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What does it mean to be fit?
For many of us, being fit means maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise.
However, the “healthy weight = fit” idea omits and misrepresents several important components of what being truly fit means. In biological terms, “being fit” means “being able to provide for one’s own life and wellbeing; the fittest are those who can do so the best.” Now that’s a little closer to what we should be working toward. Not just being fit to the point of sufficiency, but being the fittest.
So, the question is: What can you do to be the fittest you can be, or to obtain the best quality of life possible?
To answer that question, we’ll examine the five components of physical fitness. That’s right, there are five. Not just “fitting into my favorite jeans,” “being able to run a marathon,” or “bench pressing twice my body weight.” Our definitions are from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Body Composition: This refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body. Body composition can provide a better evaluation of overall health than weight or BMI alone, so it is important to maintain a level of body fat that is neither too low (below 3-5% for men and 8-12% for women), nor too high (above 20-25% for men and 29-35% for women).
A variety of body fat measurement tools exist including calipers and bio-electrical impedance devices, and although some are more accurate and expensive than others, all can help you monitor changes.
Tip: Have a body fat analysis performed to know your starting point, and begin implementing small, healthy diet and exercise changes to improve body composition.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance: Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during physical activity. This means being able to sustain an elevated heart rate. Activities like walking, swimming, and bicycling will all lead to improvement, and the good news is that the activity you choose does not necessarily have to be strenuous (at least initially).
Tip: choose an activity you enjoy and start slowly, increasing the intensity and duration over time.
Flexibility: Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint. Maintaining good flexibility helps protect the muscles and joints from injury in all kinds of activity. A basic stretching program, such as 10-15 minutes of light stretching for the upper body, lower body, and core after a workout, may be all you need to improve this oft-neglected fitness component. Yoga and Pilates classes can also add more structure to your flexibility program.
Tip: the key to improving flexibility is to make time for it! Add 10 minutes to the end of your workout to stretch or take 10-minute walking/stretching breaks at work.
Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue. You can improve muscular endurance by doing sustained activities such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. When it comes to weight training, completing longer sets (12-25 repetitions) would be considered working in the endurance range.
Tip: look for opportunities to activate your muscles outside the club. For example, walk to the grocery store and flex those biceps by carrying groceries.
Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is the ability of the muscles to exert force during an activity. Sorry to those of you who want to stick to the treadmill, but this means using your muscles against resistance, whether that comes in the form of a dumbbell, resistance band, or your own body weight against gravity.
Tip: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do some pushups during TV commercial breaks.
To be truly, “totally fit” we need to focus on all five components of physical fitness. Not only will we be healthier overall, but we will also enjoy the benefits of reduced risk of injury and disease prevention (osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.). The added bonus? Improving any single area of fitness will help the others improve as well.
So what are you waiting for?! What areas of physical fitness are you focusing on right now?
College students have plenty to worry about these days, with finding a job in a tough economy topping the list. Between the job search, studying, campus activities, and time spent “living the college life,” it’s easy to put your health on the back burner.
And that’s okay, right? I mean, you’re young, and your body can handle the stress of too little sleep and exercise, and too much unhealthy food…
Or can it?
In truth, it’s only a matter of time before the poor health choices you make as a young adult catch up with you. Your health is no one’s responsibility but your own and maintaining it takes constant effort. Learn that lesson now and you will set yourself up for success in the years to come.
Here are 3 of the most common health mistakes college students make and how you can avoid them:
Eating Too Much Junk Food: Dorm cafeterias put soft-serve ice cream machines and waffle makers at your finger tips, and campus convenience stores provide all of the salty snacks and sugary sodas you could ever want to propel yourself through late night study sessions. Add in a few midnight pizza runs and party binges and you’ve created quite a mess for your body to clean up.
In fact, according to teenshealth.org, studies have shown that snacking between 8PM and 4AM is a leading contributor to weight gain.
Avoid It: Eat at regular times without skipping meals and incorporate plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Pay attention to portion sizes and nutrition labels (many dorm menus provide them) and limit your intake of high-calorie foods, including alcohol.
