If you think exercising means you can eat whatever you want, or that you can skip exercise if you just eat less, you are doing yourself a serious disservice. Healthy eating and regular exercise together offer a number of health benefits that go beyond just helping you lose those unwanted pounds. A healthy diet and exercise program not only helps you manage your weight, but also improves energy levels, mood and heart health.
People who eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly have better success at losing weight and keeping it off. When you want to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn, and when you want to maintain weight, the calories you eat must equal the calories you burn. Exercise and diet work together to help you get the right balance, making it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight.
Food is fuel for your body, and if you want your body to run efficiently, you need to eat the right kind of food to maximize energy levels. Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are good sources of carbohydrates. It may sound contradictory, but physical activity also boosts energy levels by improving your muscle strength and endurance. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, like a brisk walk, five days a week. Regular exercise also improves blood circulation and tissue oxygenation, and it enhances nutrient delivery to your muscles.
When you make the right food choices and get regular exercise, you feel better about yourself. Eating regular, healthy meals keeps energy levels up and blood sugar levels even, enhancing your mood. In addition, eating a carbohydrate- and protein-rich meal, such as grilled salmon with a side of quinoa and steamed broccoli, increases the availability of serotonin in the brain and helps keep you calm. Exercise also releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel better. So if you're feeling a little blue, put on comfortable shoes and go for a walk.
Diet and exercise together significantly reduce your risk of becoming a heart disease statistic. You can lower your blood LDL cholesterol levels -- a precursor for heart disease -- by eating fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, oranges and barley, and omega-3 rich fish like salmon and tuna. Exercise raises your levels of good cholesterol, that's HDL cholesterol, and lowers triglyceride levels.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines Chapter 2: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
- GirlsHealth.gov: Nutrition Basics
- MayoClinic.com: The Food and Mood Connection
- MayoClinic.com: Cholesterol: Top Five Foods to Lower Your Numbers
- American Heart Association: Healthy Diet Goals
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.