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Summer Fitness

By Kendle Walters

Summer is right around the corner, and in Las Vegas, this usually means wearing less clothing — a lot less clothing. There are some quick, effective ways to get in shape before summer arrives that don’t require spending all day in the gym and eating only skimpy salads.

Exercise can be a daunting task for many people, yet the thought of baring almost all in a swimsuit can be motivation enough to get them to jump on the treadmill and start pumping some iron. Regardless of the motivation, exercising and eating right can be rewarding and provide far more benefits than just looking better in swimwear.

According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise helps to control weight and combat health conditions and diseases. Even moderate exercise burns calories and aids in regulating weight. Physical activity raises the good cholesterol (HDL) and helps lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) no matter what your current weight is. This helps reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Exercise has also been credited with reducing the risk for certain types of cancers and Type II diabetes.

Losing weight through diet and exercise is a process that takes time. The process can be expedited, however, by safely making dietary changes and increasing your level of physical activity.

One pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories, so to lose a pound a week, a person must reduce their caloric intake by 500 a day. Omitting 500 calories a day from your diet can be as simple as drinking water with meals instead of juice or soda. A large soda can run over 300 calories, and an eight ounce glass of orange juice is approximately 140 calories.

To improve health and maintain weight loss, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, but they say to use caution if you have been inactive for a while. Starting with low to moderate intensity activities and working your way up to vigorous exercise is advised.

Former National Physique Committee bodybuilder and Las Vegas resident Joseph Vara recommends doing at least 30-45 minutes of high-intensity cardio per day to get in shape in time for summer. Examples of high-intensity aerobic exercise include jogging, swimming laps, and playing basketball. He said that you don’t have to have a gym membership to achieve a healthy, toned body. Running, doing push-ups, pull-ups and jumping jacks are all effective exercises that can be done anytime and anywhere. “Anything to get your heart rate up and break a sweat is good,” he said.

For people who want to shed extra pounds quickly and augment their results, Vara suggests consuming at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, lowering carbohydrate consumption significantly, drinking only water and cutting sodium from their diets.

“Any person who does these things I think will see a drastic decrease in body weight,” Vara said.

According to Vara, timing is everything when it comes to successful dieting. He said carbohydrates should be non-glycemic (think brown rice, wheat bread, yams) and consumed in the morning. Eating after 6 p.m. is also a no-no in his book. “Your body is like a machine: It’s used to a routine. If you train your body to eat at the same times everyday, your body is going to regulate itself a lot better.”

He said portion control is critical and that a healthy portion would be a 4 oz chicken breast and approximately 4-5 ounces of broccoli.

“Ultimately, exercise is only about one-third of what it takes to get in shape,” Vara said. “The other two-thirds is totally your diet.”

If consuming only chicken and broccoli sounds a little too rigid for you, there is hope. Vara suggests rewarding yourself with a “cheat meal” once a week where you can eat anything you want — even a double cheeseburger and fries.

For less than an hour a day of exercising and replacing unhealthy foods with nutritious choices, a person can reap the health benefits that diet and exercise have to offer. And don’t forget the aesthetic rewards too — looking better in a swimsuit and shorts just in time for summer.