If you are up late, fuel your food cravings with lower calorie fruits, vegetables, or sugar-free drinks. Your body will thank you for it!
Not Exercising Enough: Without high school sports or gym class programmed into your daily schedule, many college students let exercise fall by the wayside. Combining lower activity levels with increased caloric intake makes putting on the “freshman 15″ a real possibility.
Avoid It: Take at least 30 minutes every day to do something active, such as walking, jogging, swimming, taking a group exercise class or working out at the campus gym. Also get up and stretch or walk around if you catch yourself sitting for an extended period of time.
Researchers have found that students who exercise at least 3 days a week are more likely to report better physical health, as well as greater happiness, than those who do not exercise. Students who stay active are also more likely to report using their time productively. If just a little bit of exercise can help boost your health and your grades, it sounds like a no-brainer.
Sleeping Too Little (and No, Naps Don’t Count): From studying and other school-related activities to social outings and noisy roommates, it’s hard to avoid poor nights of sleep in college. Among other consequences, a lack of quality sleep can lead to increased stress levels and weight gain.
Avoid It: Do the best you can to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Don’t rely on naps or power 10+ hour sleep sessions to catch up on missed sleep. Finally, avoid caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime, as well as other stimulating activities such as exercise, TV, texting and Facebook.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself this school year is to keep your health on track. If your health is not already a priority, begin introducing positive changes slowly and build healthy habits now. You’ve got a lot of off-campus years ahead of you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you will be healthy enough to enjoy them.
What are your tips to help stay healthy on campus?
Je ne désire plus pousser, je ne veux plus tirer … mes jambes ne me supportent plus. C’est alors que j’entends la voix de Tibo dans ma tête: « .Là, tu pars en guerre ».
Mon aventure a commencé le 9 juillet 2012 à 18h15 précise, à la M Clinique avec Thibault Gonnet, alias Tibo, alors que je me soumettais à une batterie de tests pour évaluer ma condition physique. Je précise la date et l’heure puisqu’à compter de ce jour je suis partie en guerre contre mes croyances, à propos de la communion de l’exercice physique et de la nutrition, afin d’atteindre mes objectifs de gain de poids. Je vous avoue d’emblée que le plus difficile dans cette aventure n’est pas le fait de soulever des poids et haltères, mais bien de faire place à une nouvelle philosophie d’entrainement et de nutrition. Je m’entraîne régulièrement depuis belle lurette; ceux et celles qui me connaissent peuvent affirmer que je suis en excellente condition physique … « very fit » quoi ! Mais après avoir passé la batterie de tests à la M Clinique, j’ai dû admettre que je n’étais pas « si fit que ca ! ».
Le test de composition corporelle terminé, Tibo s’écrie : « j’ai une bonne et une mauvaise nouvelle. La bonne : les femmes seront jalouses car ta masse grasse est sous la norme. La mauvaise : ta masse musculaire est de 4 kg sous la norme! » « Ok, ce qui veut dire? » lui demandais-je avec hésitation. « Tu devras prendre 4 kg de muscles ! » « Non, mais tu ne comprends pas Tibo, je ne veux pas engraisser ! ». C’est ici que réside mon plus gros défi : accepter que le pèse-personne affiche éventuellement un gain de poids … ce gain étant le résultat d’une augmentation de la masse musculaire, et non pas de la masse grasse ! (généralement, qui dit kilos en trop dit graisse en plus, non ?).
Le résultat du test de capacité aérobie mesure la capacité de mon moteur (soit mon cœur !!) à procurer de la puissance lors d’efforts. Ce test a démontré que je pourrais pédaler ou courir sur un terrain plat et pour une longue période de temps (dans ma catégorie d’âge, j’ai la cote « excellent »), mais que si une pente se dressait sur mon chemin, le moteur s’éteindrait sûrement. Et vlan ! mon égo reçoit un vilain coup.
