Lose weight and stay healthy

lose-weight-and-stay-healthyAre some of you trying to lose weight but don’t know where to begin? Nowadays, when searching on the Internet, people will find it hard to decide which diet plan is good for them. In this article, we will show you different features to help you consider which one is good for losing weight.

Let’s check out things you need to know before starting your diet plan.

CALCULATING YOUR BMI

BMIBMI stands for the Body Mass Index. There is a BMI chart which based on your height and weight to identify the level of your body. To illustrate, doctors often use this chart to identify whether one person has malnutrition or obesity. There are 5 levels of BMI taken from the World Health Organization include:

  • Less than 18.5 – Underweight
  • Between 18.5 and 25 – Healthy weight
  • Between 25 and 30 – Overweight
  • Between 30 and 40 – Obese
  • Over 40 – Very obese and you have high risk of taking health problems.

CONSULTING WITH YOUR DOCTOR

You should have your doctor prepare and give some recommendations on your diet plan. He can show you different solutions to get away from overweight and have a healthy life.

There are some main things that you can do to achieve a healthy lifestyle. In addition, trying to be more active in daily life, eating healthy food and choosing a diet plan are effective methods to solve these problems.

TRY TO BE MORE ACTIVE

Research has shown that doing physical activities regularly helps preventing many health problems such as obesity, heart attack or diabetes. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to lose weight or to have a healthy lifestyle, doing exercises every day is very necessary and important. For some people who are too busy to spend a period of time for doing exercises, check out some small activities below so that you can practice them whenever you want:

  1. Try to take the stairs instead of using the elevator.
  2. Spend less time watch TV, you can do the housework such as cleaning the floor, washing the dishes or taking care of your small garden.
  3. Take a walk outside every day. It is good that you jog regularly in the evening.
  4. When going shopping, try to park the car far away from the supermarket. Therefore, you will have to walk to the shop and it is also doing exercise!!

try-to-be-more-activeAmong these small activities, we suggest that you should spend a large amount of time for working out every day. For instant, one person should do exercises for about 2 hours in order to get a perfect shape. You can practice outside or at home, it depends on you. Moreover, it is great to take a look at some spin bike reviews on the internet and pick up one convenient machine for your practice at home.

EATING HEALTHY FOOD

You should eat healthier meals and snack. Don’t think that just doing a lot exercises will help losing your weight. Eating healthy is very important!

Contain various types of food for the body in every meal. Remember to consume more green products such as vegetables, fruits and drink fruit juice. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks or beer.

healthy-foodHOW TO PICK UP A HEALTHY DIET

Some people want to eat healthy by themselves, others often consider recommendation from online society. It is better if you can find what is good for yourself and stick with it for a lifetime.

You can search on the internet or books in the bookstore and figure out which method suits you the most. There are people and experts who have successful in picking a right diet plan and stick with it.

In conclusion, all recommendations above are things that you should consider for losing weight and staying healthy. You can find out more by searching on the internet or reading from books. Remember to take care of not only your health but the body shape as well.

Get the Scoop on Sit-ups

Find out the difference between sit-ups and curl ups–and what they can do for your abs.

sit-ups

Like most kids, Maegen used to suffer through a few sit-ups each week in gym class. But it was the two hours of dancing she did every afternoon that really convinced her of their importance. The 18-year-old Massachusetts resident is an avid dancer, and she’s learned it’s essential to have a strong “center” in order to execute all her moves more easily. “Strong abdominals mean I can lift, kick, and do backward movements without hurting my back,” she explains. And while she’s noticed that the sit-ups she’s done over the years have “definitely” made her stomach area firmer and flatter, she is also happy to find that her posture has improved. Now, she swears by a daily routine of at least 25.

Maegen is right on target, says B. Don Franks, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Kinesiology Department at the University of Maryland and senior program advisor for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Dr. Franks offers a clarification, however. “Let’s call them curl ups, not sit-ups,” he says. “Sit-ups imply that you’re raising yourself to a sitting position, and that’s not what you should be doing.”

sit-up3
“If you’re doing curl ups the right way, the benefits are three-fold,” Dr. Franks continues. “First of all, strong abdominals will help you avoid lower-back pain. If you already have a bad back, getting those muscles in shape will relieve it. Secondly, they make you look better by toning your middle.” Dr. Franks stresses that there’s no such thing as “spot reducing,” but if the abdominal muscles are taut, “the whole area is naturally going to look flatter.” Finally, curl ups can improve your posture, as Maegen has found, because strong stomach muscles mean it’s more comfortable to hold your back erect. With weak stomach muscles, on the other hand, you’re more likely to end up with a slight swayback.

