Using the World Around You to Stay Healthy and Fit
No matter who you are or where you live, eating well and getting regular exercise are important ways to be healthy. These activities may help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent or delay certain health problems, such as diabetes.
Cities and suburbs usually offer large grocery stores and gyms. These facilities may make it easier to live healthfully. But if you live in a small community, you may not have easy access to a large grocery store or health club. Do not let this stop you from following healthy behaviors! You can still find ways to eat better and be more active.
This page will give you tips on how to use the world around you to stay healthy and fit.
How Weight Affects Your Health
A healthy weight may reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and some cancers. When a person gains weight over time, risk for these health problems increases. Healthy eating and regular physical activity are good ways to help you reach a healthy weight and lower your risk for these health problems.
What is a healthy weight?
You can find out if you are at a healthy weight for you by learning your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a number that results from measuring the relationship between your weight and height.
To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column labeled Height. Move across to a given weight (in pounds).
The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight. Pounds have been rounded off.
Body Mass Index Table 1 of 2
|Body Weight (pounds)|
Body Mass Index Table 2 of 2
|Body Weight (pounds)|
- A person with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered to be at a healthy weight.
- A person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
- A person whose BMI is 30 or higher is considered obese.
In addition to learning your BMI, you should also measure your waist. A waist measurement does not tell if you are overweight, but it does show if you have extra fat in your stomach. Extra fat around your waist may harm your health even more than fat around your thighs or hips.
A waist measurement at or above 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women may mean that you have a higher chance of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and other problems.
If you are overweight or obese, talk with your doctor or other health care provider about losing weight. If you need to lose weight, you will need to take in fewer calories than you use. You take in calories by eating and drinking, and you use calories by being physically active. You may lose weight by following a plan for healthy eating and a plan for regular physical activity.
Ways to Use the World Around You to Move More
Regular physical activity may help you
- stay at a healthy weight
- gain more energy
- lower your stress level
- reduce your risk of serious health problems
You do not need costly weights or treadmills or organized fitness classes to be physically active. Consider using everyday items or local resources to be active. In addition to getting exercise, you may have fun in ways that do not cost a lot of money.
The chart below lists several types of physical activity and provides examples of each type.
Physical Activities to Help You Move More
|Activity||Examples||Using What You Have|
|Aerobic activities||Walking, hiking, jogging, biking||Go for a hike around your home. Form a walking group with friends and use the track at the local high school.|
|Strength training activities||Exercises to build muscle||You can build muscles by doing exercises such as arm curls or squats. In place of weights, use gallon-size water bottles, soup cans, or large books.|
|Everyday activities||Household chores, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn||Make chores fun by putting some energy into them! Washing the car, sweeping floors, raking leaves, and other chores all count as ways to be active.|
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
For more information about the benefits of physical activity, see the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, available online at https://www.health.gov/paguidelines.
Making Physical Activity Work for You
- Try different activities to find out what you like the most. For exercise to become a part of your life, it helps if you enjoy it.
- Be active with your family. At least once a week, plan an active outing, such as a family bike ride, or a walk through a local park. Also, ask friends and coworkers to be active with you. Having exercise “buddies” may help you stay interested in being active.
- Try to make activity a priority. You can fit in physical activity in the morning, on your lunch break, before dinner, or after the kids go to bed. If you are too flexible with your time, you may never get the exercise you need.
- Pick times when other activities will not get in the way. Start with a small goal of being active for 10 minutes a day, and then slowly build up to longer periods of time. As you build more physical activity into your life, set limits on the amount of time you and your family spend watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer.
Ways to Use the Foods Around You to Eat Better
In addition to physical activity, eating healthier foods is important for your health. Healthy eating may help you
- lose weight
- feel better
- prevent weight gain
Making changes to your eating habits may seem hard or even impossible. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products are important parts of a healthy eating plan. Just remember that you do not have to change everything at once. Start small because small changes can make a big difference.
Eating Better Can Save Time and Money
- Save time by buying foods that are easy to prepare. Consider fixing whole-wheat pasta and tomato sauce or rice and beans. Be sure to freeze or refrigerate leftovers right away to keep them safe to eat.
- Check out a farmers market or roadside stand if one is near you. You may find fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are in season.
- Buy frozen or canned foods, like mixed vegetables (no salt added) and canned fruits packed in their own juices. You can add them to any pasta sauce or rice dish. They are good for you, like fresh produce, and will save you time when cooking. Although they may not “spoil,” frozen and canned foods do not last forever. Check the “use-by” dates on canned and frozen foods. “Use-by” dates refer to the quality of a food.
- Try canned beans, like kidney and black beans, and rinse them to remove excess salt. These foods cost less than meat and are loaded with protein.
Portion Size and Serving Size
An important part of healthy eating is being able to recognize the difference between a "portion" size and a "serving" size. A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time. A serving is the amount of food listed on a product's Nutrition Facts label. For more information about eating just enough for you and nutrition labels, see www.fda.gov.
Achieving Your Goals
As you try to be more active and eat better, it is important to set goals you will be able to reach. For example, set a goal to eat one fruit or vegetable at every meal. Keep track of your new goals in a notebook. This way you will see what is working and what is not, and you can adjust your goals as needed.
There will be times when you have setbacks. If you expect them and think of ways to overcome them, you may be able to avoid being thrown off track for too long. Common setbacks are lack of time and loss of interest.
To stay on track
- ask your friends, family, or coworkers to join you for a walk, bike ride, or other activity
- break your activity into chunks when trying to find the time to be active
- exercise for 10 minutes, three times a day, which might be easier than setting aside one 30-minute block of time
You can do it!
Being more active and eating better may seem tough without access to large grocery stores, expensive weights or treadmills, or paved walking trails. Remember, you can use what you have around you to be healthy.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.
What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?
Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you.
What clinical trials are open?
Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Sylvia Moore, Ph.D., R.D., Montana University System; William Neal, M.D., West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, WV