Tag Archives: healthy-living

Why turning off your phone is so hard, and what it means for losing weight

I had an interesting conversation with one of my students recently about making a behavior change. It brought up a good point. So good, I wrote about it in my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.


One of the courses I am teaching right now is Health & Behavior Change. In it we identify the major factors that contribute to chronic disease and discuss how to modify them to improve health. Throughout the course, the emphasis is on health behaviors and how to change them for the better.

For example, smoking is among the most difficult health-related behaviors to change. Obviously, there is the addictive nature of nicotine that makes smoking cessation challenging. Beyond the drug effect, smoking also has a behavioral component. This includes what a smoker does first thing in the morning, after a meal, or on a work break as well as the act of holding a cigarette in his or her hand. Add to that the social aspects of smoking, including the influence of friends and family members, and it is easy to understand why it is a difficult habit to break.

This same principle applies to other health behaviors, including eating and activity. Like smoking, what we eat and our activity level are complex behaviors that are difficult to change. Because of this, losing weight can be as difficult as quitting smoking for similar biological and behavioral reasons. We think of weight loss as being about a diet or exercise program, but it’s really about changing behaviors and habits.

his is a difficult concept to teach, so I have my students learn through experience. Since almost all of my students are non-smokers and most are active and at a healthy body weight, I have them complete a project in which they change some other behavior. They are responsible for identifying a behavior that has a negative effect on their life, coming up with a plan to change it, and embarking on a four-week behavior change experience.

One student wanted to change her social media habits. As a compulsive social media user, she spent more hours than she realized checking, posting, and commenting on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Her goal was to limit her social media time so that it didn’t interfere with classes or studying. One of the steps she took was to turn off the notifications that alerted her to new activity. This was helpful, but she still found the habit of checking her phone hard to break.

In a conversation, she noted that the one thing that would help more than anything else would be to switch her phone off during the day. This way she would have her phone if she needed it, but it wouldn’t be so easy, or tempting, to use it. Despite knowing the most effective strategy—the one thing—that would help her, she never did it.

I thought this was an excellent example of something that is common in making health behavior changes. In many cases, people probably know the one thing they need to do to be successful but for a host of reasons, they don’t do it. This may lead people to make other changes that aren’t nearly as helpful. While even the smallest behavior modifications can help, successfully losing weight or quitting smoking really does require making big changes.

This goes a long way in explaining why quitting smoking, losing weight, and changing eating and activity behaviors can be so difficult, even when people know what they need to do. There is no easy solution for this problem, but finding someone to hold you accountable for making the necessary changes and sticking to them is a good start.

When it comes to your health, don’t take the high road.

When faced with challenging moral or ethical situations we are advised to do what is right, even if it is more difficult. “Taking the high road” is often synonymous with living a better life. When it comes to your health, though, taking the high road may lead you on a path to chronic disease, disability, and early death.

The high road I am referring to in this case has nothing to do with ethical decisions. It has to do with test results, specifically measurements your doctor makes of your weight and blood pressure as well as blood tests of cholesterol and glucose. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

These tests are indicators of your current health as well as risks to your health in the future. The results of these measures are used to classify you as having “normal” or “high” blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol. For example, a fasting blood glucose between 70–100 mg/dl is normal but you are considered to have diabetes if your result is 126 mg/dl or higher.

Even if your blood glucose is above normal (100–125 mg/dl) but isn’t high enough for you to be classified as diabetic, it may still be too high. This condition is called prediabetes because without intervention most people in this category will eventually develop diabetes.

Considering that diabetes is a leading cause of heart attacks, blindness, and amputations, preventing your blood glucose from increasing should be a high priority.

The same is true for other measurements including blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), the most common assessment of obesity. Even if you aren’t considered obese or don’t have hypertension, the higher your BMI or blood pressure becomes puts you at increased risk of the condition getting worse over time or leading to other more serious health problems.

In fact, even within the normal range, a higher value is associated with increased health risks. Take blood cholesterol for example, where the risk of heart disease increases at total cholesterol levels above 150 mg/dl, well within the “normal” range of less than 200 mg/dl. At even higher levels, total cholesterol is associated with a much greater risk.

