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In Shape for Life

A Practical Formula for Long-Term Success

By Meghan Vivo

Fad diets come and go - low-carb, low-fat, all-natural. Throw in the extremes, like liquid diets, the grapefruit diet, fat-flush plans and starvation diets, and most Americans give up on healthy eating altogether, at least over the long term. And what excuse do you have for avoiding exercise?

Every study, scientific report and expert commentary on good health endorses moderate-to-strenuous exercise. It doesn't matter whether you walk, run, skip, hop or even just clean the house, as long as you are moving. Any more excuses? Too tired? Too busy? Not enough energy? It's time to banish the excuses and embrace lifelong fitness.

In addition to the obvious benefits of weight control, keeping bones and muscles strong, and reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other afflictions, exercise also will help you get a good night's sleep and reduce feelings of depression and overall negativity. Exercise releases endorphins and activates neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are associated with depression. It's also a great way to relieve stress and unwind.

Girl standing in front of blackboard with arms folded. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark For those of a practical mindset, healthy eating also can put more change in your pocket. Think about it. How many times a week do you eat out or make a last-minute stop for burgers and fries? Do you buy or make your lunches? By cutting back on eating out, you can lose weight, be proud of doing something good for yourself and save money at the same time!

Is a lack of motivation getting you down? Here are a few pointers for kick-starting an exercise regimen that can get and keep you in shape for life.

Set Realistic Goals

Fire up your health plan by assessing your current physical condition and setting both short-term and long-term goals. Your goals should not include all-or-nothing statements like, "I'm going to exercise every day, no matter what" or "I'll never eat chocolate again." Terms such as never or always set you up for intense feelings of guilt in moments of weakness. Guilt almost inevitably feeds the desire to binge and accept defeat - again.

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