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Spring Into Shape...

... But any post-winter exercise plan should start slowly

SATURDAY, April 10, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- For those battling a bulging waistline, the first signs of a thaw are often the cue to spring into action on a weight-loss program.

Yet 40 percent of American adults don't participate in any leisure-time physical activity, even though they need 30 minutes of such activity four to six days a week for optimum health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Embracing daily workouts may be tough for those just emerging from a winter's hibernation. So start slowly with stretching exercises. They're a great way to rev up the metabolic engine and build strength -- and prevent injuries.

Follow up the stretches by heading outside for a walk or a bike ride. Low-impact activities such as walking and biking reduce the chances of injury and over-exertion, but they still offer calorie-burning benefits. Walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week is a fine part of any spring weight loss regimen.

But don't expect a miracle before summer. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends losing only half a pound to two pounds per week. To shed half a pound in a week means cutting 125 calories a day from a normal diet.

Restricting junk foods, cutting portion sizes and increasing daily exercise should be enough to achieve slow, consistent weight loss. And people who lose weight slowly and sensibly tend to have a better record of keeping it off.

More information

For more on the health benefits of exercise, visit Georgia State University.

SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; U.S. Surgeon General, Washington, D.C.
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