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The best way to Improve Fitness

The best way to improve your fitness.

Fitness is defined as good health or physical condition, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fitness). There are those who think of fitness only in terms of physical condition, but fitness is determined by a number of factors including exercise, nutrition, and stress levels. The best way to improve your fitness is by finding inspiration, increasing physical activity, decreasing stress, and evaluating your nutrition.

FINDING INSPIRATION

One obstacle to improving fitness is finding the inspiration to achieve this change. The occurrence of a life changing event like finding out you have diabetes, cancer, or heart disease can be the motivation for making these changes. Why wait until you already have a major health problem to make these changes?

Create a vision of your future that you can hold onto for the long term. Keep in mind the future you want for yourself and your family. Image yourself as a grandparent, for example. Are you healthy, active, and able to play with your grandchildren or are you too riddled with health problems to get out of bed?

The most important part of reaching a goal is to find the inspiration that will motivate you to follow through and achieve your goal. Different people will be inspired by different reasons. Focusing on a reason that has personal significance or that focuses on the bigger picture will most likely produce the best results. Goals are best achieved when they are specific and measurable. “I will exercise more” is not a specific or measurable goal. “I will exercise for 30 minutes each day on the elliptical machine” is specific and measurable. Goals should also be attainable and realistic.

INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Increasing physical activity can facilitate weight loss and reduce your risk of a number of health problems including, a various cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Weight bearing exercises can help prevent broken bones. A study by Colcombe et al. (2006) found that older individuals increased their brain volume by participating in a 6 month aerobic routine. (Geronto. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 61: 1166, 2006.) Older adults who exercise regularly are also less likely to fall.

These are just a few of the reasons that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a minimum of “2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).” (http://www.cdc.gov)

EVALUATE YOUR NUTRITION

Eat less red and processed meats. Eating a lot of red meat has been found to increase heart disease and colorectal cancer. ( Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(6):562-571.) Red meat that has been cooked at high temperatures can contain mutagens. Mutagens can induce changes in DNA, which can cause cancer. Nitrites from processed meats can combine with bacteria and the iron and protein in your gut to form N-nitroso compounds that can be carcinogenic. (Carcinogenesis, March 2007; 28: 685 – 690.)

Increase your intake of whole grains and vegetables. Eating fiber that comes from natural sources like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and constipation.

DECREASE YOUR STRESS LEVELS

Living in a constant state of stress can raise levels of cortisol, a hormone in your body that, among other things, regulates metabolism, blood pressure, and insulin levels. Ironically, exercise and proper nutrition can both lead to decreased stress. Try taking a daily walk to clear your mind or practice deep breathing exercises and stretching to reduce your stress.Find balance. Most often we are stressed because we are living unbalanced lives and therefore have very little time to relax and unwind.

There are many other ways to increase your fitness. You could stop smoking, drinking soda, and eating sugar, but those listed above are the best place to start. These simple actions will provide a wonderful foundation for increasing your fitness that can be built on over time.