Clearly, having a high BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose, or cholesterol is concerning. But it is important not to be fooled into thinking that a value that is technically below the diagnostic criteria for “abnormal” is necessarily “normal.” For many, even slightly elevated levels of these variables now are likely to get worse over time.

The good news is that modest lifestyle changes including weight loss, regular moderate physical activity, and changes to what you eat can prevent conditions like prediabetes and prehypertension from getting worse. This can be achieved through losing as little as 10 pounds, walking or doing other activity for 30 minutes per day, and adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

To be sure, taking the “high road” with BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, even if your test results are within the normal range, can put you at increased health risk. For these conditions, you are far better off taking the low road and making the necessary lifestyle changes to stay there.

The diet wars continue

If you are confused or frustrated by the conflicting claims about whether a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet is the best, you are forgiven. First we were told that eating a low-fat diet was the best way to lose weight and improve heart health. Then, research suggested that low-carbohydrate diets were better. And back and forth it has gone for years.

During this time, the prevailing recommendations have suggested that a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates was best. But more and more research has supported the notion that cutting carbohydrates, not fat, would lead to greater weight loss. Although this has been supported by some research, critics pointed out that eating more fat would raise blood cholesterol and other risks for heart disease.

According to a recent study, though, low-carbohydrate diets seem to have benefits for promoting weight loss and improving some indicators of heart health over low-fat diets. But you should hold off on shunning fruits and vegetables in favor of cheeseburgers! Here is a practical interpretation of the research and some common sense recommendations, taken from my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

The study, published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reported on 150 men and women who either restricted the amount of carbohydrates or fat they ate. After one year, the group that ate a low carbohydrate diet lost over 7 pounds more than the subjects on the low-fat diet. Additionally, the low-carbohydrate diet promoted greater improvements in blood lipids than the low-fat diet.

This is important for two reasons. First, this wasn’t a weight loss study; the researchers were simply following the subjects to see what would happen as they followed either diet. The fact that the low-carbohydrate group lost more weight suggests that it is relatively easier to cut calories following this type of diet.

This is consistent with other research showing that eating more carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates and sugar, can actually make people feel hungrier and eat more. Indeed, other studies have shown low-carbohydrate diets to be more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets (although a more recent study suggests there isn’t such a difference).

Second, the greater decrease in triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase in “good” HDL cholesterol in the low-carbohydrate group were different from what might be expected. Conventional wisdom holds that a low-fat diet should have a greater effect on blood lipids. Since weight loss can have a big effect on blood lipids, the improvement in the low-carbohydrate group may be due to losing more weight, not a direct effect of the diet.

It is important to note that the low-fat diet also led to weight loss in this and numerous other studies. The critical component of any weight loss diet is that it is relatively low in calories, regardless of what nutrients supply those calories. Really, almost any diet will lead to weight loss as long as it contains less energy than what is expended, but a low-carbohydrate diet may be more effective for weight loss than the traditional low-fat diet.

The bottom line is that the best diet is one that emphasizes eating wholesome foods, not on cutting carbohydrates or fat. That said, limiting carbohydrates in the form of refined grains and added sugar is an excellent way to reduce calorie intake and improve the overall nutritional value of what you eat. And shifting toward more monounsaturated fats (think olive oil and nuts) rather than worrying about the total amount of fat you eat is also a good idea.

Mindfulness matters for health.

According to a TIME magazine cover article from earlier this year, we are in the midst of a “mindful revolution.” Beyond being a trendy topic, mindfulness is important for making meaningful and lasting health behavior changes. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week. 


Mindfulness can be described as an awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. This is most commonly explored through mindful meditation, a practice that is credited with improving physical and mental health. Beyond meditation, being mindful can help to improve attention and focus in nearly every aspect of life.

 

Thinking about your actions and the effect they have on your health and the health of others can be good for you and those around you. It turns out that we engage in many health behaviors that are driven more by habit than conscious decision-making. This includes what, when, and how much we eat as well as how active we are, two of the most important determinants of health.

 

When was the last time you thought about what you were eating? Not just which restaurant to go to or what time to eat, but really thought about what and how much you ate? Chances are, at least some of the time you eat when you aren’t hungry or keep eating even when you are full. You probably also eat foods you know you shouldn’t or don’t intend to, sometimes without even realizing it.

