Weight loss may be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear words like exercise, physical activity, nutrition, diet, and healthy eating, but there’s much more to it. A lifestyle that consists of physical activity and proper nutrition is important to your overall quality of life, more than just the benefit of weight loss. The truth is that physical activity and nutrition are essential to a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Why Physical Activity is Important
Physical activity and exercise are crucial for your body. There are many physical as well as psychological and emotional benefits that come with daily physical activity. Not only will exercise help you maintain a healthy weight, or even decrease excess weight, you will have more energy, improve your mood, and feel better when you are consistently active.
Engaging in regular physical activity and exercise has many benefits to your body and can help protect you from many diseases such as:
- Heart disease, leading to heart attack or stroke
- High blood pressure
- Back pain
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
Physical activity improves mental health conditions, including
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma
- Higher Self-Esteem
There are other surprising benefits that exercise provides:
- Sharper Memory
- Improved Concertation
- Better Sleep
- More Energy
- Stronger Resilience to Cope
- Better Immune System
If physical activity isn’t already part of your daily routine, it could feel overwhelming trying to fit this into your day, so start with small changes. Start by exercising for 15 to 30 minutes five days a week, until you can work yourself up to an hour or more of physical activity per day.
Here’s some ways to start incorporating physical activity into your day:
- Take a brisk walk after meals, for 10-20 minutes
- Take your dog for a walk in the morning and evening
- Walk to the store or other places within reasonable walking distance instead of driving
- Go on a bike ride, hike, or swim
- If you have kids, play games with them outside
- Be active in your home by keeping up with household chores (e.g., sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing are great ways to be active)
- If you’re feeling ready to make big changes, start jogging, join a gym, or play a structured sport, such as joining a local baseball team
Remember, with physical activity, start small and try things you can easily incorporate into your life. You'll have better success sooner and stick with it longer. As you’ve mastered new activities, like taking walks, increase your distance and speed. Then overtime, add more vigorous exercises more frequently, like jogging and running.
Why Nutrition is Important
Good nutrition is just as important as exercise for your overall health. By Improving your diet, you will enjoy increased energy levels, a stronger immune system, and generally feel well more often. A nutritious and balanced diet of lean proteins, carbs, and good fats can help you eliminate extra weight and reduce your risk of many diseases such as:
- Heart Disease, leading to heart attack or stroke
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Stones
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
Good nutrition can also help improve mental health problems, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.
A proper diet should be low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium
Examples of fats to avoid are trans fats and saturated fats contained in fried foods, fast foods, packaged foods, baked goods, sweets, and anything cooked in lard, cream, and vegetable oil.
Similarly, foods with high cholesterol should be limited and only eaten in moderation.
Examples of high-cholesterol foods are egg yolks, red meat, processed meats like bacon, and sweets such as cakes, pies, and cookies.
Lastly, there’s sodium (salt), which naturally occurs in all foods, but there are some foods you should avoid overeating: canned and packaged meats (lunch meat, bacon, ham), frozen meals like burritos and pizza, and canned foods like chili and beans or vegetables with salt added.
Avoiding foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium will greatly improve your wellbeing and help you feel better physically and mentally.
A well-rounded diet should include lean proteins, carbs, and good fats
For lean proteins, try quinoa, natural nut butters, oatmeal, black beans, and white meat chicken. Protein is essential to your healthy diet, as it fills you up, keeps you energized, and eaten in moderation helps you shed extra weight.
Good nutrition also includes whole carbs, such as vegetables, fruit, potatoes, nuts, and whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa. Finally, make sure your healthy diet includes good fats. Food containing good fats are avocados, olives, olive oil, unsalted nuts and seeds, and fish.
Another important aspect of good nutrition is calcium, which keeps your teeth and bones strong. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are a great source of calcium.
Try lower-fat options to keep your overall fat intake down. Dark green vegetables like broccoli are also rich with calcium. There are also fortified foods available, which means that the makers of these foods have purposely increased the nutrition levels through vitamins and minerals. Examples of fortified foods include some soy products, breads, and cereals.
Start small when trying to improve your diet and nutrition
Just like with exercise, it can feel overwhelming to make so many changes to your diet all at once, so start small by making healthy habits a part of your daily routine, such as eliminating a couple bad foods or swapping a couple of foods for healthier options. Instead of a bag of chips, try eating carrots sticks. You’ll still get that crunchy snacking satisfaction, without all the fat. Making small changes will help you have success sooner and encourage you to keep trying and adding new healthy foods in your diet.
When most people think about physical activity and nutrition they think about weight loss, but now you know there’s many more reasons why it’s important to be physically active and eat healthy.
If you have concerns about your health, talk with your doctor. We have doctors who can help you at Orchard Hospital’s Medical Specialty Center—Your Everyday Health Care Clinic—offering walk-in care or appointments.
Contact us today to schedule your appointment
Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior healthcare. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.