Getting into summer shape should be a year-round goal | VailDaily.com

Getting into summer shape should be a year-round goal

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Healthy eating and exercise should be daily, lifelong goals, rather than short-term fixes for unhealthy habits

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente

Healthy habits shouldn't ebb and flow as the seasons change, but many Americans tend to gear up for summer sunshine by setting exercise and nutrition goals that stray from their typical routines.

While a short-term weight-loss goal can motivate people to be healthier, physicians don't recommend healthy lifestyles as a seasonal choice.

"Healthy eating and exercising are meant to be year-round," said Dr. Carol Venable, Internal Medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente's Frisco Medical Offices.

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For those who strive to make healthy habits a year-round routine but still fall short, the safest way to try to get into summer shape is to change habits in ways that are sustainable long-term. That means incorporating subtle nutrition and fitness habits rather than making major changes.

"I advise patients to start with a trifling amount of activity for a short duration and slowly work up to more rigorous regimens," Venable said.

Fitness

Colorado does well in many health rankings — we've been dubbed the fittest state, the state with the lowest obesity rate and one of the least couch-potatoey states, among other rankings — meaning many Coloradans have shorter-term health and fitness goals that are likely to be realistically attainable. But that doesn't mean people don't try to overdo it when they're dreaming of fun in the summertime sun.

"People often are overly zealous," Venable said.

Focusing on exercise outcomes rather than exercise itself could lead to higher risks of injury, according to Harvard Medical School. It's important to find exercises that match your abilities, which includes using the right equipment and wearing the right shoes. It's also essential that people know their limits and exercise accordingly.

"Just like plants don't grow to full height overnight, so, too, people should not expect to be marathoners in just a session or two of exercise," Venable said.

Overuse injuries account for nearly 30 percent of all workout-related injuries, according to a study of college athletes published in the Journal of Athletic Training. That's why anyone starting a new exercise regimen needs to understand why proper resting also is necessary.

Nutrition

Venable advises patients to consider healthy eating habits as a lifelong goal. When people jump from poor eating habits to an extreme change, such as a crash diet, other health risks can arise.

Gallstones, a loss of lean body mass, poor overall nutrition and more are some of the risks of crash dieting, according to the Obesity Action Coalition. There's also something called the "rebound effect," in which most people who lose weight during a short period of time gain it back.

"When you drastically reduce calories, even if you need to lose weight, your body thinks you are starving. As a protective mechanism, your body slows your metabolism – but this makes it harder to keep losing weight," according to the Obesity Action Coalition. "It also means that when you start adding more calories, you can regain weight very quickly. Many people will find they regain faster than they lost after this kind of drastic diet."

This goes back to Venable's points that healthy eating isn't something people should undertake short-term. Incorporating these habits into daily life will lead to greater overall health, including lower body weight.

"Fitness and healthful eating are lifelong goals," she said. "It is important, therefore, to come up with solutions that are not short-term fixes, but rather sustainable approaches that can be easily incorporated."

Ideas for dealing with healthy eating challenges

  • Drink a glass of water before eating.
  • Watch serving sizes. Measure and weigh your food so you can learn what your portion sizes should be.
  • Learn how many calories are in specific food servings. It won’t take long for you to know the calorie counts for foods you eat most often.
  • Practice eating slowly.
  • Include food that’s high in fiber, such as whole grains and vegetables, to help you to feel fuller.
  • Plan healthy snacks between meals. This can keep you from getting so hungry that you overeat at meals.
  • Notice how your feelings affect your hunger. Do you turn to food when you feel anxious, upset, or stressed? If so, look for other ways to make yourself feel better, such as deep breathing, meditation, a walk, writing in a journal, or calling a friend.
  • If you take insulin, learn to balance the amount you eat at meals with the amount of insulin you take.

*Source: Kaiser Permanente


Rules for safe exercise

  • Start with a warm-up.
  • Learn the correct way to do specific exercises.
  • Boost activity level gradually if you haven’t been exercising regularly, then work your way up to more complex routines.
  • Pay attention to your body and rest when necessary.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Exercise within your ability level.

*Source: Harvard Medical School