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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Exercise


Begin spring on an active foot

Jessica Kovarik, RD, LD, former Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension


How often are you physically active? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 25 percent of Americans were not active last month.


If you are that one person out of four who was not physically active last month, what kept you from being active?


If the thought of spending hours at the gym or on the treadmill bores you, then think outside the gym. You don’t have to pump iron or sweat to the voice of your aerobics instructor. In fact, the possibilities of ways to be physically active are endless.


Physical activity is defined as any movement of the body that burns energy. Using your muscles, including your brain, uses energy. Therefore, ways to be physically active include walking the dog, gardening, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, playing catch and doing chores. Even reading burns more energy than just watching television.


The Dietary Guidelines provide diet and exercise information to help Americans prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Currently, the guidelines encourage each person to be physically active at least 30 minutes most days of the week. If you’re looking to maintain your weight, engage in physical activity 60 minutes most days of the week. Do you want to lose weight? Then you’ll have to increase your physical activity to 90 minutes or more on most days of the week. Remember, the more intense your workout, the more energy you’ll burn.


With spring arriving, now is a great time to get outside and explore. Want to get the whole family involved? Then plan an outdoor family vacation and bring along plenty of comfortable clothes. Try visiting a local or state park — maybe hiking and camping will become a new family hobby. Try a simple game of catch or take your pet on an adventure to a new part of the neighborhood. Whatever you enjoy, get outside and do it!


As you begin to increase your physical activity, be sure to provide more fuel for your body. This includes drinking plenty of fluids, especially as the weather gets warmer. For short durations, water is best. For longer periods of time, more rigorous activities and/or during hot conditions, you may need to drink a sports drink in addition to water. And don’t forget snacks! For eating on-the-go, try a granola bar, nuts or other easy-to-pack snacks. For longer trips, fruit, veggies and sandwiches are great.


Physical activity has so many benefits. Being active helps lower blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. It also improves your mood and helps keep your bones strong. Most of all, it’s fun. So start moving today!


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Last update: Monday, March 20, 2017