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Give your loved one a gift of health

By Karen Ridings

Many of us have made New Year's resolutions to improve our health either by making more time for exercise or improving our diets. Breaking old habits or starting new ones is difficult. It is much easier to make changes with the support from a loved one, friend, or family.

If your goal is to increase your exercise and activity during the week, know that the benefits are enormous. Exercise can:

  • Reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other diseases.
  • Help manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Help you to feel more energetic and improve your mood
  • Help you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight

Mix it up and make it fun! Think about incorporating different types of exercise during the week. For endurance, consider brisk walking, biking, dancing, or jogging. For strength, lift weights or use a resistance band. Tai Chi and Yoga can help you develop balance. For flexibility, stretch or do yoga. If you haven't exercised in awhile you may want to start by consulting with your physician for the best approach. Remember, whatever you choose, find a friend or family member who will accompany you as you start an exercise routine. The more the merrier!

If your goal is to improve your diet, it might need to become a family affair. If your diet needs improvements, most likely your entire family's diet could use a tune up. Make dietary changes a family project. ChooseMyPlate.gov offers some wonderful resources to guide your plan. Some of the tips you will find on this website are:

  • Balance your calories
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions
  • Foods to eat more often include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free dairy products
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
  • Make half your grains whole grains
  • Foods to eat less often include, foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt
  • Compare sodium in foods
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Karen A. Ridings, M.S., R.D., is a family consumer sciences agent located in Frederick County. She joined the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Frederick County office, in January 2008. As a registered dietitian and elementary education teacher, families have always been the primary focus of her career. E-mail: ridingsk@vt.edu


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