 

This concept was explored in depth by Brian Wansink in the 2006 book, Mindless Eating. Based on his research, this book helped to explain the hidden reasons behind what, why, and how much we eat, often without being aware of it. This includes marketing tricks as well as environmental factors, many of which operate outside of our consciousness, that drive our food choices and prompt us to eat. 

 

This is where mindfulness comes in. By making an effort to be cognizant about your own thoughts and sensations as well as the environment you are in, you can prevent overeating and poor food choices.

 

Furthermore, we should be aware of how our food choices influence others around us. Research shows that children of parents who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to eat more of these foods than kids without such influence. Mindful eating includes accounting for how our actions and choices can influence the decisions of other family members and friends.

 

 

The same is true for how active or sedentary we are. Being active is a choice, sometimes a difficult one, that is influenced by other people and the environment. Most people spend the majority of the day sitting at work and at home, often without thinking about it. This sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease, so it is relevant.

 

 

Sure, it feels good to sit on the couch to watch television. Think about it: is that really the best way to spend your time? At work, taking short breaks to get up from your desk and move can make you feel more alert and energized. Isn’t that worth it?

 

 

Similar to eating, our activity choices can influence the actions of those around us. A suggestion to walk to lunch can increase your own activity and that of your friends. Planning to go for a walk or bike ride with your family after dinner is a great way to share the benefits of activity.

 

 

When it comes to health, mindfulness matters. Being mindful about what you eat and make a choice to be more active allows you to have a positive effect on your health and the health of those around you.

 

 

To make your diet healthier, add exercise.

The American diet is frequently blamed for the poor health of Americans and, increasingly, other countries. The quest for the healthiest way to eat can literally take people around the world to find the right foods eat.

Unfortunately, diets and supplements that include these “super foods” are rarely the answer to good health on their own. It turns out that the key getting the optimal health benefits from your diet isn’t the food itself—it’s exercise!

This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week. It’s not to say that what you eat isn’t important (it is!). The point is that healthy eating will only get you part of the way to the goal of good health.

For decades scientists have tried to isolate the types of foods or individual nutrients that lead to good health by studying what healthy and unhealthy people eat around the world. In some studies eating more of a certain nutrient or food, like saturated fat or red meat, was associated with a higher risk of heart disease and people who ate more fish had better heart health.

This is how we arrived at the common guidelines that encourage us to eat more fish and less red meat. The assumption was that the saturated fat in red meat was the cause of more heart attacks in Americans while the beneficial oils in fish protected the Japanese from heart disease.

But these studies, or at least the interpretation of these studies, didn’t take into account the fact that the populations that had the higher heart attack risk were also less active than their healthier counterparts. Perhaps it was the physical activity that made the difference in health.

A good example of this is the popular Mediterranean diet, which is often touted as the healthiest diet in the world. It’s true that people in the Mediterranean region historically tended to have a lower risk of heart disease. This was thought to be due to their diet which emphasizes healthy fats from olive oil along with vegetables, whole grains, seafood instead of red meat, and red wine in moderation.

Unfortunately, eating more olive oil or drinking more red wine, both recommendations based on the Mediterranean diet, won’t necessarily make you any healthier. This is because health benefits are due to a complex interaction of what we eat and other lifestyle factors, including activity. And people in the Mediterranean region move a lot more than we do, a key to realizing the benefits of the local diet.

Another example is the Ornish diet, a low-fat, semi-vegetarian diet that has been credited with improving blood lipids and even reversing the process that clogs arteries in heart disease. This is part of the reason for the recommendation to avoid foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol and eat more vegetables. It’s true that this diet has been shown to improve heart health, but the subjects in the studies also exercised regularly. Achieving the full benefits of this diet requires exercise, too.

Even the typical American diet won’t necessarily be unhealthy when combined with enough exercise. The Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps famously revealed what he ate on a typically day. The amount and type of foods he consumed were not what you would expect from someone so fit and healthy! Without the hours of training he engaged in each day that diet would almost certainly have resulted in obesity and poor health.

So, as you work toward improving your diet, don’t forget about the importance of daily exercise or other activity in maximizing the health benefits. And when people ask your secret, you can tell them that the real key to a healthy diet is exercise.

