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Small changes to diet, exercise rewarding

One of the nation’s top growing problems with health and wellness is the increasing population of unhealthy Americans. The nation has seen an increase in the number of doctors visits, hospitalizations, prescribed medications and deaths because of an overwhelming increase of overweight Americans. Many of the nation’s leading causes of illness and death are all rooted and associated with being overweight and out of shape.

Exercising and dieting does not have to be stressful or demanding; it can be fun and entertaining. With dedication to a healthier lifestyle and a few small changes in your daily routine you can be on your way to an improved body in no time. By increasing your weekly exercise habits and making minor changes in your diet you will begin to see slow, progressive changes in your health and wellness.

The benefits of a regular exercise program go well beyond that of just losing weight. People start a diet or exercise routine for many different reasons, most of which pertain to physical appearance. However, it is important to understand that with losing weight your body undergoes many other positive improvements.

An increase in physical activity greatly reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. Your heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle in your body it needs to be exercised. By performing 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week you can lower your blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”). It also increases your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol”) and increases your blood flow circulation.

Those people who suffer from diabetes also will see an improvement. By reducing your fat levels and blood pressure you improve your blood circulation and see less traumatic injuries and medical emergencies related to noninsulin-dependent diabetes.

A regular exercise program also can help improve your posture, chronic muscle and joint pains, osteoporosis, and muscle atrophy. In the process of working out and losing weight you increase your muscle tone. Individuals with chronic or ongoing pains will see a massive improvement. Weight-bearing bones and muscles wear down and tire. Building these muscles back up and shedding excess pounds allows the muscles and bones to realign themselves into the body’s natural anatomic position, relieving a lot of stress on overworked bones, muscles and joints.

An increase in physical activity and cardio workouts has been clinically proven to improve your psychological health as well. This means by working out you can decrease your anxiety, stress and depression.

In conjunction with an exercise program, a healthful and nourishing diet should be incorporated. It would do your body little good to implement a workout routine without applying a nutritious diet. Aim for a balance and variety. Adding more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and cutting back on fats, salts and sugars will increase your overall health.

Healthful eating provides your body with the essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to increase your energy levels and boost your metabolism. You will notice a decrease in the frequency of illnesses and injuries almost immediately. Your digestive tract and body’s immune system will benefit most from these positive changes. By removing the toxins and waste typically trapped in the small and large intestinal tract your metabolism will increase and your immune system strengthens, giving your body the necessary strength to combat illness.

Making changes is hard! It is not natural for your body to go against the normal. If your current routine does not include healthful eating and an exercise regimen, your body will kick, scream and fight against any changes.

Most people start a diet and workout plan and revert back to their previous ways within a week or two. If you are serious about making changes, set goals. By making small achievable goals on a weekly basis you are more likely to reach your overall goal of a healthier you.

Find a partner. It has been clinically proven that those individuals who work out or diet with an accountability partner have much more success than those who attempt to do it alone.

Starting small and gradually increasing the frequency of your aerobic exercise or the intensity allows for your body to make subtle, less aggressive changes. Stick with the program and you will see results.

Many people find is discouraging when they haven’t seen the changes in the mirror, but don’t fret, you are making a lifestyle change and the more you stick with it the more you will notice the benefits.

If you have any additional questions about health and wellness, or feel like you may need some resources on exercising and improving your diet, contact your local registered dietitian.

Brian Shea is a Boulder City paramedic/firefighter.

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