What do I need to do to be more healthy and fit? Should I modify my eating habits? What if I add more exercise? Should I work on both?
“To attain a moderate level of health and fitness, it’s a dual-pronged approach,” says Natasha Weddle,
founder of TNB Fitness and The New Beginnings Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “Sure, you can make better choices of what you put into your body, but healthy eating is only part of the equation. Or you could start an exercise program to improve your fitness, but unless you have a combination of both, you’re selling yourself short.”
A former college basketball player, she learned by experience — and five surgeries — the importance of a well-rounded approach to health and wellness. She spent 17 years as a strength and conditioning coach. Then Weddle created TNB Fitness to promote a full circle of health and fitness that helps people maximize their potential.
“Let’s start with the ‘Triple Seven Rule,’ an uncomplicated way to build new habits that can be easy to incorporate into your lifestyle,” she says. “Apply the Triple Sevens to ‘Walk, Water and Sleep,’ and you’re well on your way to becoming healthier and more fit, even if you’re not into making massive changes.”
Here’s the formula, developed by Strength Matters:
- Walk: seven days a week, taking 7,000 steps each day
- Water: seven days a week, drinking seven glasses a day
- Sleep: seven days a week, getting seven hours a day
“The beauty of the Triple Sevens is that you can approach it gradually,” she says. “For instance, if you don’t walk purposefully at all, consider walking three days a week, and aim for an incremental number that’s fewer than 7,000 steps each day, something you’re comfortable with. After a week or so, push yourself to add more steps and another day. Depending on your commitment, you’ll likely build up to seven days, 7,000 steps in four to eight weeks.”
The same holds true for adding more water to your daily intake. “Break it down into manageable goals: A glass of water before breakfast, another glass at lunch and another at dinner results in three of the seven each day,” she says. “If you’re already drinking that much water, add another glass between meals or after your daily walk.”
Statistics show that nearly 75% of all Americans are dehydrated, and that the average human drinks only 1.8 cups of water daily, according to the website waterlogic.com.
“That’s simply not enough water for your vital organs to function properly,” Weddle says. “Water is not only vital for proper digestion and processing the food you eat, it’s crucial to keep your muscles, kidneys, liver and even your brain working at peak. And research shows that water is much more critical for survival than food.”
Water is the ideal beverage to consume. “Avoid drinks with added sugar or empty calories; fruit juices, which may sound like a good choice, are loaded with sugar. Even supposed sports drinks don’t provide the
full circle of benefits that plain old water supplies.”
As for sleep, Weddle says that between seven and eight hours is ideal for the average person, but 33% of the population gets less than six and a half hours each night.
“The hours of quality sleep you get nightly affect not only your focus and energy level during the day, they also contribute to weight gain over time,” she says. “Additionally, if you’re short-circuiting the amount of sleep you get, you increase your risk of heart attacks, stroke and sudden cardiac death.”
Ease into exercise
Upping your walking game can add cardiovascular exercise to your lifestyle, which is especially good for your heart, joint and muscle health. Just be sure to check with your physician before you begin any
exercise program to ensure you have no underlying conditions that might preclude exercise.
People often put off exercising because they think it’s a large commitment of time, and if they don’t have time, they just don’t do it at all.
“Start slowly, increase your movement every day and build up your time,” Weddle says. “If you’re a couch potato, just a little bit is a good start. As little as 15 minutes a day can boost your life expectancy by up to three years.”
Once you’ve improved your fitness level, a shorter, less frequent routine two or three days a week will help you maintain it.
“But don’t overlook another important aspect of fitness: flexibility and strength training,” Weddle says. “Both will help with your overall health and help you deal with the possibility of arthritis, bone density issues and osteoporosis.”
As people age, they naturally lose bone mass. “By rounding out your fitness program with gentle stretching and low-weight work, you’re helping delay the aging process and keeping your body fitter.”
Mobility work is a good part of any routine, but it’s probably the most overlooked because people get into a hurry.
“Warming up before any exercise — walking, strength training or playing a sport — can help prepare your body for exercise,” she says. “A warmup can be five minutes of moving your body plus a little gentle jogging in place, just enough to let your body know you’re changing your pace.”
Thoughts about food and weight loss
The Triple Sevens is a good first step to improving overall health and fitness, but what about embarking on a journey to lose weight?
“First, if you drink water before meals, your stomach will signal your brain that you’re not as hungry as you feel, and you’ll eat less,” she says. “Also, slow down and be mindful of eating your meal; sit at the dinner table without distractions such as television or reading. Chew thoroughly and enjoy the process of eating. Take at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish your meal; that allows your stomach to signal your brain that you’ve satisfied your hunger.”
She recommends ways to help stave off hunger between meals. “Rather than a grain-based breakfast, eat whole eggs,” she says. “The protein in eggs will help you feel more satisfied than cereal, pancakes or toast.”
Drinking coffee or green tea can also help with raising your metabolism. “Studies show that the caffeine can boost your metabolism by between 3 and 11% and increase fat burning by 10 to 29%,” Weddle says.
Added sugar can be the worst culprit in today’s food intake. “For one, sugar is undeniably associated with the risk of obesity, plus diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Just cutting back on sugar and choosing healthier alternatives can improve your health and wellness.”
If you must snack, keep healthy options around such as nuts, raw vegetables, fruit, whey protein and unsweetened yogurt. Weddle also recommends adding more fruit, vegetables and fiber to your diet, always being mindful that what goes in your body — paired with some sort of activity — is a healthy approach.
“If you only do the Triple Sevens, make better nutrition choices and commit to them long-term, you will notice a difference in your energy level, your concentration and your mindset,” she says. “Remember that improving your health and fitness is a life-long journey. It all starts with small steps. It took years to become the person you are, so don’t expect instant results. Fully enjoy the rest of your life.”
Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. Courtesy of The Tennessee Magazine.