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Good Nutrition and Physical Exercise Offer More Benefits Than You Think

Average read time: 7 minutes

Health and Wellbeing

When healthy eating and physical activity come to mind, most people simply think about weight loss – but this is not the entire story! Good nutrition and regular exercise offer more benefits than simply helping you maintain your weight. They go hand in hand and are vital to both your physical and mental health.

The effects that healthy eating and exercise have on your body and mind are dependent on each other and impact important functions in your body, making it vital that you pay attention to and incorporate both into your life to reach your full potential.

Exercise and nutrition work together

The benefits of good nutrition and physical activity are often studied separately, but it has become more and more evident that the integration of the two produces greater benefits.

Exercise

Physical activity is a great way to enhance our body’s functioning, and it offers countless benefits for your mental health too. Regular exercise can help to control your appetite, boost your mood, enhance your hearth health, and improve your sleep. When consistently done over the long term, it reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression, and many cancers.

Nutrition

Our bodies require proper nutrition to perform optimally. Nutrients are important for the appropriate functioning of our cells, tissues, and various organs, aiding in several functions, including growth, repair, and protection against diseases. Nutrients are gained from the food we consume and are categorised as micro- or macronutrients. Micronutrients are required in lesser amounts, while macronutrients are needed in greater amounts.

By combining good nutrition and regular physical activity, and maintaining a positive balance between the two, you’re able to reap all the health benefits they offer. Doing so is more advantageous than simply focusing on one of the two aspects. In other words, eating well but not exercising, or exercising but not fuelling your body with nutritious foods, won’t offer the same amount of benefits to your health.

Together, good nutrition and exercise perform the following important functions:

  • Improves your body’s composition, musculoskeletal health, as well as its physical performance.
  • Prevent metabolic diseases, including obesity, diabetes mellitus, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Manages chronic health conditions so they don’t become worse over time.
  • Modulates inflammation associated with certain chronic diseases and ageing.
  • Helps to manage your body weight effectively.
  • Boosts your energy levels so you’re more alert, both mentally and physically.
  • Betters your memory and concentration capacity, thereby helping you to perform better professionally.
  • Enhances your mood by helping you to feel happy, fulfilled, and relaxed. It can also aid in the management of certain mental health conditions.
  • Improves your quality of sleep, which strengthens your immune system and heart health, and improves your memory function.

Tips for better nutrition

Many people are put off when they hear the term ‘healthy eating’, but ‘healthy’ doesn’t have to mean bland. There are countless tasty options when it comes to food choices that fit into a nutritional diet. In the end, it’s all about balance! The best way to maintain this balance is by eating a variety of foods and exercising regularly.

To ensure that you follow a balanced diet and get all the nutrients you need, make sure you:

  • Eat a variety of foods: To provide your body with all the nutrients it needs, eat a variety of foods and include food from each of the seven food groups (as advised by the South African food guide) in your daily meals (i.e., fruits and vegetables, legumes and pulses, starchy foods/carbohydrates, lean proteins, fats and oils, water, and dairy).
  • Eat sufficient whole grains: Our bodies need carbohydrates for sufficient energy. This makes your daily carb intake all the more important! Make sure the bread, cereals, and pasta you consume are made from whole grains and not refined grains that are more popular.
    Have a look at these delicious yet healthy recipes for some inspiration to ensure you consume enough whole carbohydrates: Chakalaka Chicken Pasta, Hearty Potato & Bean Stew and Banana Bread.
  • Eat enough fruits: Fruits provide vitamins and minerals that are essential for our health. They’re also rich in fibre, which is good for gut health. It’s recommended that five portions of fruits and vegetables are consumed per day, and it is advisable to eat natural fruits instead of juices as these contain lots of sugar.
    You can also incorporate fruits in your foods, hot or cold. Try this Chicken, Apple and Pecan Salad or Cheesy Butternut, Apple and Onion Bake, for example.
  • Eat enough vegetables: Vegetables are also good for your overall health. They contain vital minerals and vitamins, more specifically vitamins A, C, and K, which are important for our body cells’ functioning. Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens should be a core component of your diet as they contain antioxidants that will help boost your immune system.
    Since veggies are so versatile, there are so many ways in which you can enjoy them. Why not try these Halloumi and Vegetable Skewers or this Traditional Vegetable Curry?
  • Opt for lean meats: Ideally, your protein should be gained from lean meats, since they contain less fat and calories. Your sources of protein can be animal- or plant-based, and there is a vast variety of options for you to choose from.
    For meat lovers, have a look at this mouth-watering Creamy Pork Fillet with Peppers and Paprika recipe. And to make sure you get your protein in, even if you don’t eat meat, have a look at this wholesome Vegan Chilli with Beans, Chickpeas and Lentils recipe.

Incorporating physical activity into your routine

Exercise is a cornerstone of health and benefits almost every system in your body. To reap the health benefits of physical activity, you should partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. This includes activities such as brisk walking, water aerobics or dancing. The recommended 150 minutes doesn’t have to be done in one session. It can be broken down into shorter sessions which may make it more manageable. You could exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for example.

If you’re new to physical activities, the best thing you can do for your body is to start slow. Starting with exercises that are too strenuous might cause you to give up before you’ve really started.

Walking is a great way to be active. It’s easy, free, and can be done wherever you are. If you can find a walking partner, who’ll keep you accountable and motivate you to keep moving, that’s even better! Start with short, slow walks, and increase the intensity (and duration) as your fitness level improves. When you’re ready for more, you can start with more significant physical activities such as jogging, or joining a gym or sports club of your choice.

Besides sporting activities, there are some small changes you can make in your everyday routine to stay physically active. You can, for example:

  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk to your nearest grocer to buy your grocery supplies instead of driving
  • Take your dog for a walk, or go play with your children in a park
  • Do house chores or work in the garden

A well-balanced diet along with regular exercise will do wonders for your body and overall health. If you’re ready to make the necessary changes in your life, remember to start gradually so that you’re able to maintain both physical activity and good nutrition over the long run.

FAQs

Do nutrition and physical exercise go hand in hand?

Yes, you need to combine good nutrition and physical activity to reap the health benefits.

What are the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise?

Healthy eating and regular physical activity can help improve your overall health and enable your body to fight common diseases. It’ll also help boost your immune system, increase your energy levels, build good posture and physique, and so much more.

How can I start eating healthier?

The best way to maintain balance when it comes to your diet is by eating a variety of foods to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs. Include food from each of the seven food groups in your daily meals (i.e., fruits and vegetables, legumes and pulses, starchy foods/carbohydrates, lean proteins, fats and oils, water, and dairy).

How do I start incorporating exercise into my life?

If you’re new to physical activities, the best thing you can do is to start slow. Starting with exercises that are too strenuous might cause you to give up before you’ve really started. Walking is a great way to be active. It’s easy, free, and can be done wherever you are.

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