Five Days to a Fitter, Healthier You

(Family Features) If kicking off a life-changing fitness and nutrition program seems daunting, try taking smaller steps to make it feel more manageable.

Knowing just where to start can be the biggest hurdle, but once you’re on your way, you’ll find yourself on the path to new healthy habits before you know it. Breaking down a whole new lifestyle into week-by-week chunks will not only let you ease in gradually, but also allow you to make meaningful changes right from the start.

Begin by charting out a week-long plan that will make you more conscious of how you approach important elements of your program including muscle toning, cardio and making nutritious food choices. Here’s a five-day schedule to get you started:

Monday: Start the Week Strong – Kick off the week with a medicine ball workout, which is a great way to work various muscles all at once. Try using a medicine ball with exercises that you’re already familiar with, such as push-ups, lunges or squats, or look up demo videos online to learn some new ways to use the medicine ball.

Tuesday: Turn it Up – Running is a great form of exercise, but it’s important to mix up your cardio workouts to help prevent injury and become stronger overall. Grab your friends and try a cardio-focused class, such as Zumba.

Wednesday: Spruce Up Your Fruit – Working out is key to keeping fit, but so is maintaining a healthy diet. When shopping for snacks, make smart choices that taste delicious, such as fruit and cottage cheese.

Thursday: Multi-task – Just because you’re catching up on your favorite TV show doesn’t mean you can’t work out. Clear some space between the couch and TV so you can watch while you do push-ups, crunches, jumping jacks and squats. For extra motivation, leave your fitness tools near the television as a daily reminder.

Friday: Give Yourself a Star – Gold stars aren’t just for classrooms. At the end of the week, mark each day that you exercised with a star on your calendar. Whether you went for a run, hit the gym or went for a walk with friends, the calendar will be a visual reminder of how often you’ve been working out, and will encourage you to keep going.

Remember, setting a long-term goal, such as running a marathon or dropping two dress sizes, can help keep you motivated over time, but also remember to celebrate your first mile run or your first five-pound loss. Keep tackling your new program one week at a time, and your goals will easily become reality.

Source: Dole

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

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