What are some important physical fitness tips?

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Answered by: Jeff, An Expert in the Healthy Living 101 Category
Fitness is a daunting challenge to many, but what's easy is gradually making small, simple changes in your daily routine.  Educating yourself is a vital part of tackling any new challenge, so this is a compilation of what I've learned are the most important steps to living a healthier lifestyle.  At least, they're what works for me.

In no particular order, my top 10 physical fitness tips:

1.  Drink more water.  A huge portion of our caloric intake is in beverage form.  Instead of spending your day going from coffee to soda to beer, drink water all day.  You'll be surprised by how much you didn't need that caffeine.  Make water your beverage of choice at lunch and/or dinner, and keep a bottle at your desk.  And drink more tea, hot as a replacement for coffee, iced instead of soda.  An iced tea/lemonade mix is something available at most soda fountains, and it's the most irresistible beverage on the planet.

2.  Diversify your workouts.  Your muscles need to be surprised.  Constantly try new exercises and new variations on old exercises.  Run, bike, swim, and then hop on the stair-master every once in a while.  Most importantly, watch other people at the gym and learn by example.  Get an idea for a new exercise every time you work out, and try it the next time.

3.  Do at least 30 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise at least 4 days a week, and try not to take off more than one day at a time.  Learn what cardio activity feels best to you, and dedicate yourself to improving your form and endurance.  Talk to a trainer knowledgeable in that specific activity and get tips on stretching, execution and goal-setting.

4.  Eat 3-4 small meals a day, and snack a lot, on simple, natural foods.  It's important to keep your metabolism going throughout the day, which means eating little amounts all day long.  Instead of spending money on high-calorie meals that fill you up all at once, spend it on nutritious snack food that will last for days and you can munch by the handful, like trail mix.  Spend more time in the produce aisle and stock up on fruits and veggies.  Eat a banana with breakfast every morning and an apple after lunch every day. Snack on raw broccoli and baby carrots, grapes, nuts, strawberries.  Buy less processed meals and more whole foods.

5.  Limit useless calories.  No one needs to drink alcohol every night, or have dessert after every dinner.  Also, french fries are not an appropriate side dish for every meal. In fact, fried potatoes are essentially useless food.  Make smarter choices in what you eat and drink, and try to put as much time as possible in between your splurges.

6.  Do resistance training.  The useful hybrid of weightlifting and cardio, resistance training is an essential part of losing fat and toning your muscles.  Ask a trainer, or watch videos online, to see some easy, effective exercises using resistance bands.  Once you know how to do them and you throw them into your workout mix, you can then focus on getting better at them and increasing your endurance.

7. Get outside.  Fresh air is a good thing.  No matter where you live, find the quickest route to nature, run there, and explore.  Repeat.

8.  Take at least one day off a week.  You can't and shouldn't exercise every day.  And lifting weights should be limited to 4 days a week, max.   The recovery process is just as important as the workout.

9. Don't give up.  Natural, healthy weight-loss is not as fast as we would often like it to be.  As a result, perfectly well-motivated people can quickly lose their resolve if they don't see results and feel like they're doing something wrong.  Why waste time and energy doing the wrong thing?  The truth, of course, is that any exercise is better than none, and giving up will obviously never get you anywhere.  Your form is important, but you should only really be concerned if your workouts are causing you pain.  Otherwise, just keep doing what you're doing.  DON'T STOP.

10.  Do what feels right to you.  Fitness is a journey, and only you can know if you're on the right path.  While you're finding yourself, though, remember to also push yourself, always try new things, and never give up.

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