Fitness for Life

Author: Winston Craig, MPH, PhD, RD.

People everywhere are walking, cycling, jogging and swimming for the sake of their health. A regular aerobic exercise program along with a balanced diet is essential for the maintenance of good health. There are now so many ways to keep fit. For example, you can even cross-country ski in your bedroom in the middle of summer with a NordicTrack. Consumer demand for exercise equipment is growing rapidly and is already a $2 billion a year business.


Staying physically fit prolongs life

Benefits of A Regular Exercise Program

What are the benefits of a regular exercise program? There are many benefits and they include:

  • stress reduction
  • improved mental outlook
  • strengthened immune system
  • owered blood pressure levels
  • lincreased bone mineralization with a decreased risk of osteoporosis in the elderly
  • lowered risk of heart disease, with increased HDL cholesterol levels
  • improved control of diabetes improved weight management

Getting in shape and staying in shape does not require many hours of intensive training. Up to 5 hours a week can achieve a good level of fitness. The acronym FIT describes 3 important aspects of exercise.

F is for frequency. To be beneficial exercise must occur 3 to 5 times per week. It is important that exercise be regular so as to reduce the risk of injuries.

I is for intensity. The full benefit to the cardiovascular system is achieved when exercise elevates the heart rate above its normal rate. There is a simple formula to follow for one to know if the exercise is intense enough. Your heart rate should be increased to about three-quarters of the value of 220 minus your age.

T is for time. Each exercise session should last about 30 minutes; a little more for gentle forms of exercise such as walking, while 15-20 minutes is sufficient for more vigorous exercise. Persons who are inactive should begin a fitness program gradually and slowly work up to the levels suggested above.

Foods For Performance

The diet that allows a person to achieve their optimal performance level consists of a high-complex carbohydrate diet (breads, cereals, pasta, fruits, and vegetables) that comprises about 60-70% of the calories. Fat intake should be about 20-30% fat and protein 15%. A high carbohydrate diet facilitates a higher level of endurance than a high fat and high protein diet.

There abounds a myriad of myths and misinformation about fitness and athletic erformance, some of which may actually be detrimental to one’s performance. Some of these ideas include the following:

  • competitors need additional protein and amino acid supplements for energy and to build muscle mass
  • extra vitamins and minerals are needed for extra energy
  • sugary foods are needed for quick energy and should be used before and during performance
  • supplements such as bee pollen, lecithin, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, honey, caffeine and other ergogenic aids improve performance.Such agents are largely ineffective – salt tablets are needed to replace sodium lost in sweating.
  • The use of salt tablets may lead to dehydration.

An athlete must give proper attention to the need for water. To maximize performance one should drink 2-3 cups about 2 hours before and 2 cups 15-20 minutes before the exercise session. And what is the best sports drink? During strenuous exercise, it is best to drink about 1/2 cup of plain cool water every 15 to 20 minutes to avoid dehydration and overheating. Carbonated drinks should not be used as they may cause cramps nausea, and diarrhea during exercise. “Sports” drinks are not essential. If they are consumed they should contain less than 10% sugar.

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