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10 Simple Ingredients for Healthier, Happier Living

Really, all it takes is 10 simple ingredients to achieve a happy, healthier life. Leaving one ingredient out, though, could ruin the entire meal. Granted, life isn’t a kitchen with cabinets full of preferential ingredients.

But as exercise physiologist Marla Richmond sees it, while we all live different lives, if we would apply a few simple rules every day, we could all feel less stressed, more energized, happier and healthier.

"Living healthy and balanced means something different to everybody," Richmond says. "There is no one right way to live."

For 42-year-old ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor, Lori Patterson, role-modeling health eating and daily fitness has translated into three very active children, including an 18-year-old daughter turned fitness instructor. The mother-daughter team exude boundless energy and a positivism they hope to instill in others.

"This is a lifestyle for me and my family," says Patterson. "My children tell me it’s because of me and my husband that they eat what I eat and want to be active."

Use Richmond 10 ingredients, interjected with Patterson’s spice and some expert scientific backing to create your own personal recipe for life.
  1. Balance Your Energy

    Eat the right number of calories to maintain your body’s structures and fuel all of the jobs that your body does. Every person has different demands, but to create a balance means consuming no more calories than you’ll burn throughout the day. The more calories you burn, the more you can eat. To help you find a better balance could mean keeping a daily food log and paying close attention to the types of foods you consume. Visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) dietary guidelines resource online at mypyramid.gov to create your personalized nutrition Plan.

  2. Balancing Essential Nutrients

    Find the right balance of six essential nutrients—carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water—in the right proportion for your body, activity level, and personal preferences. Visit MyPyramid online to learn about healthy food choices, portion sizes and how to measure quantities of food correctly. A few healthy tips: Cut up fruits and veggies and place them into zip lock bags to enjoy at work. Prepare lunches at home rather than eating out. It’ll save you money and help you avoid the many pitfalls associated with eating away from home.

  3. Strong Metabolism

    Balance input and output. In other words, for weight management it’s important to consume a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. The Pyramid offers users valuable tools for weight management, keeping in mind that little steps can go a long way. Start by using the stair steps instead of the elevator and move wherever and whenever possible to burn calories.

  4. Satiety

    Eat little meals throughout the day and don’t starve yourself. Restricting food intake can lead to hunger, bingeing, and subsequently, overeating.

  5. Cardiovascular Exercise

    To help reduce your risk of developing a variety of chronic diseases, engage in 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity on most days of the week.

    Richmond recommends, at a minimum, engaging three to five days in an activity you enjoy each week: Walking, jogging, biking, dancing, whatever it takes to get and keep you moving.

    However, to manage body weight and prevent gradual unhealthy weight gain in adulthood, takes at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity on most days of the week without exceeding caloric intake requirements.

    A lot of people feel they don’t have enough time, but Richmond and Patterson recommend rethinking your daily activities by making physical activity a priority.

    For some people that may mean packing their gym bag and work clothes the night before, and setting it by the front door to hit the gym early. For busy moms, it may mean taking their children to the health club or stressing family activities, such as weekend bike rides and hiking.

    Patterson, who owns the consulting firm Midwest Fitness Consulting, tells her traveling clients to keep up their fitness routine by either working out at their hotel’s fitness center or as a guest at a nearby health club. She also creates her own total-body travel fitness routine during travel consisting of walking hotel stairs and halls for 25 minutes and strength training using her own body weight to perform squats, sit-ups, push-ups and crunches for a complete body workout.

    Don’t have 30 minutes to spare for exercise? Break it up into three 10-minute sessions a day for a very similar effect.

  6. Strength-Training

    Participating twice to three days a week in a basic strength-training program is a key to a comprehensive fitness program. It helps trim excess body fat, increase lean muscle mass and strengthen bones for men and women.

    Richmond recommends performing 8 to 15 repetitions each time working on strengthening the major muscles groups of the body, stabilizing the core, stability and enhancing balance.

    Visit the ACE store for information on strength-training program design and exercise technique as well as a listing of ACE-certified Personal Trainers working in your area.

  7. Flexibility Training

    Another component of a good exercise program is stretching for good posture, spinal alignment and keeping muscles strong and balanced. Performing 8 to 10 stretching exercises (held for 10-30 seconds) for all of the major muscle groups at least three times a week (ideal is five to seven days a week) represents a good start. Note: As a general rule, stretch to a point of mild discomfort.

    For more information on flexibility, including yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, visit the ACE web site.

  8. Manage Stress

    Most people can’t escape stress. While some stress can actually be beneficial, such as revving up your heart rate up during aerobic exercise for good heart health, negative stressors, such as balancing high demands at work with a busy family life, can increase your risk for disease, compromise your daily activity and cause you to eat more.

    Hence, finding a stress release is critical. The trick is to learn what’s right for you. Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, Pilates and mediation are proven remedies. For others, removing themselves from a stressful environment, even for a few minutes, such as taking a walk and enjoying time alone, can make a significant difference.

  9. Sleep/Rest

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of Americans habitually get less than six hours of sleep a night, which is far less than the recommended seven to nine hours; an estimated 50 to 70 million people suffer from sleep disorders or sleep loss.

    The National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips for a good night’s rest:
    • • Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
    • • Develop a sleep ritual: A hot bath, drinking a cup of herbal tea or reading a book just before bed can cue your body to settle down for the night
    • • Exercise regularly to relieve tension, but not too close to bedtime
    • • Cut down on stimulants and avoid smoking or drinking
    • • Unwind early in the evening and try to make a to-do-list for tomorrow so you won’t think about it all night.
    • • Try relaxation exercises before bedtime
    • • Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress
    • • Create a restful sleep environment such as a dark, quiet room without noise
    • • Make sleep a priority
  10. Joy

    Make sure to take time each day to be with people, go to places and do things that make you laugh and happy.


Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at marion.webb@acefitness.org.


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