Use These 5 Principles to Build a Foundation for Fitness and Health

(Photo: Stock image.)
A couple walks in the woods. (Stock image)

When people ask for my advice about starting a fitness program, they may think I am going to suggest a long gym workout or dump enough information on them to fill a fitness book. What I offer instead are five fitness and health principles that will help build a foundation that will allow you to take your fitness journey in many different directions.

Here are some of the most important pieces of advice. Unfortunately, they’re often the least given because they are the basics that do not cost anything.

1. Walking and stretching

Walking and stretching through simple movement can be the missing links for overall health and pain relief. Walking outside in the morning sun helps you regulate your circadian rhythms and vitamin D absorption. Adding deep breathing while you walk can also help you deal with stress and enhance your walk to make it more than just a decent calorie burner.

2. Drinking more water

Water can be the answer for your headaches, weight loss issues, and achy muscles and joints. While you walk, drink a bottle of water. Continue drinking water throughout the day until you consume about 50 to 75% of your body weight in ounces of water. If a 150-pound man drinks 75 to 100 ounces of water, that is a good basic range of water consumption that will let him see the added benefits of flushing his bladder, normalizing blood pressure, and regulating body temperature.

3. Move More + Eat Less = Calorie Deficit

Even while you’re eating less, make sure you eat well. If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit with good and healthful food choices. You can get into deficit mode two ways: Move more than you eat or eat and drink fewer calories each day for a week. A deficit of 500 calories a day can result in a pound of weight loss a week.

4. Sleep

Sleep is our No. 1 recovery tool. Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night will result in a healthier, less stressed, and higher-performing you. You need a good night’s sleep to recover from the daily stress of work, home, school and life in general. Set an alarm to start your nighttime ritual. It works as a great reminder to put the phone down, stop watching TV, and start doing your calm and soothing bedtime rituals.

5. Resistance training

Eventually, you will need to add resistance training. You do not need to jump right into the gym. In fact, walking and stretching are a great way to build some basic time-of-day habits quickly and easily. Once you build the habit and develop the foundation of fitness, you can add in resistance training.

Calisthenics, resistance bands, TRX, weight machines and free weights are all forms of resistance training that allow for muscle growth, bone strengthening, joint protection, balance, and more calories burned for weight management. These options will take your fitness to the next level, help you build longevity, and add life to your years.

The underlying requirement to make any fitness program and food plan work is consistency. No matter how you decide to exercise and eat, you need to make and stick to a schedule. If you are having an issue with consistency, try a food diary to help you with discipline. Place a blank sheet of paper on a clipboard and keep it in the kitchen. Write down everything you put into your mouth (food, drinks, snacks) right before you ingest them. The added event of having to write down a snack on your food list may be the very thing that helps you with mindless eating and adding discipline to your day.

If you fail to be consistent, maybe your food plan and exercise plan are just not sustainable for you. Keep searching but always go back to the basics: walk, stretch, drink water and sleep. These will give you a solid fitness and health foundation when you find something that works for you.

Start with and master the basics. If you can maintain these five basic elements of fitness, health and wellness, you will be well on your way to seeing the positive results of a healthy life.

-- 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

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