What curl ups can’t do is strengthen your heart or help you lose weight. Only a good aerobic workout such as running, basketball, or swimming will do that. However, curl ups should be incorporated into your warm-up before you launch into an all-around aerobic workout. Do them at least five times a week. You can vary your routine by twisting as you raise yourself up, bending your left shoulder toward your right knee, and vice-versa. This strengthens the obliques, the abdominal muscles on either side of your torso.

The secret to making each curl up really count, says Dr. Franks, is to do it slowly. “Each curl up should take about three seconds from beginning to end,” he says. “If you do them faster than that, you’re apt to lose your form and hurt your back. Plus, doing the movement quickly means you won’t work your muscles as intensely.” When raising yourself up, keep your lower back flat on the floor. When you reach the point at which the lower back begins to come up, stop. One trick is to rest your hands lightly on your thighs. As you raise your body, let your hands slide up your legs. When fingertips reach your knees, you’ve gone high enough. At that point, lower yourself back down one vertebra at a time.

sit-ups2
And just how many curl ups are enough? Forget what celebrities tell you in the magazines. You don’t need to do 300 every morning, and you don’t need one of those special abdominal roll-up bars. “Thirty a day is the number to strive for,” says Dr. Franks, adding that 30 is the number set by the President’s Council. “Some people like to make it sound harder than it really is. But there’s no health advantage to doing hundreds of them.”

But, as Maegan discovered, there is a lot of value in incorporating curl ups into an exercise routine. It strengthens your abdominal muscles, helps you avoid lower-back pain, improves your posture–and helps you to look good and feel better.

 All the Right Moves

As with any exercise, you’ll reap the rewards of curl ups only if you do them correctly. Here’s how to get it right:

Lie on your back, knees bent, and feet apart and flat on the floor. Heels should be approximately 1 foot from the buttocks. Hands can be crossed over your chest, down by your side, or on your thighs. Keep your chin up, neck straight.

Tighten your abdominals and curl yourself up just to the point where your lower back begins to come up off the floor. (Dr. Franks calls this the “sticking point.”) Hold a second, then curl back down slowly. Going past the sticking point will not only stress your lower back, it will force you to work a different set of muscles than those you’re after.

Don’t tuck your feet under a chair or have anyone hold them.

The entire curl up should take about three seconds. If it doesn’t, you’re doing the movement too fast and not getting the maximum benefit. Stop if your back begins to hurt.

Gradually work up to 30 curl ups a day.

Finish with some slow, gentle stretches to make your back more flexible. One good one: Sit on the floor with your legs straight and spread as far out as possible. Reach and stretch slowly to grasp your right toe with both hands and bring your forehead to your right knee. Hold for a second, then sit up and reach to the left toe. Finally, bring legs together, grasp toes, and bring forehead to knees.

The new workouts that burn fat – fast

Thirty-minute exercise routines are described that are designed to burn off 1,500 calories per week when performed five time per week. Walking, biking, swimming, in-line skating, and golf exercise routines are described.

Busy wife/mother/employee that you are, chances are that exercising doesn’t exactly make it to the top of your priority list — even if you’d love to bum off a few pounds. Join the club. Dozens of recent surveys, including one published in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, reveal that time pressure is the number one reason people don’t work out. And as an exercise physiologist and fitness trainer, I regularly hear from my clients how tough it can be to fit in a regular workout routine.

The good news is, no one’s saying you have to spend countless hours at the gym to get in shape and lose weight. What you do need, however, is to be smart about how you exercise. And for busy women. That means knowing how to rev up the calorie bum for activities you may already do, from biking to swimming to just plain walking. You might be surprised to learn. for instance, that there’s a ten-minute power-walking workout that bums as many calories as running (more on that below). Put these clever strategies to work, and all you’ll need is 30 minutes five times a week to burn off 1,500 calories. That means you’ll drop about half a pound a week, without even dieting. Intrigued? Read on.

