Resolution season is upon us and according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, something is better than nothing when it comes to diet and exercise changes.
"Physical activity helps you feel better immediately – it increases your sense of well-being," said Dr. John Foreyt, professor of medicine and director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at BCM.
Improving mental health
"You feel great after a brisk walk. That feeling can lift your spirits throughout the day and can help you stay on a healthier diet, get your work done more efficiently and enhance your overall mood. Regular physical activity is one of the most important behaviors we can do to improve our overall physical and mental health."
According to Foreyt, the benefits of regular physical activity include weight control and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and even some cancers. Exercise also helps strengthen bones and muscles, improves libido, reduces depression and anxiety and aids in getting a good night's sleep.
For those just starting out, Foreyt recommends starting slowly and gradually increasing the amount of exercise. Most guidelines say that about 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week can significantly improve health and well-being.
"But any amount of physical activity is better than none at all," said Foreyt. "The best exercise is the one you are willing to do. For most, brisk walking is the exercise of choice. It is easy, cheap, convenient and effective in improving our health."
Next, dietary changes
Foreyt recommends doing as much physical activity as your body lets you, and resting when you need to. He also recommends talking to a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, especially if you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease.
Incorporating dietary changes to the routine is the next piece of the puzzle. To lose weight, dietary changes have to go along with physical activity.
"The secret of achieving and maintaining good health is to incorporate small behavioral changes into our lifestyle that we can live with. Take it one day at a time. Regular physical activity is one major key to a long, healthy life," said Foreyt.