I believe wholeheartedly in two things: integration and variation.
I can’t stress the importance of getting variation in physical activity, no matter what level this is. I literally spent four years of college on the elliptical, and didn’t experience any significant changes in muscle or weight distribution. At the time, I didn’t understand the benefit of weight training, and had an unsubstantiated fear of becoming…gasp…bulky. The one thing I did notice was that I always felt better after taking a group fitness class. I was sore everywhere and truly felt that I had done something positive for my body. And, to be honest, the only thing preventing me from taking classes all the time was cost.
So I became an instructor.
My certifications taught me a lot about exercise and it’s benefits, and showed me first hand how much variation can be a benefit. I am constantly searching for new ideas to incorporate in my classes, and spend a lot of time ensuring that no two classes are the same.
In line with this, I almost never work just one muscle group. Anyone who has taken my classes will tell you that we never do just arms or just legs or just anything. If we’re lunging, we’re also doing bicep curls. If we’re working abs, we’re also working arms. And, if we’re doing cardio, we’re also working on coordination and balance. In this way, I integrate multiple muscle groups for maximum benefit and calorie burn.
If you don’t read anything else on this site, be sure to read this: Exercise won’t get you anywhere if you are not a healthy person. What does this mean? From a nutrition standpoint, there is substantial evidence showing that a diet high in protein, fruits, and vegetables is very beneficial; but, then again, there is also good evidence for many fad diets (Atkins, South Beach, etc). However you decide to control your diet is up to you, but if this is something you struggle with, I’d recommend seeing a nutritionist.
From a medical standpoint, health is frequently thought of as the absence of disease. Part of the problem is this: No one goes to the doctor until he or she gets sick. Why is this an issue? Because there are some illnesses that can be detected before symptoms present, and can even be fully treated or prevented from getting worse. Doing this will ultimately reduce the cost of your own healthcare and also make you a healthier person. Did you know that if everyone lived a healthy lifestyle, just over 50% of cancers would be eliminated? FIFTY percent! Can you believe it??
I can’t stress the importance of health education enough. I think many of us take the knowledge we have about health for granted, and don’t realize how little many others actually know. The reasons for this range from poor health literacy to inadequate access to resources. I feel that providing information related to health and health behaviors is incredibly important.
So the moral of the story is: it all works together. Medicine, nutrition, physical activity, the list goes on. What is most beneficial for you may be different from me, but that’s okay. Just know that health is more than diet and exercise. It’s a bigger picture.