1. Walking

walking2True, running burns lots of calories quickly. But it can also be tough on your joints and set you up for problems like knee injuries and strained tendons. Enter power-walking. It bums calories like crazy — without being so hard on your body. Mind you, we’re not talking about sedate, stroll-through-the-mall kind of walking, but rather the eat-my-dust kind. “When you walk at speeds so fast that it would be easier to break into a run. your caloric burn increases exponentially:” explains Ray Giannelli, vice president of research and development for Cybex International (a manufacturer of treadmills and other exercise equipment) in Medway, Massachusetts. Exercise physiologists refer to this supersonic walking pace as “the gray zone,” and studies have shown that it offers a calorie burn equal to fast running — up to 133 calories in ten minutes. (A moderate-pace walk, by contrast, burns just 40 calories for a 130-pound woman.)

How to do it? Stand tall, with your shoulders relaxed, your elbows bent slightly more than 90 degrees as you swing them in opposition to your feet. Take short, quick, decisive steps, walking so fast that you have to hold yourself back from breaking into a trot. Power your leg movements from your hips so that your hips and rear move in a slightly exaggerated wiggle.

If power-walking isn’t your thing, you can still rev up your calorie bum by heading for hilly terrain instead of a pancake-flat course and walking at a comfortable pace. Taking on even modest slopes ups your calorie burn by as much as 30 percent (and helps tone your butt — always a plus).

2. Biking

bikingA leisurely 30-minute bike ride bums about 210 calories. Not bad — but working in a little “interval training” can increase the expenditure to 300 calories. The technique involves interspersing fast bursts of energy at all-out speeds with slower bouts. So, to turn your bicycle ride into a calorie-burning tour de force, alternate fast pedaling on an easy (low-resistance) gear for one to two minutes with slower pedaling on a tougher gear for the same mount of time.

3. Swimming

swimmingHere, too, you can make use of interval training — and give yourself a total body workout at the same time. Instead of sticking to the basic crawl lap after lap (which emphasizes the shoulders, arms, and back, and burns 500 calories an hour), intersperse the breaststroke and backstroke, each of which burns 600 calories an hour. Not only will you bum more calories but you’ll also work more muscle groups: The breast-stroke tones the chest, shoulders, butt, and legs, while the backstroke firms your shoulders, abs, and arms. Another way to burn more calories when you’re in the water: Consider taking an “aquarobics” class at your local pool or Y. The moves — typically done in waist- to chest-deep water — tone you all over and burn up to 550 calories an hour. (Plus, unlike regular aerobics classes, a pool workout is nonimpact, so it’s easier on your body.) Can’t find (or don’t fancy) a water aerobics class? You can bum about the same number of calories by striding as fast as you can back and forth across the pool in hip- or chest-level water.

4. In-line skating

inline-skatingIt’s the fastest-growing sport for women; some 4.3 million now in-line skate, up from 856,000 in 1992 (a rise of over 400 percent). To rev up the calorie burn, rather than just gliding along, follow an imaginary straight line and keep the center of your body aligned with it while leaning over slightly and pushing your legs out to the side (sort of speed-skater style) to power yourself along. When you skate with purpose, you double your bum (ten calories a minute. instead of five) because the larger muscles of your butt and legs get into the act.

5. Golf

golfIn case you haven’t noticed, golf has shed its retiree-in-Florida image to become a popular sport among men and women from their twenties on up. If you’re already a devotee — or are thinking of taking up the game — consider walking the links rather than riding in a cart. Golfers who walk and carry or pull their clubs burn about 280 calories an hour. And that adds up when you consider that you’re walking for three out of the four hours you spend on the course. Note: You may have to play at off hours; some clubs require carts during high-demand times.

A WEEK OF WORKOUTS — AT A GLANCE

When you put these exercise tricks to work, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to bum off 1,500 calories a week. Most of the workouts below take 30 minutes; if you haven’t been exercising for a while and that’s too intense for you, do what you can, increasing workouts by one to two minutes per workout per week until you can do the full half hour comfortably.

* SUNDAY: Grab the kids and go bike riding. Try out the interval training technique, or take on some hilly terrain; you’ll cycle off about 300 calories in 30 minutes.

* MONDAY: The first day of the work week is tough enough without trying to squeeze in a 30-minute workout — so you might want to make this one of your days off . (Or choose your busiest day to skip.)

