Nutrition and Fitness Go Hand in Hand

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

People often wonder, what’s more important—a healthy diet or exercise? For optimal health, the answer is both. A nutritious diet focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats, coupled with a fitness regimen of cardiovascular exercise, weight-bearing activities, and flexibility training are vital steps toward achieving one’s best health.

Rather than a “one at a time” approach to changing food or exercise habits, research has found that it’s better to make positive changes to both diet and exercise at the same time. In fact, a recent study with more than 4,000 participants revealed that those who made simultaneous changes to their diet and physical activity habits did best at achieving goals to:

  • Consume more vegetables and fruits.
  • Limit saturated fat.
  • Work out enough to meet governmental guidelines.

Having both a fitness plan and a nutrition plan is recommended. It is important to always check with your doctor before starting any new program.

When people make positive changes to their diet, they often will have more drive, energy, and focus for working out and wanting to treat their bodies well. On the flip side, when people become more physically active, they often want to eat healthier! The key is to set small goals, then reassess and adjust as progress is made. To help make an exercise plan stick, a person should find a routine they will actually enjoy, and then switch things up every once in a while to avoid boredom.

With the countless types of exercises out there, most people are bound to find one that suits them based on their goals, lifestyle, and budget. One type of physical activity that has become incredibly popular is high intensity interval training (HIIT) – a workout routine that alternates between quick, intense bursts of activity and set periods of lower-intensity physical activity or complete rest altogether. An example is to run as fast as possible for one minute, transition to walking for two minutes, then repeat the “three-minute interval” five times for a total body workout in 15 minutes. Research has found that HIIT may help burn more fat, build a healthier heart, and amp up metabolism. It doesn’t require any special equipment, can be done practically anywhere, and is challenging enough to keep one engaged and excited. Maybe it’s right for you?

Help close the nutrition gap that children face when school is out for summer by joining the Friends of Operation Food Search on Saturday June 18 for HIIT for Hunger, a day of high intensity interval training or go at your own pace stretching and yoga classes at FITNESS FORMULA in the Central West End. All fitness levels are welcome, and you’ll support Operation Food Search’s summer childhood hunger initiative. In addition, there will be OFS cooking demos, food and beverage samples, music, raffles, giveaways and other fitness fun! Register at OperationFoodSearch.org. #WeFeedKidsSTL