Are you looking forward to the summer but worried about how you’ll look on the beach? If so, it appears you’re not alone – one survey found that 82% of respondents feel the pressure to shape up before baring it all on the beach.
t’s not just a question of aesthetics either, we should also be concerned about how healthy we look and feel. According to the GHA’s Healthy Gibraltar site, living an active lifestyle can help you to feel more energetic and feel better about yourself. Medical research shows that sufficient physical activity can lower your risk of certain diseases by up to 83%, and there are several key aspects of health that can be improved:
Integrating exercise into your daily routine can improve your lifestyle with regards to inactivity and obesity. It will also improve mood, relaxation, help you to sleep better, and be able to deal with everyday stresses more effectively. Some research indicates that regular aerobic exercise decreases depression and improves confidence and self-esteem. Certain hormones called ‘endorphins’ released into the body from the brain while exercising are deemed responsible for the mental health benefits.
Exercising the major muscles enhances muscle strength through to old age, keeping limbs strong and bodies flexible. This dramatically reduces the risk of falls, hip fractures and improves overall bone health. Vigorous exercise increases deep breathing, and a good respiratory function is essential for sound health.
Impaired glucose tolerance and other aspects of diabetes often result in the individual being overweight and inactive, and having high blood pressure and lipids (fats). Exercise, as part of a lifestyle change, has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Most people could benefit from starting to increase their level of physical activity immediately. However, if you are worried about becoming more active consult your GP first. Gentle and sustained exercises such as walking and cycling are good for the heart and stimulate good blood circulation. This changes the proportions of high and low-density lipoproteins in the bloodstream and helps to reduce atherosclerosis, coronary thrombosis and blood pressure. In addition, levels of stress which induce coronary heart disease (CHD), the single most-common cause of death, can be reduced.
There are a number of biological benefits in the body following physical activity, a number of which are believed to be responsible for reduced cancer rates. Lowering the levels of certain hormones (including insulin and oestrogen) and growth factors are believed to impact both colon and breast cancer development. The generalised improvement of the immune system and reduction of inflammatory responses are also believed to play a role.
Here are a few more tips, courtesy of Holland & Barrett, to help you slim down for life.
Instead of diving into a punishing exercise regime, start off with workouts you enjoy a few times a week, such as walking the dog or a dance class, for a more sustainable approach to reaching your ideal weight. As gym buffs are fond of saying: “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. So even if you’re pounding the treadmill several times a week, all that effort will be in vain if you’re eating the wrong foods. A healthy diet, supplemented with whey protein and strength-training exercises – such as body pump and kettlebells – will build muscle mass, which is helpful for losing weight, as the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn.
Not only is chewing more slowly and thoroughly better for your digestion, it also takes roughly 20 minutes for your body to realise it’s full. So taking your time means you won’t be raiding the fridge immediately after you’ve polished off that roast dinner.
Eating next to nothing, not only leaves you feeling zapped of energy, grouchy and obsessing over food (which can trigger binge eating), but causes your body to enter “starvation mode” meaning it will start burning muscle and storing fat. Other health risks include having your periods stop, as well as hair loss and osteoporosis. A better approach to losing weight is to eat smarter – not less. Cutting out junk is the obvious one, while prioritising fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains and vegetables will help maintain energy levels so you’ll be less prone to hunger-induced grazing.
Rather than eliminating your most-loved treats completely, there are ways to compromise so you don’t feel like you’re missing out and blow the diet completely. For example, instead of having a glass of wine, swap it for a vodka and diet tonic. Or rather than snacking on chips, try making sweet potato wedges.
Pasta-fiend? Switch to healthier wholegrain spaghetti. And when it comes to dessert, frozen yoghurt or sorbet are less likely to pile on the pounds than ice cream and cake.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.