Time to make your new school year resolutions

Today is the first day of school for my kids and the first official day back for me and my colleagues at USC Aiken. So, it seems like a perfect time to make and plan for New School Year resolutions. It’s also a good time to assess your progress on your New Year’s resolutions and restart (or finally get started) on your goals. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.


It’s hard to believe, but summer is winding down and the start of a new school year is upon us. As teachers, students, and parents know, this is the real beginning of the new year. For those of us involved in education, the first day of school is a perfect time to make new goals for the upcoming year, whether they are related to school or not.

This is a lot like making New Year’s resolutions on January first. Hopefully, you are still on track with your resolution. Sadly, research suggests that only 8% of people actually achieve their goal (more data here).

There are a host of reasons for this. Some of the most common resolutions—quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting in shape—are also some of the most difficult behaviors to change because they require making significant lifestyle modifications. To make things worse, many people set unrealistic goals or try to take on too much at once.

Many people who fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions this year will recycle them next year and try again. In fact, most people who manage to successfully quit smoking or lose weight have tried many times in the past. Sometimes experience, even a bad experience, is the best way to learn what does and doesn’t work.

But there is no need to wait until 2015 to restart your stalled New Year’s resolution or finally get around to doing what you planned months ago. Setting a date to begin a behavior change is an important step in the process so, why not make a New School Year resolution and try again now?

Here is some advice to help make this second chance to start or restart your New Year’s resolutions successful.

Be realistic. Many people fail to keep their resolutions simply because they don’t set realistic goals or aren’t realistic about what it will take to meet those goals. For example, running a marathon is an ambitious goal for almost everyone, especially someone who doesn’t exercise at all. A resolution to work up to jogging five days per week, with a goal of completing a 5k run is more realistic and achievable.

Focus on learning. Making most health behavior changes involves learning as much as doing. Something as simple as eating a healthier meals requires learning about the nutrients that make some foods healthier than others, learning to read food labels to select healthy foods, and learning how to cook and prepare healthy meals. If your resolution is to learn about healthy meals you will be able to achieve that goal and be well on your way to eating a healthier diet.

Manage your time. Most health improvement projects require taking time to learn about, implement, and maintain those healthy behaviors. If you resolve to manage your time to include exercise or meal preparation in your daily schedule you will be much more likely to meet your goals. Trying to add these new activities as “extras” to your already busy day will inevitably lead to them getting squeezed out.

Plan ahead. Most people already know that changing health behaviors can be challenging, even under the best circumstances. It’s no wonder that holidays, travel, and other life events can complicate or even derail an otherwise successful diet or exercise program. Make it your resolution to think about what you can do before, during, and after these (and other) disruptions occur to keep yourself on track.

Hopefully these steps will help you keep your resolutions, achieve your goals, and make this a happy, healthy year. As a bonus, you can take January 1 off!

Don’t go into (health) debt!

We are all aware of the hazards of being in debt. Too many individuals and families have gotten themselves in a poor financial situation by spending too much and not saving enough. For most, this debt has developed over several years and will have an impact lasting years into the future.

Unfortunately, this is not the only debt we face. Many of us are also in a health debt crisis. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Poor eating habits and increasingly sedentary lifestyles have led to an obesity epidemic. This is important since the three leading causes of death among adults (heart disease, stroke, and cancer) are directly linked to poor diet, inactivity, and obesity.

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are among the conditions that make up our health debt. Even if we have not been diagnosed with these or other health conditions, our lifestyle has put us on that path.

Whether our doctors have told us or not, many of us are in poor health. And our overall health and potential complications get worse each year, so the longer we are overweight and inactive, the worse our health is likely to be in the future. That is our health debt crisis.

Another example of a health debt is smoking, the cause of nearly 90% of lung cancer cases. Lung cancer doesn’t develop after the first cigarette; it takes years of smoking to cause cancer. One estimate suggests that there is a 20 year time lag between smoking and lung cancer diagnosis.

During this time smoking is causing damage to the lungs that leads to cancer, but it is usually undetectable. The cancer process is underway long before it causes symptoms, and since smokers are unaware of it, they continue to smoke. Quitting smoking begins to erase this debt but former smokers suffer poor health even after they quit. In some cases, the debt can’t be completely paid back.

