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Health & Wellness

Health and Fitness: How to Begin a Healthier Lifestyle

We are about two months into 2021 and many of us have probably procrastinated on our new year’s resolutions by now. If health and fitness are involved, figuring out where to start is already overwhelming enough. 

Health and fitness can appear challenging. When it comes to this particular lifestyle, it can be intimidating to take the first step. Where to begin? What to do? What should you eat? 

However, being healthy does not necessarily need to feel impossible. Rather, it’s all a matter of patience and perspective. 

Ready to take the next step? Here’s a beginner’s guide to health and fitness!

Benefits

Before beginning, it is important to understand why one would want to pursue a healthy life in the first place. In short, many people move towards a healthy lifestyle in pursuit of its benefits. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease serves as the leading cause of death for many adults, especially in the United States. Over half of adults suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, while high blood pressure has become a growing medical concern. 

Many sources report that up to 80% of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by engaging in physical activity and healthy eating. Specific foods can help reduce blood pressure, while exercise helps with circulation. 

Likewise, both healthy eating and exercising are confirmed to help reduce any potential risk of cancer. According to research, having high hormone levels can increase the risks for prostate, breast, or colon cancer. Exercise prevents this risk by regulating one’s hormone levels during physical activity. 

Meanwhile, healthy eating can help reduce potential gastrointestinal cancer, amongst others. Certain foods like berries, dark leafy greens, carrots and nuts, etc. carry antioxidants that protect cells from damage. As they protect these cells, antioxidants halt these damaged cells from multiplying. 

Finally, evidence suggests that healthy eating and exercise can improve a person’s mental health. When it comes to food, researchers have found that diets heavy in glycemic quantities, that is consuming an excessive amount of soft drinks or sugary pastries, may trigger depression and fatigue. Healthier foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables differ from these chances as they happen to carry lower glycemic quantities. 

As for fitness, physical exercise compels a person’s brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are tiny neurochemicals that help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. This kind of positive stimuli can encourage an improved sense of self-esteem and overall optimism.

Food

So you want to eat healthily but fear the discomfort. Don’t worry! It is all a matter of baby steps. 

First, begin with beverages. Rather than drink your calories, consider healthier options. For example, if you’re biased toward soft or sugary drinks, try to opt for healthier alternatives like sparkling water, green tea, or black coffee. These options happen to be rich in antioxidants and are lower in calories.  

If you happen to have a sweet tooth, there exist better alternatives to processed sugars. When it comes to natural sweeteners, consider adding honey, agave, or stevia instead to your drinks/treats instead. As for food, remember fruits are Mother Nature’s desert; they add color and a sweet flavor within one’s plate. Fruits are immensely beneficial as they help fight inflammation and can lessen the risk of heart disease. For a taste of creativity, consider adding fruits to your oats in the morning or mix them into your salad.

A big part of healthy eating is a balanced diet. A balanced diet does not equate to restrictive eating habits, bland foods, or fad diets. Ergo, make sure to diversify your meals and incorporate aspects from all the major food groups. In other words, try to eat more whole-foods (whole-wheat, fruits, vegetables, etc.) and fewer processed foods (frozen meals, TV dinners, cakes, etc.). 

When serving a meal, try using a smaller plate in order to control your portions. A bigger plate can unconsciously compel us to overeat as a consequence. When filling your plate, make sure half of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, while a quarter of your plate should be composed of whole grains and another of protein foods. 

Exercise

Many dread to exercise because they consider it to be painful or exhausting. Other times, people despise it because they consider it to be time-consuming or too demanding. 

The truth of the matter is, it is all a matter of perspective. Exercise does not need to be difficult, nor too demanding. One should visualize exercise as an opportunity to be active, not to become an overnight athlete like Kyrie Irving

There exist numerous exercise options, from walking to dancing, to swimming or gardening. Even household chores can be considered as physical activity. One should begin by choosing an exercise or activity that they enjoy the most. Chances are when one enjoys their activity they are likelier to repeat it. 

To quantify how much exercise one should do, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least thirty minutes of moderate physical activity. For example, walk around your neighborhood, mow the lawn or try some calisthenics, as long as they last by at least thirty minutes. 

The point of exercising and being active is that you repeatedly do it. Try to add a time of day in your routine to being physical. Preferably, follow this routine during most days of the week rather than once a month. 

To measure the intensity of your exercise, make sure to check your heart rate or pulse during exercise. Different levels of intensity can affect one’s pulse/heart rate. 

When it comes to progress, people can feel impatient about seeing results. Worst, sometimes people fear they do not see any results after following a routine. To offer perspective, doing something and being active are better than doing nothing. All in all, it is a matter of patience.

Being healthy and taking care of yourself should not be considered as an afterthought. As intimidating and impossible as others make being healthy look, in reality, being healthy is but a rather practical and rewarding lifestyle. 

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