Fad diets and fad exercise regimens come and go, but at the end of the day, there are a set group of "rules" I feel everyone should live by, which are listed below.
1. Be As Active as Possible - Those of you out there that are currently living a sedentary lifestyle will like this one. Rule number 1 is not about working out, but being active (don't worry, #10 is all about working out!). There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of tips people can do every day to help them stay more active. Here are just a few examples; park at the back of the lot when going to the store, you are then forced to walk a further distance. If you have grocery bags or something to carry on the way back, even better as it will be like a mini workout. If you work on the 3rd or 4th floor of a building, take the stairs. Obviously if you work on the 98th floor you will take the elevator, but maybe only until the 94th floor and then take the stairs the rest of the way. Little things like this should be permanently embedded in your brain to make you think of "how can I stay active today?"
2. Eat More Plants - No, I do not mean buying one of those "ready to cook" dishes and popping it in the microwave. The amount of processing those veggies have gone through to get to your freezer has sucked so many nutrients out of them. I mean fresh, whole, good old fruits and vegetables. I would say 70% of the stuff in your fridge should be fresh products that will not last more than a week. That way, you will be forced to eat them before they go bad, and two, by eating all of those fruits and veggies, you will be too full to fill your belly with other junk. Also, when possible, eat your fruits and veggies as naturally as possible (raw) because cooking can remove some of the vital nutrients!
3. Resistance Training - Most women (and some men) are afraid of getting "bulky". I am going to let you in on a little secret...it is extremely hard (if not impossible) for women and also men to ever become "bulky". You see, our bodies are designed to be lean and fast. Our ancestors had to chase down food and run from predators, etc. so your body does not want to be lugging around all of that extra muscle weight (or fat for that matter). Unfortunately, your body has no other choice but to store extra calories from overeating as fat, but I am getting away from the topic here. Yes, men have a higher affinity to build muscle because they have more testosterone, which makes it virtually impossible for women to ever become "bulky". Weight training (using resistance against your muscles) has a whole slew of benefits ranging from increasing your strength in muscles and ligaments, helping prevent osteoporosis, increasing your resting metabolic rate, etc. Weight training is vital for everyone to do; male, female, young and old!
4. Circuit Train - This is resistance training...done as a circuit. Many of you may have tried this type of training. The most wonderful thing occurs when you circuit train. Even though resistance training is considered "anaerobic training" or working your body without oxygen (basically), a well-designed circuit routine also works your "aerobic" systems of your body similar to running on a treadmill. This is due to the fact that when you burn your muscles, you are causing what is known as "microtrauma" to your muscle cells, where you body has to come in a repair to make you stronger for next time. How does your body repair your muscles? Well it increases your heart rate and improves your circulation. If done correctly, circuit training that works your muscles and your circulatory system at once should be the only type of training anyone should ever need (unless you are training for an endurance event such as a marathon, etc.). Not only that, but well-designed circuit routines have been proven to burn more calories than standalone cardio ever can, plus your metabolism is kicked into high gear for hours after the workout is over (including while you sleep!).
5. Change Things Up - Also known as "periodization", this is the idea that you should not be doing the same things all the time. Even you runners out there that want to train for a race should not just run, but do other full body exercises. When you do something, your body wants to do that particular thing as efficiently and effectively as possible so it strengthens you in those areas, also known as adaptation. Once you adapt to a program, your body stops changing and you hit a plateau. This is very common for people who want to get fit so they decide to take up running. Well, they get out there and run 5km, 3 days a week and see great results the first few weeks, losing weight, etc. Then, all of a sudden as if someone hit a switch, they stop losing weight. Its because their body is used to running and is no longer changing. This is why full-body circuit routines are great, you can constantly swap out different moves and literally have an infinite number of exercise combinations to keep your body constantly guessing...and constantly changing!
6. Train With a Purpose - If you are a soccer player, you would train your legs and core and heart to be a better runner and kick the ball harder, etc. If you are a gymnast, you train your flexibility and core strength, etc. Well for average people who do not have a specific sport to train for, you should be training your body to become more functionally fit for everyday life. This includes core strength to improve posture, leg strength to climb stairs into your old age, arm strength to lift your kids and play with them. Don't just do something just because it looks cool or is the new fad, do it because it is going to improve your overall health. For example, if you are a dad who coaches your sons soccer team and wishes to be more fit and active, going to the gym three days a week and spending 45mins of every hour doing ridiculous weight on the bench press and bicep curls may make your muscles grow a bit, but you are still going to be huffing and puffing trying to keep up with the kids. Take that for example right there, kids do a little bit of everything, they run, they jump, they swing from trees, adults should take a hint...
7. Stretch - Now that you are following rule #3 and doing some resistance training, remember to stretch as well. Nothing makes someone old faster than their muscles experiencing atrophy (decay) and shortening up as they get older. You see it in your older relatives, their posture is terrible, they hunch over, etc. This is due to a lack of strength training as well as a lack of stretching. It literally is the fountain of youth. Stretching not only opens up our muscles but also helps with joint mobility, circulation and injury prevention.
8. Core Strength - I touched on this a bit in #6, but core strength is something everyone should be focused on. Your core allows you to do the things you do in every day life. I don't just mean those "six-pack abs" here either, but your entire trunk. Everything from you "nipples to knees" is your core and all the way around your body. Not only will your arms and legs function more efficiently due to a strong core (healthy trunk makes for a healthy tree) but you will also be less susceptible to injuries, especially with your back.
9. Drink Your Water - Most of us are underhydrated, probably caused by our obsession with caffeine (diuretic). A properly hydrated body just runs more efficiently including digestions, our immune system, our thinking, etc. Not only that, but if you are underhyrated, your body thinks as if you are living in a dessert so it starts to retain water which can add inches here and there. Drink your water and eat raw fruits and vegetables as they are mostly water to stay hydrated!
10. Exercise - I told you I would get back to this one. As much as we all like to think, "Oh, I did the gardening today, that is enough exercise" or "I walked the dog, that is enough exercise" you are fooling yourself into thinking you are speaking the truth. Stop lying to yourself and get some exercise. Exercise is where your heart rate gets up high (much higher than walking pace) and stays there for a decent amount of time. For those of you starting out, 20 mins of exercise will be plenty, then as you get more fit and more comfortable with your changing body, you can increase the amount of time you work out. Keep in mind though that more does not necessarily mean better. Some people go from couch potato to 2 hours at the gym their first time out and can barely walk the next day. Unless you are training for the Olympics, most people will benefit from 45-60mins a day, 5-6 days a week. Yes, I had to sneak that part in...everyone should get at least 20mins of exercise 5-6 days a week...no questions asked.