Aside from poor health and reduced quality of life, health debt carries a financial cost. The medical costs attributed to obesity alone are estimated to be $147 billion per year, and a typical obese patient spends over $1,000 more per year on their own medical care than someone at a healthy body weight. The financial burden is both collective and individual, meaning we all pay for it.

Just as financial debt is due to an difference between the money we save and what we spend, much of our health debt is due to an imbalance between the energy (calories) we save and spend.

We have been spending too little energy through activity and saving too much of the energy we eat in the form of fat. Each day we consume more calories than we burn, we store that extra energy as fat. Even a small difference each day adds up over time.

Putting it in these terms, the pathway out of health debt is clear—spend more energy by being more active and cutting back on the calories we eat. Like a financial debt, even though the solution is easy to identify, putting it into place requires making some difficult choices.

But it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Even small changes in activity and diet can lead to weight loss and improved health over time. Make it a priority to be active every day and try to spend less time sitting. Pass on second servings at meals and skip desert once in a while.

Remember, the health debt wasn’t created overnight. It was the result of small changes over time, some of which we may not have noticed. Fixing it will take time, too.

Are fat-free and sugar-free foods healthy? Maybe not!

Have you ever felt confused by the health claims made about some foods? If so, you are not alone. Nutrition is isn’t always easy to understand and, unfortunately, misleading information on food labels only makes it worse.

There are a great many foods that seem as though they would be healthy choices for weight loss or good health in general. Surprisingly, some of these low-fat and low-sugar alternatives aren’t as healthy as you might think.

This is because, in many cases, the claims on the label only tell part of the story. This isn’t to say that the information is false, but it does require some interpretation to understand whether these foods are really a healthy choice.

My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week includes two examples of label language that seems to indicate a healthier option, but may not necessarily be the case:

1. Fat-free

Cutting back on fat intake is a good way to reduce calories and is typically recommended for weight loss. It is also a major part of traditional recommendations to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, although recent research suggests this may not be so important.

In order to meet a demand for lower fat and lower calorie foods, manufacturers have long offered fat-free versions of popular items. Cookies, snack foods, and salad dressings are among the most popular fat-free foods, especially for people who are trying to lose weight.

However, the number of calories in the fat-free foods may be the same as the full-fat versions because manufacturers often add sugar to make these lower fat foods taste as good. This is often the case for cookies, cakes, and other fat-free baked goods.

In the end, these fat-free foods may not really be lower in calories. And common sense tells us that the best way to reduce calories is to eat fewer of these snack foods and dressings in the first place.

 2. Sugar-free

Reducing sugar intake is also a popular way to limit calories in many foods and beverages. Currently, sugar is viewed as a major contributor to obesity and poor health in general, so this also makes some foods appear to be healthier than they really are.

While it is true that sugar-free versions of desserts and snack foods do usually contain fewer calories, the alternative sweeteners used instead raise some concerns. While there is no good evidence that these sweeteners are harmful, they certainly don’t make these foods any healthier.

It is important to note that the concern is with foods that have added sugar, such as packaged or prepared desserts, baked goods, and snacks. Foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruits, fruit juices, milk, and some vegetables are not worth worrying about.

Again, the most reasonable approach to creating a healthy diet is to eat fewer foods with added sugar, not looking for foods that replace added sugar with artificial sweeteners.

The Bottom Line

The problem for most people isn’t that they are eating cookies with too much sugar or salad dressing with too much fat, it’s that they are eating too many cookies and using too much dressing in the first place. Lowering fat or sugar in these foods does little to make people healthier.

The only way to do that would be to limit the intake of these processed foods in favor of more “real” food. Indeed, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and natural oils (like olive oil) are widely thought to be healthful, certainly better than processed and modified alternatives.

Exercise makes you healthy–and happy!

By this time, everyone knows (or should know) that regular exercise is good for them. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of physical activity.

The benefits of exercise are not limited to physical health. Additional benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. Being physically active can even help you feel better about yourself, too.

This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

These positive effects of exercise have been demonstrated in clinical research as well as in surveys. Controlled studies are considered the standard for understanding the beneficial effects of exercise, but population-based surveys are also important.

This is because large surveys help us understand what “real people” experience in the “real world,” while research studies frequently involve small numbers of subjects in controlled settings.

Consider the results of several large surveys conducted over the past few years that examined the relationships between exercise and happiness, stress, feelings of energy, and satisfaction with appearance.