* TUESDAY: Set your alarm a little earlier and head out for a 20-minute “gray zone” walk. Combined with a five-minute warm-up and cooldown, you’ll burn up to 330 calories.

* WEDNESDAY: Hump day. Let this be the night you do takeout, so you can pop in a 30-minute aerobic exercise video while your husband and kids head out to pick up dinner.

* THURSDAY: If your energy’s sagging, break up your routine into three mini-sessions. In the morning. jump rope for ten minutes (march in place whenever you need a break) to burn about 110 calories, or do ten minutes of “gray zone” walking for a burn of about 130. At lunchtime, take a brisk ten-minute walk, to burn another 50. Come dinner prep time, let your husband make the salad while you grab your kids, pop in a CD, and dance around the living room for ten minutes; you’ll burn 110 calories in the process.

* FRIDAY: Day off.

* SATURDAY: Go for a jog, alternating one minute at a faster pace with one minute at a slower one. Keep it up for 30 minutes and you’ll burn about 320 calories. If jogging strains your joints, try this fast-slow strategy with walking, swimming. or in-line skating.

THE HAND-WEIGHT MISTAKE

To intensify your workout, you might be tempted to carry hand weights as you walk or jog. Resist. Experts say you may actually decrease your calorie burn; when you’re holding weights, you tend not to move your arms as much. Plus, you’re more likely to develop shoulder and elbow injuries. To add an upper body element to your walking or jogging routine, says Kirstin Brekken Shea, senior lecturer at the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M University, swing your arms vigorously; you’ll increase your calorie burn by 10 to 15 percent. Other activities shea recommends to get your whole body in motion: swimming, jumping rope, high-energy dancing.

6 weeks to the tightest butt, thighs, arms, abs

toned-bodySimply the most effective (and fastest) moves to firm up whether spot is troubling you.

Whether it’s a saggy bottom, jiggly thighs, flabby tummy, or upper arms that keep waving even after you stop, chances are there’s a trouble spot that plagues you. The solution, according to Ann Marie Miller, fitness training manager for New York Sports Clubs, is to “whittle down your routine to just those exercises that give you the most bang for the buck.”

Typically, says Miller, these supereffective moves are “compound exercises”–meaning that two or more key muscles are called into action at a time. “This works your muscles in a way that produces greater results, faster,” she explains. And, according to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., an exercise researcher at the University of Mississippi, “by involving more muscle groups per movement, you’ll also slightly increase your caloric expenditure, so you can get more from your workout.”

To do the following routine, start with two sets of eight (or, if you can manage it, ten) repetitions of each move that targets your particular trouble spots. Or you can do the full routine, for a total body workout. As you get stronger, try to work up to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. Do the exercises every other day (or at least three times a week), and you should see results in six weeks. (Note: Don’t try to speed up the toning process by doing the exercises every day–muscles need a day off in between to repair and regenerate.)

The Top Toners

Squat

  • What it works: Butt, thighs, calves
  • Best because: You’re using your own body weight as resistance, which forces muscles to work extra hard.
  • To do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms straight out in front for balance. Keeping weight on heels, slowly bend knees and lower buttocks as if sitting in a chair. As you return to starting position, tighten butt muscles.
  • Tip: To check if weight is really back on your heels (which lessons knee strain), make sure you can lift your toes off the floor slightly.

Check out this video to learn more about squat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXJrBgI2RxA

Backward Lunge

  • What it works: Butt, front and back of thigh
  • Best because: Each leg is worked individually, which overloads the muscles.
  • To do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step back with right foot, bending both knees (front knee over ankle, back knee below hip). Tighten buttocks as you return to starting position. Repeat, stepping back with left foot.
  • Tip: Keep upper body still and positioned directly over hips to help maintain balance.

Push-up

  • What it works: Chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Best because: The angle of your body (especially if you work up to straight-legged push-ups) provides resistance, making this a very tough move.
  • To do it: Lie on stomach, hands on floor under shoulders, knees bent, ankles crossed. Keeping body in one straight line from top of head to knees, push up, straightening arms, then lower slowly.
  • Tip: Keep stomach tight to support back and help keep it straight.

