Tips for being healthy and avoiding summer weight gain
By Jessica Smith, brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Staying healthy is a year-round activity, but sometimes certain seasons can encourage people to make a change for the better. Summer, with its sunny skies and warm weather, sends an encouraging message to people cooped up inside — come out and enjoy the fresh air.
Getting into shape requires not only consistent exercise but healthy eating habits. Patricia Dietzgen, a family medicine doctor at Kaiser Permanente in Frisco, gave the following tips on avoiding weight gain and staying in shape this summer.
Slip light exercise into your daily routine
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym — there are myriad ways to throw in some easy exercise elements into everyday life. Dietzgen suggests little steps such as marching in place at your desk, walking up and down the stairs a few times at work or simply going on a short walk during break time.
She also recommends choosing something you love to do, whether it’s walking, biking or even dance. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it’s a scheduled, consistent activity. “The point is, just do it, and do something every day,” Dietzgen says.
Warm up and stretch
Everyone should do some kind of warm-up before physical activity, but especially those who may be getting into it after having been inactive for a period of time. Jumping into exercise without warming up could result in strained or pulled muscles, knee injuries or other issues, which would then keep you from your newly created exercising goal.
Set small goals
Unlike what many people have come to expect from a life of smartphone apps and internet connection, exercise doesn’t always create instant gratification or immediately recognizable results. That’s why Dietzgen says it’s important to set small, achievable goals for yourself when it comes to fitness. Don’t try to do 20 push-ups in a row, but start with two, or even one. Then a few weeks later, add two more, and so on.
“By setting small goals and increasing it slowly, you’ll be really surprised that just over a couple of weeks, how many more you can add,” she says.
Make your exercise functional
Many basic exercises are useful in that they target several muscle groups at once. Dietzgen emphasizes focus on functional exercise, chosen with the purpose of making certain movements easier, whether that’s kneeling down on the floor with kids or grandkids, or effortlessly lifting your carry-on luggage into the overhead compartment on an airplane.
Simple exercises like pushups, sit-ups, lunges and squats can be done anywhere and don’t require special equipment to perform. Dietzgen recommends starting with these and eventually moving on to higher strength movements like jumps and burpees when you’ve increased your fitness level.
Don’t just diet
“People ask me every day — what’s a good diet, how can I lose the most weight?” says Dietzgen. “Never approach it from the idea of ‘I’m going to go on a diet for a set period of time.’” Often with that mentality, while a short gain may be seen in weight loss, once the diet ends, it’s too easy to fall back into bad habits.
Rather than participating in the latest fad diet, Dietzgen suggests making lifestyle changes to improve your eating habits.
“That way you’ll gradually lose weight and you’ll enjoy it and maintain that weight loss,” she says.
The key to a healthy diet is avoiding pre-packaged foods, or anything that’s too processed. Focus on “real food,” she says, such as fresh vegetables, or foods that don’t have labels. One of the easiest ways to avoid eating foods you shouldn’t, she adds, is to not buy them in the first place.
Find your health buddy
Lastly, Dietzgen suggests leaning on others to help maintain your healthy lifestyle choices. Colleagues at work could form teams or set up friendly competitions, family members could join walks or bike rides.
“Joining the rowing club at the lake or joining a bicycle club, that would be terrific,” Dietzgen says. “Over at the rec centers they have lots of clubs, too, and that way you get that mutual support.”
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