Good health and fitness at every age

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With winter here and the New Year just started, many people have their list of resolutions. As I reflect on 2010, there are so many memories that I could write about for this month’s  health column.  However, there are two in particular that I would like to reflect upon.  COMMUNITY and HEALTH.

After graduating college, many of my friends and I could not wait till the day we nabbed that gig working downtown Chicago or in a plush office in the suburbs.  Yes, I can admit it now that I’ve experienced it!  Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with working in any of those areas.  I’m sure one day I may revisit those locations as I expand my career experiences.  This memory is important for this topic because I now work in the community (AUSTIN) where I live, and I LOVE IT!  How many people can say they can walk to work or run home for lunch in three minutes?

As I reflect on the impact that the organization (Westside Health Authority) I work for has made in the community this past year in improving healthy behaviors and operating programs, I can proudly say that I was a part of that in MY COMMUNITY.

Since its establishment in1999, the Health Promotions Department has expanded to provide and promote health services that focus on nutrition education and physical activity for youth and adults; community and social services for pregnant women; parenting and healthy lifestyles programs for single mothers; health services for the homeless; sexual health awareness among adolescents and teens; lead awareness and prevention; and breast health awareness and screenings.  If you would like to learn more, visit or call 773-786-0249.

Looking ahead any fitness professional will tell you sticking to a routine and moderation are the two key components for a fit and healthy lifestyle. The road to wellness begins in childhood and, of course, changes overtime as we physically evolve.  Below I have listed some tips for staying healthy throughout life, as we gear up for the changing seasons and 2011.  ENJOY!

Childhood (ages 0-12) Fitness: For children ages 6 and older, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends one hour of physical activity per day and vigorous exercise at least three times a week (jump rope, soccer, etc).  For children under 6, the focus should be on active play, structured and unstructured.  Nutrition: The American Heart Association recommends a diet high in whole grains and fruits but limit juices and saturated fats. Toddlers need extra fat and calories for development, but as they grow, they should begin to eat a leaner diet.

Adolescents (ages 13-18) Fitness: Adolescence is a tough age where putting too much emphasis on appearance can trigger unhealthy body image issues.  Exercise at least one hour per day.  Join a sports team or engage in a fun physical activity. Nutrition: Growing teens need extra calories but should have limited high-calorie, high-sugar foods. Teach young adults they should not consume more calories than they burn off.

Young Adults (ages 19-35) Fitness: Many in this group claim they have no time to work out due to college or work demands.  Each week, 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate cardio exercise is recommended.  A workout partner is especially beneficial for this age group.  Nutrition: This is the age where adults begin to shop and cook for themselves and should limit highly processed multi-ingredient products. Take a break at work with a nutritious snack mix of dried fruit and nuts. Avoid the vending machine.

Middle Age (ages 36-59) Fitness: To prevent weight gain and chronic illness, it is important to get daily exercise. For balance and flexibility, doctors recommend a weekly cardio and strength training routine that can help protect against falls later in life. Nutrition: Extra sugar in this age group can lead to extra weight gain. Nutritionists recommend a diet high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. This is also an important age to fill up on vitamin D to help prevent bone loss.

Seniors (over 60 years) Fitness: Studies show that seniors who exercise have a lower risk of older adult disease, depression, arthritis and dementia.  Walking is great movement for the joints and keeps the blood pumping.  Nutrition: A lifetime of healthy eating will pay off in late adulthood. But beyond a balanced diet, vitamin supplementation becomes increasingly important, with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 being essential.

Let’s make 2011 a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Cody McSellers-McCray , MPH, CHES, is the director of Health Promotions at Westside Health Authority and an Austin resident. You may contact her at

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