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Steps for a healthier, happier you

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[April 16, 2007]  You can take charge of becoming a fitter, healthier you with more energy. It all begins with knowledge and intent to act.

Step 1: Get the facts

We are bombarded every day with conflicting information about our health. Is it better to eat a low-carb diet or a balanced diet? Should we be physically active three times a week or five times a week? And how can we be expected to follow any of these recommendations when we're always so busy?

It's no wonder that many of us throw up our hands and give up. But if we want to live long and fulfilling lives, it's essential that we learn the real facts about health, nutrition and physical activity.

Luckily, the real facts are pretty straightforward. All you really need to know about a healthy lifestyle is:

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grain products -- and be sure to control portion sizes.

  • Get physically active at least five times a week, for 30 minutes or more.

  • Avoid tobacco and illegal drugs altogether.

Sounds simple, right? Well, if it were that easy, we'd all be effortlessly fit and healthy.

Today's lifestyle doesn't allow much room for health. And that's where "Small Steps" comes in. We know that it's impossible for many people to make dramatic lifestyle changes. Instead, we want to help you learn ways that you can change small things about your life and see big results.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and well-being. Include activities that you enjoy and can easily fit into your daily routine
-- such as walking your dog, working in your garden or riding your bike.

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Being active for 30-60 minutes on most days can help you build strength and fitness, relax and reduce stress, gain more energy, and improve your sleep. These benefits all add up to decreasing your risk of heart disease and other conditions, such as colon cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

If you have been inactive for several years or are currently under medical care, please consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Did you know…?

  • It's hard to judge the calories in food. For instance, a can of regular soda can have more sugar than a slice of cake!

  • Housework, at a moderate level of exertion, can burn up to 300 calories an hour.

  • You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of body weight.

Small Steps

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is ready to help you improve your physical fitness. You can set goals and chart your progress at the Small Steps Activity Tracker.

Topics to come: Body mass index, healthy eating, nutrition and portion sizes, and more on fitness.

Information source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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