Are you a young person who wants to improve your health? Steps toward that goal don’t have to be complicated. Here are 10 simple tips from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition that can help you achieve better fitness and wellness.
Start Your Day with Breakfast. Breakfast fills your ‘empty tank’ to get you going after a long night without food. And it can help you do better in school. Easy-to-prepare breakfasts include cold cereal with fruit and low-fat milk, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, yogurt with fruit, whole-grain waffles, or even last night’s pizza.
Get Moving. It’s easy to fit physical activities into your daily routine. Walk, bike, or jog to see friends. Take a 10-minute activity break every hour while you read, do homework, or watch TV. Climb stairs instead of taking an escalator or elevator. Try to do these things for a total of 30 minutes every day.
Snack Smart. Snacks are a great way to refuel. Choose snacks from different food groups: a glass of low-fat milk and a few graham crackers, an apple or celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, or some dry cereal. If you eat smart at other meals, cookies, chips, and candy are OK for occasional snacking.
Work Up a Sweat. Vigorous workouts — when you’re breathing hard and sweating — help your heart pump better, give you more energy, and help you look and feel your best. Start with a warm-up that stretches your muscles. Include 20 minutes of aerobic activity, such as running, jogging, or dancing. Follow up with activities that help make you stronger, such as push-ups or lifting weights. Then cool down with more stretching and deep breathing.
Balance Your Food Choices. Don’t eat too much of any one thing. You don’t have to give up foods like hamburgers, french fries, and ice cream to eat healthy. You just have to be smart about how often and how much of them you eat. Your body needs nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fat, and many different vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C and A, iron, and calcium from a variety of foods. Balancing food choices from the Food Guide Pyramid and checking out the nutrition facts on food labels will help you get all these nutrients.
Get Fit with Friends or Family. Being active is much more fun with friends or family. Encourage others to join you and plan one special physical-activity event, like a bike ride or hiking, with a group each week.
Eat More Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables. These foods give you carbohydrates for energy, plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Besides, they taste good! Try breads such as whole-wheat, bagels, and pita. Spaghetti and oatmeal are also in the grain group. Bananas, strawberries, and melons are some great-tasting fruits. Try vegetables raw or on a sandwich or salad.
- Join in Physical Activities at School. Whether you take a physical education class or do other physical activities at school, such as intramural sports, structured activities are a sure way to feel good, look good, and stay physically fit.
- Foods Aren’t Good or Bad. A healthy eating style is like a puzzle with many parts. Each part, or food, is different. Some foods may have more fat, sugar, or salt, while others may have more vitamins or fiber. There is a place for all these foods. What makes a diet good or bad is how foods fit together. Balancing your choices is important. Fit in a higher-fat food, like pepperoni pizza, at dinner by choosing lower-fat foods at other meals. And don’t forget about moderation. If two pieces of pizza fill you up, you don’t need a third.
- Make Healthy Eating and Physical Activities Fun. Take advantage of physical activities you and your friends enjoy doing together and eat the foods you like. Be adventurous: try new sports, games, and other activities, as well as new foods. But set realistic goals; don’t try changing too much at once. Follow these steps, and you’ll grow stronger, play longer, and look and feel better.
The President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.