Eating well and being physically active are two of the most important things you can do to promote good health. But knowing you should do these things does not always mean it is easy to actually do them.
Despite the simplicity of the message “eat healthy and exercise,” many people struggle with knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. This is largely due to the complicated and ever-changing nature of nutrition and exercise science and the fact that most people receive little education in these areas.
You may even feel like the information you read and hear is designed to confuse you. That may be true, considering that much of the nutrition information we get comes from food companies that are trying to convince us to buy their products. Even scientific research can yield conflicting results, challenging even the most knowledgeable professionals, myself included, to make sense of it. And even if you do decide to make eating or activity changes, the “best” diet or exercise program claims may make you wonder if you made the right choice.
Given this, it’s not your fault if you struggle to understand basic health information and recommendations. But it is your responsibility to learn as much as you can to make the best choices for you and your family.
This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week
This won’t be easy, of course. The popular media, as well as social media, promote confusion and false promises about nutrition by making claims that some foods are “toxic” while others are “super foods.” The old “good carb, bad carb” or “good fat, bad fat” arguments have been given a new life as “eat this, not that” lists. The problem is that many of these claims are not supported by science. The research that is done often yields complicated or conflicting results that aren’t explained in a way that actually helps people make good decisions.
The same is true for exercise. No one doubts that exercise and physical activity are essential for good health, but there are conflicting claims about specific benefits of exercise and what the best form of exercise really is. This can lead to the idea that if you aren’t doing the right exercise, it doesn’t count. Nothing could be further from the truth! While there are reasons why some athletes might want specific types of training, the majority of people can benefit from simply spending less time sitting and participating in some activity each day.
So, what can you do? Given the confusing and changing nutrition recommendations it’s best to focus on what hasn’t changed. That is, to eat real food rather than processed, prepackaged foods and making water your drink of choice. Planning meals and snacks to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, meat, eggs, and dairy should give you plenty of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Instead of worrying about the “perfect” exercise, make it your goal to do something active for at least 30 minutes every day. Beyond that, dedicating time for aerobic, strength, and flexibility training will bring greater benefits. Remember, the best exercise for you is the one you will do! Seek advice from people you trust and credible professionals, but remember that if what they tell you sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Your responsibility isn’t to understand all the nutrition, exercise, and health information you encounter. It’s to try to make a few simple, healthy choices despite that confusing information: Sit less, move more, and eat real food.