Je vous avoue ne pas tout à fait saisir les résultats du test de force musculaire. Ce que j’en retiens est que même avec mon peu de muscles, je peux générer une « pas si mal » capacité de recrutement musculaire. Traduit en mes termes : malgré le fait que je pense en faire déjà beaucoup, je peux en faire plus. Le message est clair : je devrais sortir de ma zone de confort et donner tout ce que j’ai!
Le dernier test a duré une semaine. Le capteur de dépense énergétique bien serré à mon bras droit a calculé le nombre de calories que je brûle par jour, ainsi que mes heures de sommeil. Mon métabolisme de base brûle 954 calories. J’en dépense en moyenne 1650 par jour la semaine, et 1737 le week-end. Ici le choc fut brutal : je mange santé et je ne me permets des écarts que les vendredis et samedis soirs. Avec ce régime alimentaire, je maintiens mon poids. Ceci veut donc dire chers amis que pour maigrir il faut (1) augmenter l’activité physique et (2) diminuer les calories ingurgitées ! Calories In, Calories Out ! No ifs and buts about it !
L’évaluation de la condition physique terminée, toujours sous le choc, je m’engage alors à entreprendre un nouvel entrainement visant à atteindre mes objectifs :
Je vous avouais devoir partir en guerre contre mes croyances d’entrainement et de nutrition. Justement, j’ai rencontré Sarah Levesque, diététiste. Le gain de masse musculaire ne se fera que si j’alimente mieux et plus mon corps. Pour moi, manger plus égal gain de masse grasse! Sarah a été à l’écoute de mes craintes et m’a proposé quelques petits changements, réalistes et réalisables dans un premier temps, appuyant l’atteinte de mes objectifs tout en respectant mes habitudes de vie et mes petits problèmes de santé. Elle m’a donné des idées de collation et m’a demandé de m’engager à boire une tasse de lait après mon entrainement … « je le bois Sarah !!! »
Je vous reviens dans 6 semaines alors que je serai repassée à la M Clinique. Je vous ferai alors part de mes progrès et du programme nutritionnel. D’ici là, à chaque entrainement je pars à la guerre. Je défais mes croyances une à la fois, en poussant et tirant plus fort pour sortir de ma zone de confort.
If you spent the weeks leading up to the summer season getting “swimsuit-ready” only to realize that mid-way through the summer, you’ve put on a few pounds, you’re not alone. Experts agree that summer weight gain is common among both adults and children.
Check out some easy ways to avoid the pitfalls, so you can stay healthy, fit, and ready to put on those skinny jeans this fall.
1. Plan Meals and Snacks.
Summer’s laid-back feel and variable schedule can derail your motivation and ability to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. However, maintaining a healthy menu and eating schedule over the summer is key to controlling your weight.
Schedule time during your day to shop for and prepare healthy foods. This might actually help you feel less stressed, because both your mind and body will appreciate a nutritious energy boost.
2. Watch What You Eat at Summer Parties.
From your son’s graduation celebration, to your cousin’s wedding, to the family backyard BBQ, summer calendars are packed with events that include an unlimited amount of fatty, sugary foods.
To avoid overindulging, focus on catching up with family and friends. Don’t overload your plate, and avoid going back for seconds and thirds. You will have more time for conversation and ready to take on the next activity!
3. Limit Summer Treats.
It’s perfectly healthy to enjoy an ice cream cone once a week, but if that cone is accompanied by a frappuccino here and a margarita there (even one made from our healthy recipe), the extra calories can add up quickly. Less obvious, or seemingly “healthier” options, such as frozen yogurt, lemonade or Gatorade, and light beer, can also lead to weight gain.
With a little willpower and planning, you can decide for yourself when it’s okay to enjoy a refreshing summer treat, and when to say, “I’ll try it next time!”
4. Maintain Your Exercise Routine.
When regular schedules are thrown out of the window, as they often are during the summer, it’s easy to let your daily trip to the gym fall by the wayside. Staying active with regular exercise will ward off extra pounds and preserve your fitness.
Summer is a great time to enjoy a wide variety of fitness activities – from the pool, tennis court, and golf course, to regular classes and exercise equipment at the gym. The bonus? You can do many of these activities with friends and family who need to exercise too!