Dip

  • What it works: Triceps, chest
  • Best because: It forces the entire tricep into action (unlike a tricep kickback with a dumbbell, which works only one small area of the muscle).
  • To do it: Sit on chair and place hands on edge, fingers facing your back. Keeping feet flat on the floor, knees over ankles, slide buttocks off chair and slowly lift and lower body using arms only.
  • Tip: For an advanced version of this move, try doing it with legs extended straight out, so that only heels are on the floor.

Arm Row

  • What it works: Biceps, upper back, shoulders
  • Best because: The all-in-one motion works all three muscle groups hard.
  • To do it: Place left knee and hand on bench or sturdy coffee table. Hold a five-pound weight in right hand; lift until dumbbell reaches hip. Then, switch sides.
  • Tip: If this starts to feel too easy, challenge your muscles with a heavier weight.

Crunch

  • What it works: Abs
  • Best because: The move tones upper and lower part of abs and the obliques (side muscles) all at once.
  • To do it: Lie on back with feet in the air, ankles crossed, knees slightly bent, hands cradling head. Crunch up, lifting head, shoulders, and tailbone off floor; lower and then lift and twist to the right. Repeat center lift, then lift and twist to the left.
  • Tip: Focus on bringing pelvis and rib cage together.

FIVE SECRETS TO HELP YOU TONE FASTER

1. TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT.

Rather than doing 20 reps with a three-pound weight, says Ann Marie Miller of New York Sports Clubs, try ten reps with a five- or even eight-pound weight. The idea is to overload the muscle, forcing it to become stronger, faster.

2. BUT TAKE YOUR TIME.

By moving through these exercises slowly, you’ll see results more quickly. When you race through moves, momentum takes over and the muscles don’t really reap the full benefit. (Just try doing a slow-motion push-up and you’ll feel how much harder your muscles are working.)

3. KEEP BREATHING.

You want to exhale on the exertion (as you lift the weight or work the muscle) and inhale on the release. Correct breathing helps you exert yourself harder and, in the case of abdominal crunches, helps you focus on pulling your stomach in to work the muscles more effectively.

4. BURN FAT.

If you want those muscles you’re building to really show, you can’t ignore aerobic activity. That means, for instance, running (or walking or cycling) for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week.

5. LOOSEN UP.

Always warm up before (try running in place) and stretch after your workout, each for five minutes. It helps your muscles repair themselves and become stronger more efficiently. R also helps to keep you from being sidelined by injury.

What’s the world’s best exercise? It’s your move!

walkingTeenagers can become physically fit through moderate exercise. Walking and doing chores such as dusting and vacuuming can provide this type of exercise. Some aerobic exercise is also beneficial. Exercise can improve self-esteem, improve alertness, and reduce stress.

Are you getting any real exercise? If not, you may be in what fitness guru Dr. Kenneth Cooper calls “the adolescent slump.” After the go-go years of childhood (remember when your day just naturally included running, jumping, wrestling, and dancing around like a nut?), studies show that many teens develop a more sit-down lifestyle. They ride in cars instead of walking. They sit and laugh at the “little kids” who still play group games out in the neighborhood. And instead of playing volleyball, football, or basketball, most teens sit on the sidelines and cheer the 1 0 percent to 15 percent of their peers who do compete in sports.

So, where did all those jumping, running little kids take a wrong turn? Cooper and other “kid fitness” experts say it isn’t their fault–that adults focus too much on team sports and competitions and too little on keeping middle school and high school students involved in the kind of noncompetitive activities that can lead to a lifetime of fitness. in short, they say, we don’t spend enough time and effort on the millions of teens who aren’t “on the team.” (Even basic P.E. requirements are being reduced or eliminated in many high schools.

The result? Too many active, fit children turn into less active teenagers who enter adulthood with what one expert calls a “declining fitness profile.”
OK, so that’s the bad news. And why are we telling you all this?
Because you can do something about it.
You can break the pattern. You can be more active, more “fit” as a teenager than you were as a child.
And you can head into adult life with a “fitness profile” that’s on the way up, not down.

How?
EXERCISE!
It’s Your Move

* 84 percent of children under age 10 are involved in physical activity with some community organization–but only 32 percent of high school seniors in another survey say they play sports or exercise three or more times a week.

Pull Up, Push Up … and Listen Up!
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before. Exercise is “good for you.” But do you really know why? We’ve got a little list….

