Fueling your body for fitness

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. What a great reminder that we all need to focus on moving more. The council recommends that all adults need at least 30 minutes of activity five days a week, and children need 60 minutes of daily active play.

How much activity do you get in a normal week? If you’re like many Americans, it is really easy to get through an average day with very little movement at all. How often do your days go like this: wake up, get ready for work, get in your car to drive to work, walk into your office, sit at a desk for eight or more hours, drive home, walk to the sofa, maybe walk a few feet to the dinner table, back to the sofa and then to bed?

I’d love to encourage you to think about ways that you can add even small amounts of activity to your daily life. Could you take a 15-minute walk on your lunch break? Get up from your desk and walk to a co-worker’s office down the hall, rather than picking up the phone. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk the dog instead of the dog walking himself. Actually use your gym membership. Schedule an appointment with a personal trainer. There are so many ways to increase your daily activity.

As you increase your activity, you also need to make sure you put some effort into planning what you eat. I work with many patients who, in an effort to lose weight, dramatically increase their exercise while, at the same time, dramatically decrease their nutritional intake. While it is true that you must burn more calories than you consume in order to lose weight, the goal is not to go to extremes. Cut your calories too low and your body may rebel.

If it is your goal to increase your physical activity, try these five simple tips to fuel your body for fitness:

1. Don’t skip meals. When you go too long without eating, your body thinks it is starving and holds on to fat.

2. Eat healthy carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates are fuel for your body. Try to get more of your carbohydrates from high-fiber sources, like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, beans, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and fruits and veggies.

3. Have some protein with every meal. Lean meat and fish, eggs, cheeses, low-fat milk and yogurt, and peanut butter are great options.

4. Drink plenty of water. The more you exercise, the more fluid you need. Take your weight in pounds and divide by two. Aim for that number of ounces per day.

5. Don’t use a new exercise plan as an excuse to eat (or drink) whatever you want. Thirty minutes of moderate walking may burn 150-200 calories, but a 20-ounce soda and a candy bar can add back 500 calories (or more) really quickly.

Regular physical activity and an overall healthy diet really are the best medicine

Angie Tillman is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and director of the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

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