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Jump in to May for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and National Physical Education and Sport Week

May is the perfect month to commit to getting fit. If you get your exercise simply from jumping to conclusions and avoiding the issues, you might want to reconsider your fitness regimen. With the month of May promoted as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and the first week of May celebrated as National Physical Education and Sport Week, your eyes may be opened further to all of the benefits of regular exercise coupled with a sensible eating plan. One of the first things to keep in mind when it comes to physical fitness is that fitness in and of itself is not a destination; it is a lifestyle. Once you commit to incorporating regular doses of exercise into your daily routine, you may soon wonder how you ever lived without it. (And for those of you who are already on the fitness track, then this is just further confirmation as to why you should keep on dedicating yourself to your healthy habits.)

Initiated in 1983 by the President’s Council on Fitness to promote healthy lifestyles among all Americans, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is a reminder and an enthusiastic call to action to incorporate regular exercise into our lives to improve not only our health but our overall quality of life. As early as 1956, American leaders understood just how important fitness was for people. This is when President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness, which was renamed in the 1960s by President Kennedy at the President’s Council on Physical Fitness to include individuals of all ages.

Observed in May and sponsored by SHAPE America, National Physical Education and Sport Week is more than just a nod to fitness; it is a call to action, emphasizing the importance of incorporating physical activity and physical education into everyone’s lives, kids and adults. Partnered with National Physical Fitness and Sport Month, May is beginning to look a lot fitter these days, and you can, too.

It’s no secret regular activity is beneficial to good health.

People of all ages and body types can reap the rewards from embracing an active lifestyle. May is now a great time to shine the spotlight on all the benefits of getting active, staying active and partnering those good habits with sound nutrition. For children, regular physical activity can improve bone health, heart health and muscular fitness. For adults, it can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer. For older adults, physical activity can help minimize the risk of falls as well as improve cognitive functioning. With this banner of fitness flying over the month of May, it is a great time to encourage communities, health professionals, and even families to work together to create opportunities to get more physical activity.

If you want to shift gears into a more active lifestyle, it doesn’t have to be intimidating at all. You can start with small changes, such as taking a walk after dinner or going on a bike ride.

No matter one’s level of fitness or status of health, the month of May is a great time to focus on the things we can do to improve our health.

Even professional athletes need a good nudge every now and again, and the athletes with Sporting KC (SKC), Kansas City’s Major League Soccer Team headquartered at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, have a strong supporter in their corner: Diane Robison, Sports Performance Dietitian. Robison works not only with the professional players, but also with amateur and student athletes from SKC’s six academy teams and with the Swope Park Rangers, the USL Championship Club, which also plays its games at Children’s Mercy Park.

Among the main components of Robison’s role is a focus on getting to know the players and subsequently providing daily menus for food preferences and performance-based nutrition. And when it comes to developing a daily menu, Robison emphasized it is not a diet; it is more of a lifestyle, and deprivation is not a part of the plan.

“I tell the athletes I want them to enjoy the food they eat, but part of the plan is that they have to discipline themselves and train themselves to do it,” she said. “This is not about restricting yourself, but adding to a meal plan to satisfy and fill you up.”

Starting a new way of eating just sounds too overwhelming.

“Start with baby steps,” explained Robison. “Sneak in a vegetable at every single meal, even breakfast and then plan on adding some protein throughout the day at every meal and in your snacks. The idea is to not let yourself get hungry late in the day. There is no secret bullet to this. You just need to be consistent in what you do.”

Robison noted the meal plans she creates serve more as a guide instead of a list of hard and fast rules.

“I don’t want anyone to feel completely bound to these plans,” she noted. “I tell people to aim for a plan that is 80% healthy, and the other 20% can consist of the foods that may be typically considered off limits. I have a sweet tooth and still indulge in anything as small as a couple squares of dark chocolate to the more occasional ice cream sundae with friends.”

An experienced runner, Robison is no stranger to daily workouts, some more intense than others, but don’t let the intimidation of breaking a sweat keep you from moving, especially if you have never worked out on a regular basis. Start with a casual stroll around the block and then work your way up from that point.

“I’d say that if you aim to walk (or run, as you progress and desire) three to five miles at a time three to five days a week, that is a healthy goal,” said Robison. “And I would also suggest doing a 20-minute resistance/weight training session two to three days a week.” Robison also emphasized the importance of getting routine blood tests to evaluate certain aspects of your overall health.

Are you ready to get moving? It’s easy, and you don’t have to do it alone.

If you have kids, get out in the yard and throw a ball around or kick a soccer ball. For a bit of nostalgia, break out that old Hula Hoop and get those hips swiveling. This is a great exercise for strengthening abdominal muscles and your entire torso. Grab a friend and go for a walk together or sign up for a fitness class. When you engage in these activities with others, you are more likely to hold yourself accountable to sticking with it.

Why pack on the pounds when you can pack on the benefits?

Among the numerous benefits of regular exercise and a healthy diet include a change in overall body composition in that the less fat you carry, the more calories you will burn and ultimately the more energy you will enjoy. Regular exercise also serves to enhance your mood, promotes muscle stability, and helps fight off certain diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers.

“You are only going to help yourself by exercising and having the proper nutrition,” stated Robison. “Just find something you love to do and be consistent with it.”

Before starting any new exercise and/or eating plan, it is important to discuss this with your physician.

Sources: active.com, healthfinder.gov, personalizedcause.com

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