* Exercise Can Improve Your Athletic Performance. A well-exercised body is more flexible, and the joints can move easily through a wider “range of motion.” Combine a specific sport with a good general exercise regimen, and you’ll find you have quicker reflexes, more stamina, and all the “moves” you need to play well.

* Exercise Can Reduce the Odds of a Sports Injury. in his Sportswise guide for young athletes, teen sports physician Lyle Micheli writes that “strengthening muscles enables us to resist sprains and strains … [and] to withstand the normal trauma of contact and collision sports such as football, soccer, basketball, and hockey.” If you spend most of the week as a couch potato, don’t rely on practices and games alone to make you fit, says Dr. Micheli. Make time for physical activity and exercise “outside” your special sport.

* Exercise Can Give You a Bigger, Better Heart. Did you know that the heart of a child or adult who exercises regularly can actually get bigger? An “exercised” heart (and we mean aerobic exercise that raises the heartbeat for 20 to 30 minutes) actually may beat a little slower when it’s “at rest,” but pumps more blood with each beat than a “lazy” heart does. At the same time, exercise can give your heart the ability to respond to high-stress situations without trouble. And exercise also increases the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in your blood–the “Roto-Rooter” substance that helps keep your arteries clear and open.

* Exercise Improves Mental Alertness–and May Even Help Your Grades! Studies of Canadian and French school children over a period of years showed that students who exercised every day performed better in many of their academic subjects than their peers who had only one exercise session per week.

* Exercising “Now” Can Mean a Healthier “Later.” Being fit in childhood and adolescence helps people fight off a host of diseases in later life, including heart disease, back pain, osteoporosis (brittle bones), diabetes, and high blood pressure. Regular moderate exercise helps the immune system ward off minor infectious diseases (colds, for instance). And in several recent studies, physically active adults (those who exercised regularly) were found to have lower death rates from several kinds of cancer.

sleep* Exercise Is an Effective Way to Reduce Stress, Control Depression, and Get a Better Night’s Sleep. If you’re feeling down or angry, exercise can help change your mood. “I have never started a walk angry and ended up with the same feeling that I had when I began,” says Casey Meyers in his book Walking. “You can literally walk your anger into the ground.”

* Exercise Can Boost Self-Esteem. When you feel and look better, you feel better about yourself. You don’t have to be the star of a sports team to think of yourself as a success, either. You can compete against yourself by setting exercise goals and sticking with the activities you choose: calisthenics, jogging, walking, cycling, swimming, etc.

* Exercise Can Add Fun and Friendship to Your Life. Fun and friendship? Those may not be the first words you think of to pair with exercise.” But if you work it right, you can have fun–and get to know friends and family better. Take an exercise class with a friend. Start walking three times a week with your dog. Organize a group to enter a local 10K race–even if you aren’t runners, most races will let you “fastwalk” the course together. Exercising with people you care about–minus TV sets, video games, and other distractions–can enrich the “personal” side of your life.

DON’T “Go for the Bum”

SHE kicks, twirls, and jumps for two hours a day in an aerobic dancing class.

HE walks 15 minutes to the supermarket instead of taking the car.

HE and a friend often spend weekends running in marathon races–and they train long hours during the week, too.

SHE gave up jogging last year (shin splints) and now “does the mile” in a swimming pool three times a week.

Which of these people are in tune with the latest thinking about exercise? If you guessed the hard-driving dancers and marathoners, you’re out of step.

These days, the gurus of exercise are talking “moderation.” Take it easier, they say. Don’t go for the burn. Don’t see pain as gain. Push yourself–but not too hard.

Fitness expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper and other fitness boosters want to get the word out that you DO NOT need to become a jock or a fitness fanatic to get the benefits of exercise. “Moderate exercise,” says Dr. Cooper, “something as simple as walking 30 to 45 minutes a day at a brisk pace, will produce the moderate fitness level that is associated with greatly reduced risk of death.”

Who gets the most from a good exercise program? Couch potatoes! “The greatest benefits achieved,” says a government study, “when the least active individuals [i.e., potatoes] become moderately active.” A long-term study of nearly 17,000 Harvard graduates found that health benefits–including a 20 percent the death rate!–began for who burned as few as 500 a week in exercise.

