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Three steps to a healthy lifestyle

Health and wellness is a hot topic in the media today and rightfully so, as we’ve all experienced the difficulties of being unwell. We’re constantly bombarded with the latest and greatest diet and exercise advice, creating uncertainty of the best path to optimal health.

Where do I start? In my experience as a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer for over 20 years, I suggest you focus solely on lifestyle choices under your control such as diet, exercise and your immediate environment.

It’s obvious that each of these three areas can include myriad possible lifestyle adjustments so, for the sake of simplicity and effectiveness, start with one action for each. Below is a snapshot of my suggested lifestyle choices. For more information, continue reading beyond the table.

Health Area Action Notes & Suggestions
Diet Reduce refined sugar intake Cut out sugary drinks, alcohol, sweets, white breads, rice and pasta
Exercise Exercise 3 days/week Full-body circuit training for 30 – 40 minutes at a medium-to-high intensity
Environment Reduce allergens in your home Use air filters and damp cloths to remove allergens; regularly wash and dry all bedding to kill dust mites

Diet
Start by reducing your refined sugar intake. This includes foods that don’t exist in nature such as sugary drinks, alcohol, pastries and certain types of white breads and pastas. Your body is forced to release insulin every time your blood sugar spikes from ingesting simple sugars and over time this taxes your pancreas and may lead to insulin resistance and many health-related issues such as diabetes, increased inflammation in your joints and unnecessary weight gain.

Exercise
Many people interpret daily lifestyle choices such as walking to work or school as fulfilling exercise requirements. Although these are commendable lifestyle habits, it’s important we add formal exercise to our weekly routine. Commit to exercising three days a week for 30-40 minutes each time. Choose a continuous activity such as jogging, cycling or a fun sport, or complete a group of exercises that raises your heart rate to a point where it’s difficult to hold a conversation. Circuit training is a popular choice these days where you complete four to six full-body exercises in a row and repeat as a group two-to-three times. Including resistance exercises with dumbbells and/or resistance bands is most effective. If you don’t have access to equipment, body weight exercises can work as well. Here is a sample program that strengthens your entire body and challenges you to maintain an elevated heart rate.

EXERCISE REPETITIONS EQUIPMENT INSTRUCTIONS
Standing Chest Press 20 – 30 Resistance Band Stand in a lunge position holding the handles at chest level. Exhale as you push the handles away from you.
Alternating Lunges 15 – 20 per leg Dumbbells Standing with dumbbells by your sides. Take a long stride with right leg and return to start position. Continue with the left leg and alternate until reps are complete.
Plank 60 – 120 sec Body Weight Resting on your forearms, maintain a straight body position
Standing Rows and Squat 20 – 30 Resistance Band In a standing position pull the handles towards you as if you’re rowing. Complete a full squat as you straighten your arms to the start position.
Side Lunge & Curl 15 per leg Dumbbells Standing with dumbbells by your side. Take a long step to one side and arm curl the weights as you return to the start position. Continue until all reps are complete. Repeat on other side.
Mountain Climbers 20 – 40 sec Body Weight Start in a sprinter’s start position. Alternate bringing your knees and feet towards your chest for the set amount of time.

Complete these six exercises followed by a quick water break and repeat the whole set two to three times. If you’re unsure how to perform these exercises, there are many free online resources or fitness professionals available.

Environment
Spring cleaning brings a sense of relief and accomplishment by getting rid of clutter in your home. More importantly, it can clear your immediate living environment from dust and allergens that can wreak havoc to your immune system. Allergens such as dust, mold and insect droppings are carried through the air and find their way onto all surfaces such as furniture, floors and bedding. Removal of dust is the best first step to cleaning your indoor air. Make sure to use a damp cloth and a vacuum with a quality filter. As for bedding and pillow cases, washing and drying on a regular basis will eliminate all dust mites.

Reggie Reyes rreyes@ucc.on.ca