Feel Great in '08
Staying fit and eating right at any age
By Gini Kopecky Wallace
It's never too soon or late to replace bad health habits with good ones or swear off diet and fitness fads in favor of principles that work. Whatever your age, the habits you form now will pay dividends or take their toll later. Here are some strategies experts endorse.
Measure your middle. Waist size is a more important indicator of health than weight or body-mass index, says Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and co-author of You: Staying Young. "Fat around the abdomen is different than fat on your arms or legs," he says. "It's metabolically active fat that can cause inflammation in the arteries and immune system." Women want to keep their waist below 37 inches; men, below 40. (The ideal is 32.5 inches for women and 37 for men.)
Supplements ... Yes or No?
Taking a daily multivitamin can be wise, but unless you're pregnant, elderly, or have other distinct supplemental needs, Christina Economos cautions against taking much else. Vitamins and supplements are not FDA-regulated so quality isn't assured, says Economos, associate director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University and a research scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. "There can be interactions with foods and medications. If you're taking multiple things, there can be competition for absorption." Some substances can also accumulate in the body and/or be dangerous at high levels. The best way to ensure you're getting adequate nutrients is to "ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietician who can analyze your diet and identify where you may be lacking. Nutrition can be complex, so investing in an appointment can be worth it."
Eat wisely. "Eat more whole foods—whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, good oils, nuts, and seeds," says Christina Economos, associate director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University. Read labels, says Roizen, and avoid processed foods that list any of these ingredients among the first five: animal fats; palm or coconut oil; hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; enriched flour or other non-whole grains; dextrose, sucrose, glucose, and other"-ose" sugars; or malt, maple, or corn syrup, which are also sugars.
Reduce portions. The USDA Food Guide Pyramid counts one slice of bread, one half cup of pasta, and one ounce of beef as a serving-size of each. "In our society, we serve very large portions," says Economos. Use smaller plates to make servings look larger, says Roizen, and eat slowly. Try not to eat for at least an hour before bedtime, says Peeke. "If you don't wake up hungry, you ate too much the night before."
Move your body. Economos recommends an hour of physical activity a day to stay in shape and 60 to 90 minutes to slim down. A busy working mom, she knows the only way to fit that in is to break it into 15- or 20- minute bouts. "Corny strategies of getting off the bus a stop early or taking the stairs—I do that. Unless it's above the sixth floor, I never take the elevator. It adds up."
Walk every day. Roizen recommends logging at least 30 minutes a day, indoors or out. "Walking," says Roizen, "has a number of almost magical properties that slow aging."
920/60 Calories/Grams of Fat That's the breakdown for one new Country Breakfast Burrito from Hardees. The rollup contains two egg omelets, bacon, sausage, ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns, and sausage gravy.
Pursue active hobbies. Find a physical activity you enjoy and make it part of your routine. Exercise regimens that aren't fun are soon abandoned, says Economos. "If people enjoy what they're doing—whether it's walking with friends or exercising at a community center or dancing or gardening—they tend to stick with it.
"Find what you like to do and build it into your life."
Picking a Pedometer
Experts recommend walking up to 10,000 steps a day. Attached to a belt or waistband, pedometers help you track your progress. Scott Crouter, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Health Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has done numerous studies on pedometer accuracy. He comments on five models:
Cost - $18.90
Measures - Step-counter only
Description - Spring mechanism. Small, quiet, reliable count. Used in studies by Crouter. Flip-cover protects buttons. Accuracy affected by girth and pedometer tilt. Other models offer more functions.
Dr. Crouter Says, ""For cost effectiveness and counting steps in normal-weight individuals, this is probably the best one to get."
Our panel says, ""It's an idiot-proof setup. The counting mechanism is quite sensitive though, and a little jostle registered as steps walked."
Cost - $16.99-$23.99
Measures - Steps, distance, calories, speed
Description - Spring mechanism. Compact. Two-line display, scroll function, 12-hour clock, sleep function, flip-cover. Rated reliable by one tester but found to undercount steps by Crouter. Accuracy affected by girth and pedometer tilt.
Dr. Crouter Says, ""Some people like these extra features, but pedometers are best at counting steps, less accurate at measuring distance and energy."
Our panel says, ""It does its job well, but changing the settings is slightly complicated and opening the front cover is difficult."
Cost - $26.99-39.99
Measures - Steps, distance, calories, speed, excercise time
Description - Spring mechanism. Small, quiet. Two-line display. 24-hour clock, seven-day memory. Separate walk and run modes. Scrolling and sleep functions, flip cover. Accuracy affected by girth and pedometer tilt. Other models offer more features.
Dr. Crouter Says, ""The Freestyle and Sportline aren't as durable or accurate as the Digiwalker, but the feedback still helps. You'll know when you need to walk [more]."
Our panel says, ""The numbers are very easy to read. The clip for attaching it to the belt is very light, so it frequently ends up on the ground."
Cost - $55-59.95
Measures - Steps, calories burned
Description - Uses accelerometer technology for more accurate step and calorie measurement. Small, light-weight, silent. Unaffected by girth or pedometer tilt in studies by Crouter. Seven-day memory, metal clip.
Dr. Crouter Says, ""The gold standard. Accelerometers measure more accurately for all body sizes and at slower walking speeds. They also measure... energy expenditure."
Our panel says, ""A little tricky to open, and it gave me credit for extra steps! I liked the way it automatically updated my daily step-counts."
Cost - $27.95-$35.99
Measures - Steps, aerobic steps, distance, calories
Description - Accelerometer accuracy. Tracks exercise separately from daily activity. Seven-day memory, 24-hour clock. Can be worn in different ways, not just at waist. Other models offer more functions, including data upload.
Dr. Crouter Says, ""This pedometer shouldn't be affected by body size, but I don't know if that's been studied. Make sure you get a model with an accelerometer."
Our panel says, ""Nice design that departs from the standard little black box of most pedometers. Easy to set up and read."