Staying Fit - Temptations could lead to health problems
By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on June 10, 2007 2:02 AM
Temptations and distractions provoke people into habits that could lead to long-term health problems.
Fast-food chains which promise zero grams of trans fat lure you to their menu. But before you know it, that fatty tissue begins to build and increase weight gain.
Eating and then sleeping or stretching out on a sofa doesn't aid the digestion. Distractions such as television, computers and video games take away valuable minutes of exercise which help burn calories.
More than millions of people in the United States -- approximately 61 percent according to the Center for Disease Control -- are overweight or obese. It's more common in rural areas and cities where the smell of good cooking wakes up the taste buds and can lead to overeating.
The challenge is educating the public on developing a more suitable lifestyle that mixes healthy eating with proper exercise.
"In the community, most people are overweight. Eastern Carolina has a real problem with obesity because of our lifestyle," said Eric Nance, the Pope Wellness Center director at Mount Olive College. "I think the more we can educate people about diet and nutrition, especially in this area, I think we'll have better results.
"When you combine that with exercise that they've probably never done before, then that will really help."
Where to begin
A lifestyle change is necessary.
Adults and children are not expected to go "cold turkey," but they need to reduce their food intake and find ways to burn those calories.
Kriquette Davis, associate executive director of the Goldsboro YMCA, says to make a positive lifestyle -- one that you can live with -- is important. Avoid the "temporary fix."
"Start off with moderate things like slightly changing your diet," said Nance. "Cut your sweets -- instead of eating them two or three times a week, maybe eat them once a week. Try to be healthy throughout the week. Get on a routine and try to stick with it."
A positive diet is one of the easiest ways to make positive changes with your body. Poor diets are learned and passed down from generation to generation -- part of the reason families can see a trend in diet-related health issues.
"The number one health problem is high blood pressure," said Nance. "That's the biggest thing and that can lead to heart problems, especially heart attacks and strokes. That's probably the biggest killer here in North Carolina. Then you also have high cholesterol and diabetes."
A study conducted by the North Carolina Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Program (HDSP) stated that approximately 40 percent of the state's deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease. The study also revealed that one heart-related death occurs every 20 minutes.
Avoiding the convenience and cheapness of fast-food restaurants saves money. It also helps increase your chance of living a healthier life and eliminating costly medical bills.
"In the long run, you're going to spend more money on doctor's visits and health care expenses," said Davis. "It's pay now or pay later. You have to decide what it is you want to do."
Most restaurants now offer "heart-smart" entrees, particularly grilled or baked items, on their menus. Chicken, turkey, seafood and egg whites are a perfect source for positive calories. Vegetables, of course, are a great source of vitamins required by the body.
"I think that's one thing in the United States is you can look around and see how everyone is getting more self conscious," said Nance. "It's finally coming to a light that we have a problem. You're seeing a lot more companies coming out with products that are better for you."
When preparing a meal, avoid extra butter and salt. It's a good idea to season foods with herbs, spices and natural sea salt. Limiting meal portions and how often you eat plays an important role in devising a healthy diet.
But finding that nutrition niche, says Nance, is comparable to working out.
"Find the things you like," said Nance.
Don't miss a meal.
Starving yourself affects the body's metabolism. The body becomes accustomed to eating habits and if not fed on a regular basis, the metabolism decreases and caused more calories to be stored.
A person's long-term health can be affected, too. Muscles lose their mass, fingernails turn brown and become brittle, and hair loss can occur.
"It's not good for any of your organs because you aren't getting the nutrients that you need," said Davis. "I think people don't really see the risk in doing that. After a while, your body just can't function."
People in search of a better, healthier body need to be selfish.
"It's not vanity, it's life," said Lori DuBose, wellness director and post-rehab specialist at the Y. "It's not becoming self-centered, but you have to spend time on yourself. You have to make that commitment."
Don't start the commitment late in life, either. People in their mid-30s and 40s begin to show signs of health problems. The body's metabolism changes as well as muscle strength.
DuBose says don't give up hope.
"There is a natural process that happens around the age of 35, you begin a gradual decline of muscle mass," she said. "You will get weaker if you don't challenge those muscles. The great thing is you don't have to let that happen if you train the muscles and be diligent about doing it."
When people begin to work out they usually go at it hard with a full head of steam, but then tend to back off in the coming weeks and months.
"(At the) first of the year people are always gun ho, but then they start missing a few days, get discouraged and stop coming," said Davis. "It takes six weeks for people to make something a habit. The biggest thing is finding something you like to do.
"They need to find something they enjoy and that's going to burn calories efficiently without hurting them."
A reachable goal leads to a more-productive workout.
"You don't have to go to the gym every day for two hours," said Davis. "You need to set goals that are reasonable. You need a mission that you can accomplish."
Starting out too hard can hurt the body in the future. The body can adapt to the type of workout it's being put through and, over time, a person can actually experience a loss in metabolism because the body is expecting for those calories to be burned off.
"Don't start off so high that you are messing your body up and you can't keep up with what you're supposed to do," said Davis.
There are no types of exercises that will burn 50 pounds of fat or add toned, stronger muscles in a week. The road to being physically fit isn't a sprint, it's a steady walk.
"I try to not let them become overwhelmed by giving them too much too soon," said DuBose. "I think all too often people try to do too much too soon and the body starts to retaliate in some ways. Try to break things down in something that is manageable and add on as you go."
Nance recommends a one-hour workout four days a week.
"If they can dedicate that amount of time, the work will go a long ways to helping them," said Nance.
Staying motivated, finding a workout partner helps and changing your daily routine helps.
"Every three weeks you change your routine so you don't become burned out and that way, the body accepts the change and rises to meet the new challenge," said DuBose. "It takes time though. Everyone is different as far as the amount of time."
A better cardiovascular system leads to a stronger heart and lungs. You'll feel better on daily basis as you tone and add muscle, and notice the difference when you look in a mirror.
However, avoid the scale. Burning calories and lifting weights changes the balance of muscle in the body. You might not see a weight change since muscle is heavier than fat.
"I take measurements instead because that way you can tell differences," said Nance. "You then start seeing that this shirt or these pants feel a little bit looser."
Exercising releases endorphines in the body and alleviates stress. The more a person works out and notices the gradual changes, the more confident that person becomes.
DuBose, Nance and Davis all agree that making changes in your life aren't easy and not to get discouraged. Remember the sacrifices make the results more worthwhile.
"Don't give up on yourself," said DuBose. "Everyone strays away from your goal once and a while, but people need to remember they've got a life ahead of them and if they want that to be a quality life, then they've got to get up and move.
"If you don't get up and move now, you certainly won't later."
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