Exercise: The Missing Piece
by Amy Parker, RD
There are two parts to the equation when it comes to weight loss; diet and exercise. In order to see weight loss results you need to add the other piece of the puzzle, physical activity. There are many benefits to an active lifestyle including decreased risk of cancer, improved cardiovascular health, weight control and lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol values. Don’t forget physical activity improves mental health, decreases stress levels, boosts self esteem and leads to better posture and balance. With all these potential benefits, then why is it that so many of us are stuck on the couch? Integrating physical activity into your life takes planning particularly in a world where we drive to the corner store and the internet has brought everything to our doorstep. So take the initiative and schedule it in. It may just be the most important appointment in your day timer.
Where to begin?
If physical activity is not a part of your lifestyle currently it may be difficult to get started. Going for a simple walk is a great way to begin; it is inexpensive and requires virtually no equipment except a pair of runners. The most important factor to consider is; what do you enjoy doing? If the activity is a chore you most likely will drop out right away. Think back to your childhood. Did you look forward to Saturday morning swimming lessons or could you not wait for winter to get out on the ice for a game of hockey. Perhaps that treadmill currently serving as a clothes hanger is for you. Put it in front of the TV and watch your favorite show. Need more structure and want to socialize? Sign up for a fitness class and keep the commitment.
There are three different components to physical activity; cardiovascular activities, flexibility and muscular strength and endurance. As time goes on start to incorporate activities from each for optimum results.
But I don’t have time!
This is a common complaint for the average person with a job and a family and all the commitments that come along with it. However in actuality how much time do you spend watching TV or on the computer? Once again it comes down to planning. If your health is a priority then you will find some way to fit physical activity into your day. The actual time you need to spend is dependent on how much energy you expend. For light activities you will need to do 60 minutes, moderate activities 30 to 60 minutes and vigorous activities 20 to 30 minutes. And remember you may feel tired at the end of a long day but getting active will actually increase your energy level, leaving you feeling great.
More ideas …
Health Canada has a great resource to help you get started, Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living. Access it online at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/paguide
www.healthyalberta.com is full of great ideas of how and where to get active in Alberta.
Complete the puzzle
Try different activities and find something you like. Cycling, dancing, curling, snowshoeing … the list is almost endless. Make physical activity a part of your day.
About the Author:
Amy Parker is a Registered Dietitian who regularly writes food and nutrition articles. She graduated from the University of Alberta and completed a one year internship in the Calgary Health Region. She currently specializes in prenatal nutrition and is passionate about helping her clients have the healthiest babies possible. Her other areas of interest include weight loss, childhood obesity and healthy food that tastes good too!
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