining their pockets. So, how do you know what to do? Here’s a simple look at the six things you need to focus on to be healthy and have a great quality of life.
Resistance Training-Pushing and pulling against resistance are the basic movements that prompt our bodies to build muscle. By adding muscle to our bodies, we aren’t only stronger, but we are more effective calorie burners. For ladies, a large number of studies show that strength training can prevent bone loss. One of the hesitations we often hear from women about lifting is that they don’t want to look bulky. It usually takes a professional fitness competitor a year or so of highly intense training to add five pounds of muscle, so don’t worry that adding some resistance training to your routine is going to make you look like a body builder, but you may see an increase in compliments!
Cardio Training-Getting your heart rate up in a controlled manner has a tremendous value to your overall fitness. Done properly, elevating your heart rate increases the strength of your heart itself, burns calories, improves circulation, can lower your blood pressure and your resting heart rate, improves skin quality, increase blood flow to your brain which lowers the risk of stroke, helps control blood sugar, enjoy a higher energy level and, as shown in a recent study from BYU, can actually take nine years off of your biological age. Utilizing strength improvements from resistance training to help your body handle a higher intensity level of cardio training can improve almost every aspect of your health.
Nutrition-What we put into our bodies has a drastic impact on our health, and offers a quick and easy improvement opportunity. You’ve likely seen the news stories about 70% of the U.S. population being overweight, and half of those defined as obese, and the health issues this creates. It is projected that the obesity rate will reach almost 50% by 2030. The medical care cost of obesity to the US alone was estimated by the C.D.C. to be $147B in 2008, and has increased dramatically since then. Getting your food intake under control can have a multitude of benefits.
-Keep added sugars to a minimum. Sugar is high in calories, and causes higher insulin levels, which can keep your body from burning fat as fuel.
-Eat 2-3 servings of leafy greens each day. Greens are great sources of fiber, are packed full of valuable nutrients like Vitamins A, C and K, and carry a high level of anti-oxidants, for improved cellular health.
-Keep your sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of heart disease. The majority of the sodium we consume is in our foods before they get to us, in the grocery or restaurant. Learning how to plan, shop, prepare and order our food can have an immediate impact on your health. For many of us, the extra fluid we retain from high sodium intake also adds an extra 5-7 pounds of body weight.
-Eat quality carbs for energy. Brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal and legumes are all great choices.
Hydration– The easiest of the six levels to improve quickly, sufficient hydration is a habit with multiple benefits. Some of the positives include avoiding excess fatigue, loss of concentration, cramps, constipation, lightheadedness, dizziness, headaches, and, sufficient hydration can lead to better long term renal function. Dehydration can cause sugar cravings, so it can contribute to weight gain. When we exercise with low fluid levels, we use stores of glycogen (stored carbohydrates) at a faster rate, so, when finished, we feel cravings for high carb foods. like sweets. Dehydration can also lead to Hypernatremia, or elevated sodium levels. Since fluid is the normal conduit for sodium leaving the body, without sufficient fluid, sodium is retained. This can show itself in a variety of symptoms, like fatigue, irritability and lethargy. Make sure you intake 2/3 to 3/4 oz. per pound of body weight per day and you should be fine. Higher temperatures can up your need for fluid, so factor that in, as well. Drink up, your body will thank you!
Sleep-According to the National Institutes for Health, sleep is a valuable component of our overall health. Our bodies heal and repair during sleep. Too little sleep can increase your risk of obesity. Sufficient sleep helps your immune system, lowers your risk of several diseases, improves hormonal balance, as well as our daily performance.
Stress-Stress management is essential to our overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, high levels of stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to address stress levels. Social activities, scheduling downtime for favorite activities, and meditation will also help lower your stress levels.
Get in the habit of paying attention to these six areas, and enjoy looking and feeling better every day, plus see the key indicators of your health improve!