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The importance of physical fitness cannot be emphasized enough. In today’s society that is moving towards a more sedentary lifestyle, there is a greater need than ever to increase the daily activity level to maintain both cardiovascular fitness and body weight.

Benefits of Physical Fitness

Staying active means keeping your body functioning at a high level. Regular exercise will maintain the performance of your lungs and heart to most efficiently burn off excess calories and keep your weight under control. Exercise will also improve muscle strength, increase joint flexibility and improve endurance.

Another main benefit of physical activity is that it decreases the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in America. Additionally, it can decrease your risk of stroke, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Regular exercise has been long associated with a fewer visits to the doctor, hospitalization and medication.

Exercising does not have to be something boring and dreaded. It can be something that you enjoy that helps to increase the overall happiness in your life, as well as relieve symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Try to find some activities that give you pleasure, or even a buddy to do them with so that exercise is a fun and enjoyable activity (and one that you continue on a regular basis because it adds something good to your life).

What Activities Are Beneficial?

It is not what you are doing, as much as it is whether or not you are doing something. Any type of moderate activity like walking, swimming, biking or organized sports can contribute to your physical fitness. Explore your fitness options at your local gym, community center or community college for courses and organized activities that may suit your lifestyle and interests.

To get the most benefit, you should begin by warming up for 5 to 10 minutes to increase your blood flow and prepare your body for activity. Follow the warm up with several minutes of stretches to increase your flexibility and lower your risk for injury. Complete your selected exercise or activity for 20 to 30 minutes and conclude the workout with 5 to 10 minutes of cool down and stretching.

Who Needs Physical Fitness?

Everyone! It is important for all people to stay active throughout their lives. Because of busy work and home lives, more than 60% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical fitness daily and these numbers generally increase with age.

Throughout adulthood is one of the most important times to maintain an exercise regimen. This is the ideal time to maintain your weight, build strong bones and prevent many chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Many adults do too much exercise at once. After a long work-week, many people try to fit lots of activity into the weekend and push their bodies excessively. This sudden increase in activity can raise the risk of injury which would then stop activity for weeks. Experts recommend working out several times over the course of a week with varying exercises for the most benefit to your health.

Tip No. 1: Drink Plenty of Water or Other Calorie-Free Beverages.

A man drinks from a bottle of water.

Drink a glass of water before you dive in to a calorie-laden snack. Sometimes thirst can be confused with hunger, so if you drink water first you may feel less hungry. Herbal tea (unsweetened) and flavored sparking water are good options if you’re craving more than plain water.

Tip No. 2: Be Choosy About Nighttime Snacks.

A woman snacks on an apple and peanut butter.

After dinner is the most common time to indulge in mindless eating. Sitting in front of the TV, you don’t pay attention to the number of calories you consume. Try forbidding nighttime snacking, or plan for a low-calorie snack (such as half a cup of lowfat ice cream or a 100-calorie pack of cookies) at a certain time.

Tip No. 3: Enjoy your favorite foods.

An apple pie.

Moderation is the key to enjoying rich foods. You don’t have to eliminate them completely, but you can try buying only a small portion of candy instead of a bag or buying one fresh bakery cookie rather than a full box.

Tip No. 4: Eat Several Mini-Meals During the Day.

Types of different mini meals to be eaten throughout the day.

It’s hard to cut calories when you’re always hungry. People who eat four to five small meals a day report less hunger and are better equipped to control their weight. Divide your daily food consumption into small meals and snacks and spread them throughout the day. Try to eat more, earlier; make dinner the last time you eat in the day.

Tip No. 5: Eat Protein at Every Meal.

Salmon steaks cook on a grill.

Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, plus, it keeps you feeling full for a longer time. Protein is also important for maintenance of muscle mass. Choose healthy proteins such as lean meats, seafood, egg whites, soy, nuts, beans, or yogurt and lowfat dairy products.

Tip No. 6: Spice It Up.

Jars of spices.

Flavorful foods can also help you feel satisfied and full. You may not eat as much if the food is full of flavor. Spices or chilies can help season your food, or try eating a red-hot fireball candy if you’re craving a sweet.

Tip No. 7: Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy, Convenient Foods.

Healthy foods stored in convenient containers.

Stock up your kitchen with healthy snacks and ingredients in advance. If you know you have the makings of a quick, healthy meal at home, you can avoid the fast-food line. Some good staples to keep on hand include whole-grain pasta and breads, frozen vegetables, lowfat cheese, canned beans and tomatoes, salad greens, and pre-cooked chicken breasts.

Tip No. 8: Order Children’s Portions at Restaurants.

A woman looks at a restaurant menu with her two children.

Ordering children’s portions in restaurants is a popular way to keep consumption to a reasonable level. Using smaller plates to make your portions appear bigger is a similar tactic. You’re more likely to feel satisfied when your plate looks full.

Tip No. 9: Swap a Cup of Pasta for a Cup of Vegetables.

Bowtie pasta salad.

Swapping one portion of starch (about a cup) for vegetables saves about 100-200 calories. Doing this for a year can lead to a full drop in dress or pants size.

Tip No. 10: Always Eat Breakfast.

A woman eats a bowl of cereal.

Skipping breakfast is a bad idea for those seeking to lose weight. Some studies show that skipping breakfast makes weight loss more difficult, since it leads to hunger and potential overeating later on in the day. Healthy breakfast choices include high-fiber grain cereals, lowfat milk and dairy products, and fruit.