5 Questions to Help Decide What You Really Need to Get Fit and Healthy

(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Azaria E. Foster)

When we hear the fitness industry is worth well over $30 billion, we tend to think there needs to be a monetary investment to get fit and healthy. But what exactly do we really need to create a healthy lifestyle so we can live longer and enjoy life?

If we break down the things in our lives that we need and do not need to get healthy, we might be surprised at how effective mastering the basics can be for us all. For instance, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do You Really Need a Fitness Plan?

Truth be told, you do not need a plan. Although they are helpful for specific goals, moving more often does not require a detailed plan -- just consistency and discipline. According to a recent study, you should move throughout the day, even if only for five-minute spurts during hours of sitting at the office.

Movement is key to your health. Walking, yard work, chores, manual labor and running errands all count as physical activity. Keep moving; it will keep you social and is as good as any fitness program.

This also answers the question:

2. Do You Really Need a Weight Room and Gym?

Sure, fitness centers are helpful and effective in having a place to focus on strength or cardio training and be social, but it is not necessary for everyone. However, having a favorite workout or exercise routine you enjoy is a bonus to your exercise and movement routine.

The goal is not to sit all day. After all, sitting is the new smoking.

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3. Do You Really Need to Go on a Diet?

Eating well is a goal we all should have, but does not mean you need to get on a restrictive diet that eliminates macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins) or limits the time in the day you can eat or drink calories. Learning more about portion control to maintain your body weight or lose excess body fat can be effective.

Significant money is spent each year on supplements and smoothies with added proteins and nutrients. Are these needed? Many will argue on both sides of the discussion. Still, suppose you can diversify your regular meals with quality fruits and vegetables, protein sources, fiber sources, lean fats and more water consumption.

In that case, you will have fewer needs for supplementing your diet. Find some great resources for health, wellness and nutrition.

4. Do You Really Need to Be Motivated to Get Fit?

It is great to be inspired and motivated, but no one is motivated 100% of the time to exercise at the gym. Most people are unmotivated to exercise (or move) most days of the week, but they do it anyway.

No, you do not need motivation, but you do need to make moving a habit and build some discipline to make this happen. Remember, you do not have to move, exercise or eat well. You get to move, exercise or eat well. Building discipline requires an attitude of gratitude. Taking advantage of your ability to move is a gift. Remember that.

5. Do You Really Need Fitness Tracking Software or Apps?

Other than tracking technology, there are many ways to assess your fitness, health and weight-loss progress. Sure, the latest programs are effective, but can carry expensive memberships and monthly subscriptions.

Some of my favorite ways to assess my progress are using the belt loop or tape measure method, bathroom scales, heart rate and the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale to determine if daily workouts are getting easier.

Consider a To-Do and a "To-Don't" List

Moving regularly, eating well, sleeping well and drinking more water must be on top of the to-do list, as missing any of these key ingredients consistently is a recipe for health failure in the near and long term. On top of the "to-don't" list is to avoid too much sitting, overeating, overstressing, excessive screen time (phone, computer, TV) and too many sugary and alcoholic beverages.

Moderation is the name of the game with your "to-don't" list items.

Becoming fit and healthy again is about investment, not spending money or taking multiple hours of your day. Invest in yourself daily by doing something helpful, even if only for five-minute spurts spread throughout the day.

If you do not like to walk or find it challenging due to a previous injury or your current condition, try some calisthenics or dumbbell work every hour on the hour for 2-3 minutes at a time. A recent study shows this type of resistance training is helpful with blood-work numbers (sugar, triglycerides, etc.)

Good luck with your fitness journey. Remember, we all start as beginners -- even the best athletes on the planet.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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