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Tips for keeping fit this summer

6/25/2011, 9:09 a.m.
Tips for keeping fit this summer

(ARA) - Summer is here and the time is right for achieving your personal health and fitness goals. Whether you are looking to tone up for the last bit of bikini season or are looking to increase your overall fitness to enjoy the wealth of outdoor recreation available in the sunny summer months and coming fall, making choices that improve your overall health are key.

"Exercise is by far the overall best thing people can do to enhance their physical and psychological well-being," says Dr. Kevin Sverduk, associate professor and chair of the Sport-Exercise Psychology program at Argosy University, Southern California. "Regular exercise will boost your mood, sharpen your mind, give you greater self-confidence, reduce your chances of getting sick, and expand your energy."

"We have a unique opportunity to exercise more in summer," says Dr. Suzanne Forbes-Vierling, a fitness/cardio instructor and chair of the College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Argosy University, San Diego. "Whether it's biking, power-walking with friends, trying out a new cardio routine, dance classes such as African dance, Afro-Cuban, Latin, belly-dance - try something different and exciting to shake up an old routine."

Remember, however, that you should consult your doctor prior to starting any physical activity.

Fitness is about more than what we do physically with our bodies - it's also about what we put into our bodies. "It's important to consider a permanent lifestyle shift in how we manage food - and eliminate diets," says Forbes-Vierling. Niki Wray, registered dietitian and nutrition instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Phoenix agrees. "For a nutritionist, 'diet' is the food and beverages that we consume. For most of the public, however, it's a loaded word that implies something we do for a short time."

So how do you find the right eating plan to suit your needs? "The government has new Dietary Guidelines for Americans," says Wray. Designed to remind Americans to adopt healthier eating habits, "MyPlate" has replaced the food pyramid as the go-to source for nutrition. "As an improved visual of a healthier diet, we're very excited with the new food plate recently released," Wray says. For the complete guidelines, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

"The site allows you to plug in your age, weight, height and activity level to determine a customized food plan," says Wray. "The goals include eating less, drinking more water instead of beverages with many calories, switching to low-fat dairy options and reducing your sodium intake."

Sverduk also encourages an understanding of the glycemic index when eating. "The glycemic index of foods is a number that correlates to the rate at which food you eat will be digested and converted into sugar. Foods that have higher GI such as breads, rice and sweets, raise the blood sugar level very quickly. When one's blood sugar level is high, the body is stimulated to store the excess sugar as fat. Foods that have a lower GI such as chicken, beef and nuts, are digested much slower and do not raise the blood sugar level as high and as quickly. When the blood sugar level is normal or slightly low, the body will be stimulated to burn stored fat," he says.

Blood sugar levels can also be regulated through exercise. Thus eating a reasonable diet with low GI foods and regular bouts of exercise will help burn excess fat. You can learn more about the glycemic index of foods and find the GI for the foods you eat at www.glycemicindex.com.

"Every day is a new day and an opportunity to make healthy choices," says Sverduk. "If you fall off the program, just get back on. Be realistic, consistency and patience are the keys to successful lifestyle change."