Walking 15 minutes a day or playing tennis for one hour each week will burn 500 calories. The studies say that active people should stay active–but that they don’t really improve health or lower the risk of death by becoming “extremely active.” What’s more, people who overdo exercise face a skyrockgting risk of injuries to muscles, joints, and other overused body parts.

Another 1993 report added that we should pay attention to the benefits of “real life” physical activity, too. (Your parents will LOVE this!) Dusting and vacuuming, raking leaves, washing windows, or cutting the grass is good exercise, too. We all still need a few short sessions each week (15 to 30 minutes each) of the kind of aerobic exercise that makes your heart beat fast. But in between, you can work on strength, stamina, and flexibility through exercise, sports, and other physical activities that get your body moving and working at a steady pace.

What activities? The choices are almost endless…and they’re up to you! Take a look at the list of sports and activities on page 11. Put checkmarks beside things you already do at least once a week. Circle activities you’d like to try. Be adventurous, but realistic: Some sports you may have to put off for later (surfing if you live far from the ocean, skiing if it’s too expensive, etc.). Focus on things you can actually do in your own area right now.

Fitness benefits from exercise can begin for people who burn at least 500 calories per week in deliberate exercise or activity. Draw up a list of activities you could do this week to use up 500 calories. (Use the per-minute calorie count on the chart that is closer to your body weight.) Then make a list of fitness activities you’d like to add on in later weeks. Visualize yourself now, and then “see” yourself after six months following this program. How do you feel? Bouncy, more energetic, better-looking? What things will you be able to do then that you can’t do now? Exercise is one way you can plan to make your life better: healthier and more fun.

Fifteen to 20 minutes of exercise is as relaxing as taking a tranquilizer, say recent studies. Why? Researchers think exercise releases increased levels of natural pain killers and “mood elevators” called endorphins into the bloodstream–creating a natural feeling of well-being and calm.

Eeny, Meeny: More Than One … Is Even Better!

By now you’ve got the idea: The world’s best exercise is the one you DO! Your goal should be to get some kind of “formal” exercise three or four times a week, and to find ways to put more “informal” activity into your life. Here’s how one high school girl’s exercise choices shape up:

  • Monday: exercise video (low-impact, 20 minutes plus warm-up/cool-down time).
  • Tuesday: soccer practice, including laps around the field.
  • Wednesday: treadmill in fitness center with Mom.
  • Thursday: soccer practice.
  • Friday: nothing much–but raked leaves and biked to a friend’s house.
  • Saturday: the game. We lost, but played hard.
  • Sunday: hiked around the lake with friends.

This girl is an athlete in training–and does more exercise than you’d need to bring yourself up to a “moderate” fitness level.

But fitness experts say this kind of varied routine is a good way to avoid boredom–and to reduce the chances of overuse injuries from working out “the same way” every time. But even if you change exercises from day to day, remember that building fitness means regular exercise sessions–three or four times a week, year-round. Why? Because your body tends to build fitness slowly, and lose it rapidly. Take one week off, for instance, and your cardiorespiratory (heart-lung) fitness will drop by 10 percent.

The best exercise “mix” often includes three somewhat different components:

  • A regular set of conditioning exercises for strength and flexibility (what your grandparents might call “calisthenics
  • Fun sports/activities that provide an aerobic workout: cycling, swimming, walking, tennis, rowing, dancing, and so on. (Focus on activities that make you breathe fast and keep your major muscles constantly moving and working–a sure sign that you’re getting the aerobic exercise your heart and lungs need.) With a little creative thinking, you can turn some of these workouts into social occasion–for instance, turning an exercise hike and swim into a social swim and picnic by inviting a few friends along.
  • stairsMore physical activity in your everyday life: tackling some of the harder aerobic housework (lawn mowing, leaf raking, window washing, etc.) … climbing the stairs even when there’s an elevator … parking “way out” at the mall … talking with friends while playing tennis or biking around the neighborhood, not just on the phone. Don’t know where to start? If you’ve been leading a fairly inactive life, start slow. Ask a friend or a favorite relative to go walking with you. Send for one of the exercise booklets listed below. Try out other activities as you go along–and don’t feel guilty about dropping something that doesn’t appeal to you: There are always other options. Just be sure to choose something, and (in the words of the ad) Just Do It. You know what exercise can do for you.

You know it won’t take much time out of your week to become an ex-couch potato. You know you’ll feel better about yourself and your life.

So … make your move today!