Technology and the prevalence of sedentary jobs have contributed greatly to a reduction in daily physical activity among Americans. Today, only about 20 percent of us work in what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers high-activity jobs, while nearly half the working population occupies low-activity positions. That’s eight or more hours a day of little or no strenuous movement.
That’s a problem, because the Centers of Disease Control recommend that four hours of physical activity a week are necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, it is estimated that Americans only get half that amount. Chronic inactivity, poor eating habits and factors such as genetics and living environment, have combined to make obesity a health crisis in the United States.
Physical activity reduces total body weight and the amount of fat buildup around the waist. It also improves mood, which encourages people to stick with their exercise programs. Maintaining a balance between exercise— at least an hour a day—and a healthy diet is key to combating obesity and achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Building muscle mass helps the body burn more energy throughout the day, which helps keep your weight under control. Push-ups, weight training, resistance training and sit-ups are a few muscle-building forms of exercise that can drive weight loss. Weight-lifting exercises such as deadlifts, squats and bench and overhead presses are commonly used in muscle building. Barbells, free weights and kettlebells may be low-tech, but they’re still an excellent way to give your muscles the workout they need. You can even work your muscle groups with everyday activities including gardening and walking. Remember that it’s easier to stay with a workout routine you enjoy, so build one that keeps you motivated.
A nutritional diet is an important part of building strength and shedding pounds. That means maintaining a good balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates, and carefully monitoring your caloric intake. Eat three servings a day of foods rich in protein like fish, lean meat or beans (whole grain foods are also a source of protein), and three servings of low-fat dairy. You also can get protein from eggs and cottage cheese, though keep an eye on your protein intake (the recommended allowance for a 150-pound adult is about 55 grams of protein a day).
Vegetables and fruit round out a healthy diet and help support a muscle-strengthening exercise program. A good knife set can help you maintain healthy portions of vegetables, meat and other foods your body needs.
Your muscles and your overall system need their rest, so be careful not to short yourself when it comes to sleep. Adults typically require seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your body can’t replenish itself and balance your body chemistry, important factors in maintaining a healthy weight. Bear in mind that sleep patterns tend to change as you age, so it’s important to establish good sleep habits to help your body make the transition as it ages.
Exercise and healthy eating can help you maintain a healthy mental state, particularly if you fall into the obese category. Obesity is a major cause of depression. In fact, obese individuals are 25 percent more likely to experience depression than non-obese people. Isolation, low self-esteem and an unhealthy self-image are frequent effects of the obesity-depression connection. Remember that exercise activates neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel good and help motivate you to keep your weight under control.
Despite its prevalence in American society, obesity doesn’t have to be the “new norm.” Sometimes, weight loss begins with nothing more ambitious than a walk around the neighborhood. With a little dedication, working exercise into your everyday routine and eating right can just as easily become your new norm.
-by Travis White, LearnFit.org
Travis considers himself a foodie and loves sharing his cooking tips and recipes. He writes about food in his spare time. He enjoys showing LearnFit visitors how to cook restaurant-quality meals at home.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.