These are questions all of us have considered at one time or another. They are prudent questions, but have come closer to home in the past several years. Most of us can't open a magazine, turn on the television, or go into a store without being bombarded with the topic of fitness, be it vitamins and minerals, the latest home exercise machines, or the dozens upon dozens of fit and trim bodies of every kind that monopolize television and film air time.
Most of us have been on some sort of diet, but have been unsuccessful or gained the weight back, leading us to feel frustrated and without hope of ever reaching the slim, trim selves of our dreams. For reference, all that most of us need to do is recall all the fad diets and exercise programs we've been gung ho on, but then quickly fizzled out after a week or two.
The people we've watched exercise on television look so happy and have so much fun, but we know the reality of how much fun it can be when we're out of breath and aching after only walking to the mailbox.
According to many doctors and fitness experts we don't have to make vigorous exercise an immediate part of our lives to attain a healthy level of fitness. According to many health care professionals, anything is better than nothing.
For example, a daily walk around the block, or even to the end of the driveway and back can make a world of difference if you've never done it before. Even household tasks like mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, or washing the dishes can put you on your way to feeling better physically, and ultimately, better about yourself.
According to the Central Minnesota Heart Center, 954,000 Americans last year lost their lives to heart disease, which is, outside of heredity factors, directly related to lack of physical fitness or cigarette smoking. That may seem hard to visualize, but it becomes more than a statistic when we consider some of those people were not only from right here in Paynesville, but quite possibly from our own families.
Physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol are some of the major modifiable risk factors for heart attack, and studies have shown that being physically active lowers heart disease risk even in people with other health problems such as high blood pressure.
Physical activity not only reduces the risk of heart disease, keeps weight under control, prevents bone loss, boosts energy, increases muscle strength, and improves your ability to sleep quickly and well, but it also helps you mentally. People who are physically active notice their increased ability to manage stress, improved self-image, and less feelings of anxiety and depression.
What can I do about it? You may say, "I've tried exercise, or eating healthier, but I didn't really notice that big a difference."
So what can you do? One thing several people in our community have been doing is "walking to fitness." Walking is one of the best lifetime exercises we can do, and for the past three years many community members have taken part in Paynesville Community Education's walking program. The Paynesville Area High School and Middle School are open for walkers while school is in session from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the elementary school is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. There is no fee; all walkers have to do is stop by the community ed office prior to walking the halls and pick up a walking badge for identification purposes. As of this month, from seven to 10 people walk at the school each day.
There are also various sports activities available periodically through community ed, such as volleyball and softball.
If these things don't appeal to you, the key is to find any activity that you can enjoy. Pick activities you can do year- round, and find a companion to exercise with you if it will help you stay with it. Take time to warm up and cool down while exercising. Muscular elasticity is often slowed with age, so increase activity gradually if you have been inactive for a while. If you do too much before your body is used to it, you could experience injuries, or just plain get tired of it.
Another important thing to remember is, you won't always feel thirsty every time you are active, so try to drink water on a fixed schedule. Water not only fights dehydration, but among its many benefits, it greatly aids weight loss and washes toxins of every kind out of your body. It has been recommended that people drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day; so, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should try to drink at least 75 ounces of water a day. That may sound like a lot, but it's actually only nine, eight ounce glasses; divided into a day, they will go down pretty fast.
Although a quick diet may work for some, the key to ultimate physical fitness is not only a change in diet, but making some sort of exercise a regular part of your life.
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