5. Have a Goal.
Spending the hot summer months inside a cool, air-conditioned house, moving from the couch to the computer with stops at the fridge in between is a quick way to gain weight. Avoid falling into this rut by aiming for specific goals.
Combine physical goals, such as training for a summer 5K or learning a new sport, with activity-based goals, such as volunteering, working a summer job, or taking a class. Keeping goals in mind may just be the motivation you need to stay energized, healthy, and slim this season.
What strategies keep you and your family healthy over the summer?
A recent study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that although junk food was found to be cheaper per calorie, healthy foods (foods from specific food groups whose nutritional values fell below a maximum amount of saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium) were cheaper by portion size and weight. In other words, it costs less to put healthy food on your plate than junk food when you adhere to serving sizes.
Here’s an example. According to this Mark Bittman column, four “complete” meals from the leading fast food restaurant cost just under $30. But you can easily feed four-to-six people with a roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk for under $14. Choose a meal of rice and beans instead, and your total bill goes down about $5 more.
You might think, “that’s all well and good, but it still feels like junk food is cheaper and easier to put on the table. Why is that, and what can I do about it?”. In a country whose obesity-related medical expenses already cost $147 billion per year, that is one of the billion dollar questions.
The answer is complex. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless.
Here are some steps we can take now to curb the ever-widening effects of our “junk food” culture:
Ignore Manipulative Food Marketing: Fast food companies alone spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, and the Food and Beverage industry as a whole has done a pretty good job convincing consumers that the foods they sell are cheap, convenient, and tasty.
It’s important to recognize that the tactics used are just that – ways of enticing you to buy products. Their bottom line doesn’t care if you enjoyed your burger after you bought it, or if it caused you to gain weight. But, your body cares, and who would you rather listen to?
Banish the Fast-Food Habit: Sixty years ago food was less plentiful and more expensive than it is today. Now, in part because of the overabundance of food, Americans dine out about five times per week. We have to reverse this trend. Our bodies do not need large portions of oil-saturated foods, a staple in many fast food restaurants.
We can also get more comfortable saying “no” to our kids, who sadly, are unfair targets of manipulative marketing. We need to show them that grilled chicken and potatoes can taste just as good as chicken nuggets and fries.
Know Your Options: Healthy food can be cheap and convenient too; it just takes a little more knowledge and forethought than ordering a Value Meal. The cost of organic produce and $5 loaves of hearty whole-grain bread (vs. $2 white loaves) can be discouraging, but buying store brands and in-season produce, and taking advantage of coupons and sales can help keep costs low.
Embrace substitutions. Less expensive, conventionally grown foods can still be healthy, and brown rice is an alternative whole grain that costs under $1 per bag. Take 10 minutes to plan your trip to the store, and you can be in and out in less time than it would take for you to wait in a drive-thru line. Plus, you’ll have a smaller tab!
Get Cooking: Americans are watching more cooking shows, but spending less time in the kitchen. What’s wrong with this picture? There is a misconception that cooking takes lots of time and skill. Stock “staple” items, such as rice and beans, chicken breasts (which freeze well), and spices. Also, invest in a good knife and large cutting board, and use the Internet to find healthy and easy recipes you can prepare in 15-minutes or less.
If you have time to watch your favorite TV show, you have 15 minutes to prepare dinner for your family. Try it for a month and see if your bills and your belt stay a little tighter.
We don’t like to hear that healthy food is cheaper than junk food because it gives us one less excuse to eat junk. While it’s easy to go out and eat 5,000+ calories a day, our bodies simply can’t handle that lifestyle, even with exercise. Our choices impact the quality of our lives, and it’s up to us to embrace a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t include junk food products.
Do you think it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget? What challenges have you faced in providing healthy meals for your family, and how have you overcome them?
As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging Americans to “Get Your Plate In Shape.” With the help of the “My Plate” model, which replaced the Food Pyramid in June 2011, the experts are giving us a reminder of the healthy nutrition goals we have heard before:
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