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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

April is Move More Month

The American Heart Association and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute are promoting Move More Month in April to encourage people to become more active on a regular basis.

Being physically active and consuming a healthy diet are the most important components of overall health for all ages. You can’t have one without the other. And the best news is that becoming fit can be lots of fun because the ideal way to work your body is by doing many different types of activity. Dancing, swimming, nature walks, ice skating, gardening, and biking are just a short list of fun ways to become fit.

Make exercise a family affair. Like adults, children need to be fit. Together, exercise can be fun for everyone. What’s the best time to exercise? Anytime! Based on the latest science, The Federal Government has issued Physical Activity Guidelines. Check them out at

Some easy ways to move more throughout your day:

  • Work out at work. Most people get two, 15-minute breaks at work. Walk during these breaks. It’s a great way to get away from your desk and it helps to de-stress you at the same time.

  • Park and walk. Park farther away from the entrance next time you go to the mall.

  • Phone Call Catch-Up. I know people have busy lives and as much as we want to put down our phones, it’s hard. But why not catch up on those calls while you are out walking?

The basic components of fitness include cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. To be truly fit aerobic, stretching, and resistance exercises should be part of your fitness plan.

Cardiorespiratory fitness improves the health and function of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system by increasing the capacity of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the blood. At the same time, it improves the transportation of nutrients and waste products to and from the body's cells. Cardiorespiratory fitness also changes your body composition by increasing fat utilization and thereby reducing overall body fat.

Resistance training such as lifting weights improves muscle strength and endurance. Yoga and stretching increases your flexibility and prevents injuries. Together, these exercises improve circulation of blood and nutrients throughout the body, strengthen bones, and protect against chronic diseases.

An effective fitness program can be designed by using the FITT principle: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type of activity:

  • Frequency of exercise is a fine balance between providing just enough stress for the body and allowing enough time for healing and adaptation to occur. A safe frequency for each type of activity is generally 3 to 5 times per week.

  • Intensity is defined by the amount of effort a person puts into the activity. Intensity can be measured in different ways such as measuring heart rate.

  • Time is the duration of the physical activity. As with the other aspects of the FITT principle, time varies depending on the health-related fitness component targeted. For example, stretching may take 5-10 minutes, while aerobic activity takes a minimum of 20 minutes.

  • Type or kind of exercise you choose determines the training response. For example, an individual wishing to increase arm strength must exercise the triceps and biceps, while an individual wishing to increase aerobic endurance needs to jog, run, swim or perform some other aerobically challenging activity.

Fitness and Nutrition

Carbohydrate and fat contribute most of the energy needed for physical activity, while protein is needed to promote muscle growth and recovery. Well-trained muscles are more efficient at using energy sources by storing more carbohydrate, utilizing more fat for energy, and preserving carbohydrate stores for later use. The amount of carbohydrates needed per day to fuel activity varies based on the duration of the activity. Requirements for fat are the same for everyone: 25- 30% of total calories per day. Most recreational exercisers can meet protein needs with 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day; that's the RDA for healthy adults. The timing and type of foods you eat around exercise can have a significant effect on energy level and recovery time. A performance diet can help optimize fitness.

Adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals can be consumed in a healthy diet so supplements are usually not necessary. Highly active individuals should make extra efforts to include enough calcium and iron in their diet. Being adequately hydrated before, during, and after exercise is important to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and normal body temperature. Water is the preferred beverage for hydration, but sports drinks can be beneficial when exercise lasts longer than an hour. Dietary supplements such as creatine, caffeine, anabolic steroids, erythropoietin, and blood doping may enhance performance but often cause serious health effects; speak with your doctor if you are planning on using them. Sports bars and shakes can be a convenient as a meal or snack, but are often much more expensive than whole foods.

Fitness Lasts a Lifespan

People who stay even moderately fit as they age may live longer. Much of the deterioration that we associate with age is actually a result of inactivity. Studies have shown that sedentary lifestyle, rather than differences in cardiovascular risk factors or age, may explain higher mortality rates in the least-fit versus more-fit individuals. Evidence also suggests that exercise can reduce arthritic pain, relieve depression, and increase mobility. Many age-related ailments such as stroke, osteoporosis, and diabetes can be prevented simply by doing exercises like weight training, swimming and walking three to five days a week, regardless of age.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and get moving!


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