Allowing just four weeks to get in better shape seems like a tall order, especially for people who don’t follow a fitness plan. The changes can be overwhelming, but the process is easier if it’s taken one adjustment at a time. Since any increase in physical activity and healthy eating makes a positive difference, it’s worthwhile to choose the changes you think you can tackle and make an effort to implement them throughout the course of your plan.
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The diet is one of the easiest areas in which to make gradual adjustments. A solid basis for a healthy diet is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid, which has five main groups: lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat or nonfat dairy items. Begin by replacing some of the unhealthy foods you eat with foods from the pyramid, and work up to building each meal or snack entirely out of healthy, nutritious pyramid items. HelpGuide.org suggests using simple substitutions like fresh fruit for baked goods and water for soda.
The American Council on Exercise recommends that all healthy people participate in a three-part workout program consisting of stretching, strength training and aerobics. It’s not necessary to do each part every day, but a good way to start is by adding some type of physical activity to a daily routine. Progress gradually through the four weeks by intensifying exercises, picking up heavier weights, extending workout times, and continuing to challenge your body.
Most diet and exercise plans will prove to be effective if they follow federal guidelines for good health. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults do two or more strength training sessions per week and at least 150 additional minutes of moderate exercise. People who don’t fulfill those requirements can use the duration of a four-week plan to work up to meeting them. Nutritionally, it’s helpful to cut progressively greater amounts of processed foods, saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol out of the diet each week.
Start the four-week plan at a pace that feels comfortable to you, and outline goals for each subsequent week and for the culmination of the plan. Focus on just one or two small changes to make each week, and adjust to those changes as fully as possible before moving on to the next steps of your plan. Rushing and taking on too much at once can cause burnout and a loss of motivation, so move ahead steadily, but pay attention to your body and attitude as you do so.
Ideally, a healthy diet and exercise plan should go far beyond a four-week period of time, and making permanent changes during the course of your plan will yield far greater benefits than picking up temporary habits. People who want to become fitter and healthier should do a thorough self-evaluation before beginning any plan, and to focus on changes they can make that will positively affect their lives while remaining suitable to their budgets, schedules and lifestyles.