By Alicia Stevens
As the days get longer with the sun shining brighter, consider these ways to be successful in keeping a fit lifestyle for yourself and your children. It’s the perfect time of year to get outside and get moving!
What is fitness?
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, attributes of physical fitness include physical endurance, relative strength and power. Your ability to keep up with your children is an example of your physical endurance; for some, it’s a motivator to get fit. The amount of weight you can lift compared to your body weight determines your relative strength. How quickly you can express that strength determines your power. These three features collectively determine your level of fitness. Improved fitness improves heart and lung health and reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes and stroke.
Assess where you are
To get started, assess where you are. You can determine your overall fitness level by visiting your local gym for an assessment. Each gym will have a unique program to determine your fitness level, but will also consider your BMI and body fat percentage as part of this process.
Megan Schuler, of Anytime Fitness in Grenada, suggests all parents “find a local gym where you feel comfortable with professionals in health and fitness.” Anytime Fitness in Grenada has a means to even tell you how your results compare to your actual age, which can be eye-opening for many.
According to Leigh Lovelace, program director of Delta Fit — established at Mississippi Delta Community College through a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation — the program “uses the Valhalla Scientific Scale, among other assessment tools.”
Review your eating habits
“We were not wired to live in a world of abundance, (and) becoming aware of what you are putting into your body helps,” explained Tyler Schuler, also of Anytime Fitness in Grenada.
Being fit starts with fueling your body properly. Keep a food journal for a week, then look for areas where you can make changes to your own, and your child’s, eating habits.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends starting small. Start with one thing at a time, looking for ways to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products as part of a healthy eating plan. Small things add up.
The American Heart Association recommends children aged six and older get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including three days of vigorous intensity aerobic activity and three days of weight-bearing activity. Adults should get 75 minutes per week, including both vigorous aerobic activity and two days per week of moderate- to high- intensity muscle strengthening activity; but even light intensity activity can offset the risks of being sedentary.
Types of moderate intensity aerobic activities include brisk walking, dancing, gardening, tennis or biking slower than 10 miles per hour. Vigorous intensity aerobic activities include hiking, running, swimming laps or jumping rope.
Knowing your target heart rate will help you know if you are doing enough. Your target heart rate is 50-75-percent of your maximum heart rate for moderate intensity activities and 70-85-percent for vigorous activities. Maximum heart rate can be estimated by subtracting your age from 220.
These numbers are only estimates.
“Listen to your body,” Tyler Schuler cautioned. If your resting heart rate is increasing, then this could be a sign of overtraining. Other signs include fogginess and a general sense of not feeling well. He also advises to start with the basics, getting comfortable with them and then building from there.
Whatever you do, keep track of your progress. Seeing how much longer you can do a particular activity as time goes along can be a real source of encouragement. Whether in little bits here and there or large bits of time, be sure to keep moving. Your heart, your lungs and your overall health will thank you!
Alicia Stevens, a resident of Pearl River County, is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two who enjoys traveling with her family and friends.