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How to have a fit and healthy lifestyle

Using the latest guidelines from the ACSM (Amercian College of Sports Medicine) and the latest reasearch on health eating, this article has been written to help you to achieve a more healthy lifestyle.

There are many changes that you can make to adopt a more healthy lifestyle - the key to maintaining these changes is to make them little by little, so that they can be sustained and improved upon gradually. Large "step" changes will be more difficult to maintain and may be presently unrealistic. Bear this in mind when setting yourself goals and targets - it is pyschologically more important to succeed with a small target than fail with a larger target.

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The latest guidelines on the optimum amount of exercise are:

  • heart rate monitor Aerobic exercise should be performed three to five times per week for 20-60 minutes, at an intensity of 50-90% of your maximum heart rate. The fitter you are, the closer to the upper end of the range can be maintained. If you are unfit and not used to physical activity, start nearer the lower end. Your maximum heart rate (MHR) is typically calculated as 220 - age. Note this calculation is a gross approximation and may not be suited to all. Recent research has indicated more appropriate formulae such as MHR=217 - (0.85 × Age) (Miller, University of Indiana, 1993). It will still be an approximation though.

    You can monitor your heart rate either by wearing a heart rate monitor or by taking your pulse periodically for 15 seconds, then multiplying by 4 to get your heart rate.

    The type of aerobic activity you do will affect the results that you achieve. For example, weight loss (fat burning) is more likely to be achieved by lower intensity aerobic activity maintained for a longer period of time (eg fast walking for 40 minutes), whereas cardiovascular fitness is likely to be improved via a more intense activity for a shorter period of time (eg jogging for 20 minutes).

    Aerobic activities include exercises where large muscle groups are rhythmically contracted over a period of time. They including walking, jogging, running, cycling, rowing, cross country skiing and aerobic exercise classes. They do not include exercises which include short bursts of energy such as tennis.

  • Muscular strength and endurance can be enhanced by performing one set of 8-10 repetitions of exercises targeting the major muscle groups three times per week.


See your doctor to check that increased physical activity is appropriate for you before starting a new exercise program. The above guidelines are just general and should not be taken as personal advice.


red appleGenerally, the diet of the UK population is too high in fat, especially saturated fat, sugar and salt, and too low in complex carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre. The following guidelines are the currently held beliefs regarding nutrition:

  • Saturated fat intake should make up no more than 10% of the total daily calories consumed. Saturated fat is present in fat of animal origin (not fish) including fatty meat, egg yolk, full fat milk, cream, cheese (except for low fat cheese) and the skin of chicken. It is also contained in certain vegetable oils including partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter.

  • Total fat intake should be no more than 35% of the diet.

  • Complex carbohydrates should provide about 50% of the total daily calories. Complex carbohydrates are unrefined carbohydrates and include wholemeal bread, potatoes, wholemeal pasta and brown rice.

  • Refined sugar should provide no more than 10% of total daily calories.

  • The intake of dietary fibre should be about 30g / day. Dietary fibre is contained in whole grains, bran, fruit and vegetables. Generally, the smaller the vegetable and the more skin it has, the higher the fibre content. So pulses, eg peas, sweetcorn and beans - are higher in fibre than vegetables such as carrots and cabbage. However, carrots and cabbage are rich in other valuable nutrients and a variety of fruit and vegetables should be eaten.

  • Salt intake (sodium) should be no more than 6g per day.

  • Fruit and vegetable consumption should be at least 5 portions per day.

  • Oily fish should be eaten at least twice a week for its beneficial effects on the heart. Oily fish includes salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and kippers.

  • See the psychology of healthy eating, the Vitamin Guide and the Mineral Guide.



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