In one survey, people who exercised at least 30 minutes on more days per week reported greater levels of happiness and lower levels of stress than those who exercised on fewer days. The same trend was seen when people were asked about having enough energy and feeling well-rested. Exercise, especially done regularly, makes people feel good!

A more recent survey looked at how exercise relates to how people feel about themselves, specifically their appearance. The results showed that more days per week of exercise led to people reporting a greater satisfaction with the way they look.

While the study didn’t delve into why this is true, several factors are likely. Most obviously, exercise helps with losing fat and building muscle, both of which would certainly improve appearance. But exercise also improves feelings of wellbeing, health, and confidence, all factors that might relate to how satisfied people feel with themselves.

It is worth mentioning that you don’t have to do extreme amounts of exercise to achieve these benefits. The surveys of exercise and happiness and stress, for example, found that the biggest difference came between people who exercised 0–1 days and those who were active on at least two days per week. The benefits increased with more days of exercise, but the differences were smaller.

This is consistent with research showing that the biggest health benefits are realized by people who do not exercise, then start a moderate exercise program. There are additional health improvements with longer or more intense exercise, but the differences are smaller.

This fits with the current U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines which call for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Practically, this can be met by walking for 30 minutes on five days or by running for 25–35 minutes, 2–3 days per week.

This dose of exercise is consistent with improving both physical and mental health in controlled studies. According to the surveys mentioned here, it is also in line with people feeling happier, less stress, more energy, and a greater satisfaction with their appearance.

The bottom line is that exercise can make you feel better and feel better about yourself. And that seems like a perfect reason to make activity part of your daily routine!

Pass your vacation fitness test this summer

Going on vacation can be relaxing for you and your family. But depending on what you do, it can also involve lots of activity. Hiking, watersports, even a long day at a theme park can be a good test of your fitness.  My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week is about how an upcoming vacation is a good reason to get in shape.


Vacations are a great chance to get away, relax, and recuperate. They also present an opportunity to be active through hiking, cycling and many other pursuits. But even sightseeing and visiting theme parks can require far more activity than many people are accustomed to. In fact, many vacation activities are a good test of your fitness.

Unfortunately, many people find out the hard way—sore feet and achy legs, for example—that they weren’t prepared for this level of activity. The good news is that regular exercise can prepare you for your next vacation so you can focus on having fun, not your tired body.

There is good reason to choose an active vacation. Spending time outdoors can reduce stress and walking on the beach or snorkeling in the ocean seems like fun, not exercise. The end result is that being active on your vacation adds to the restorative effect of taking time away from your usual routine.

In one study people who had a physically active vacation reported that they felt mentally and physically fitter, felt more balanced and relaxed, could concentrate better during work, were in a better mood, and felt more recuperated than those who took it easy.

Even if you don’t choose a vacation to participate in a specific exercise you will likely spend time being active. Most vacation destinations are selected in part because there are interesting sights to see or are easy to get around without a car. This means you will be on your feet a lot more than usual.

Think about a family trip to Disney World. It is not uncommon for people to be on their feet for 12 hours and walk 10–15 miles in a single day. Most people don’t do that much walking in a typical week! This can lead to blisters, muscle soreness, and fatigue, limiting what you can do and, at the very least, making your time less enjoyable.

Since regular exercise promotes endurance and strength, being fit can make it easier to get through long days on vacation. If you spend much of your time sitting at work and home, visiting a museum or standing in long lines at a theme park can be daunting.

But if you spend more of your day up and moving you will have an easier time in these situations. A whole day walking around sightseeing can be exhausting, but less so if you are accustomed to taking long walks. That isn’t to say that you should walk for 10 hours each day, but regularly walking or do other activity for over an hour will help.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next active vacation. You should limit sitting and spend more time standing and moving around at work and at home. This will help you get ready for long days on your feet.

Dedicating 30 minutes each day to being active will build endurance, and you can get bigger benefits from doing more. If your vacation will include vigorous exercise, building strength through resistance training and flexibility through stretching or yoga can help you avoid injury.

Your goal should be enjoy your vacation and the extra activity it will likely include. In addition to the numerous other health benefits, improving your fitness through regular physical activity will help you appreciate your vacation time more with less stress, meaning you can return home relaxed and ready to take on your usual routine.