Develop the right attitude. The mind may not be a muscle, but it’s still incredibly strong, and can make the difference between succeeding and failing at your goal. Being fit is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires making changes to your entire lifestyle.
Don’t approach this with the mindset that you can abandon the changes you make as soon as you reach your ideal fitness goal, or you risk slipping into your bad habits again. Being fit should be incorporating things into your life that you can eventually do by second nature—by habit.
Incorporate more physical exercise into your daily routine. By regularly challenging yourself, you keep your physical self “tuned up.” If getting fit means losing weight, this will help the pounds melt away—and stay away! If you’re training for endurance, this is the way ensure steady improvement.
Take the subway or bike to work/school instead of driving. If that’s not possible, park several blocks away from your office building to force yourself into two 15-minute walks every day. When you go to the grocery store, hardware store, movies, or mall—park at the end of the lot instead of wrangling for a spot near the front door. These small changes definitely make a long-term impact in your fitness.
Clean your house vigorously. You’d be surprised how physically taxing housework is: dusting your shelves, cleaning your toilets, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and cleaning the garage will definitely give you a workout. Making yourself and your family clean parts of your house on a regular basis (i.e., every week or every other week) will not only create a better environment for you to live in, but also make burning calories, staying flexible, and keeping in shape a much simpler process.
Start an exercise regimen and stick to it. Try running or using the treadmill a set number of days a week, gradually increasing in intensity and/or length of exercise. You could also try purchasing a book that schedule workouts for you, like Five Factor Fitness. Though you should try to tailor your workouts to your own style as much as possible, the two areas of fitness that everyone should address are strength training and cardio:
Building muscle through strength-training will not only increase your strength and tone, but also increase your metabolism, as muscular people have been shown to burn more calories even when they’re at rest. If going to the gym isn’t for you, try strength-training at home.
Cardio workouts improve circulation and endurance. Good cardiovascular health is not only good for heart health and blood pressure, it has even been linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Doing interval training (i.e. alternating between low- and high-intensity activity) has been shown to be a an especially fast and effective way to improve heart health and endurance.
Note: anyone over the age of 60 or who has heart disease, high blood pressure, or arthritis should consult a doctor before attempting interval training.
Switch things up. Any physical activity that takes a bit of effort will help you get fit, but it’s important to remember that variety is the spice of life—and of physical fitness! More importantly, as your body gets comfortable performing a certain activity, it learns to do it more efficiently, making it easy for you to plateau in your workouts. Keep both your body and your mind guessing by enjoying a diversity of activities and having fun:
Dance for exercise. Anything from ballet dance to breakdancing or even jump style will increase your fitness if you stick with it.
Jump in the pool. It doesn’t matter if you’re treading water, dog paddling, or mastering the butterfly stroke. Swimming is a good form of exercise that can be fun, too.
Walk the dog. Your dog, the neighbor’s dog, your girlfriend’s sister’s cousin’s dog…it doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a dog, go to a dog park and play with someone else’s dog. You meet good people, you get exercise, you socialize, and you can snuggle a puppy while you’re at it!
Keep track of your progress and be proud of minor improvements. Don’t be discouraged if you stop losing weight or if you have a few setbacks; remember that overall, you’ve put yourself on an upward trajectory and that’s definitely something to be proud of.
Don’t think that just because you have one setback, you may as well scrap it all and give up for the day. There’s a big difference between consuming 500 calories and 1000 calories of junk food, so keep yourself motivated towards progress.
Give your body fuel. As you become more active, you’ll need more food, but not just any food—you need healthy, energy-laden food that will jump-start the next phase of your day, not weigh it down. Learn how to eat healthfully and drink more water.
Learn to eat right. Start by switching to whole grain. It’s healthy and delicious. It might not be what you’re used to, but you’ll enjoy the richer, nuttier flavors. Cut out unhealthy snacks and replace them with fruits and vegetables. The high fiber and water content will make you feel full, and the high vitamin and mineral content will nourish your body naturally.
Drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. It keeps you hydrated, promoting optimal metabolic activity. Moreover, water takes up a great volume in your stomach, so you will feel fuller without having consumed many snacks or meals. This is a great tool to keep off the excessive calories that you don’t really need, but consume due to psychological eating or not knowing your satiety levels.
Carry a metal water bottle around with you at all times. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get in your recommended 64-80 oz. of water each day. It’s also cheaper than purchasing drinks whenever you get thirsty, and better for the environment.
Eat foods with a low glycemic index. These are foods that take longer for your body to digest and convert into energy, so you will feel fuller throughout the day with a smaller number of calories. Moreover, you avoid the “sugar rush” that comes as a result of eating foods with a high glycemic index, getting a nice boost of sustained energy throughout the day instead. This will keep you uplifted whether you’re doing work or exercising.
Keep your house stocked with the right food. Purchase the healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soups, etc. that you want yourself to eat, and keep the junk out of your cupboards so you won’t be tempted. It’s not bad to indulge once in awhile, but it’s too easy to do so if you keep your house full of unhealthy treats. Instead, the best litmus test for your true desire to indulge is if you’re willing to make the trip to the bakery or supermarket to purchase it. (Even better, make that trip on foot or by bike, if possible!)
Before you indulge, drink two 8 oz. glasses of water. If you still want the treat after that, go for it. Sometimes our brain confuses our hunger or cravings for food with thirst. Water, surprisingly, is one of the best cure of cravings.
Let your body rest. When you’re giving your body a run for its money with varied physical activities, you also need to let it recover and renew by getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Determine how many hours of sleep you need in order to feel refreshed in the morning, then discipline yourself to wake up and go to bed at the same times on a daily basis.
Not getting enough sleep also comes at a huge expense to your immune system. You’re much more likely to get sick if you don’t give your body the energy or time to fight against infectious viruses and bacteria, and you’ll take longer to recover from common conditions like a cold.
Sleeping too little has also been linked to overeating. Be sure that you don’t deprive your body of sleep energy or you will make it up in calories.
Get a check-up. To stay fit in the long run, you should perform regular maintenance on your body, just as you would with a car. Take yourself to the doctor and dentist regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly on the inside and to prevent any potential problems from arising.
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