Exercise: It’s Medicine and Fun, Too

May is Exercise is Medicine Month, an annual initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine to create awareness of the important role physical activity plays in promoting health and preventing disease. Research finds that exercise helps reduce risk of several chronic conditions including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity.

Exercise and Calories

In addition to lowering risk of disease, exercise also burns calories to help you lose weight or maintain a weight loss. A study of participants in the National Weight Control Registry, who have successfully lost and kept off at least 30 pounds for at least one year, found that regular exercise is one of the key ways they keep weight off. If a 140-pound woman expends 150 calories walking for 30 minutes/day 6 days/week, it adds up to a one-pound/month weight loss without any other changes to your diet. Or it gives you an extra 150 calories to “spend” on food that day.

As May brings warmer temperatures and longer days, it’s easier to get outside and make exercise motivating instead of monotonous. Consider these outdoor activities that put excitement back into exercise. Each one lists the number of calories expended by a 140-pound woman doing it for 30 minutes.

Jumping Rope310Golf160
Softball300Throwing Baskets150
Swimming (Slow Crawl)240Walking (Moderate Pace)150
Tennis210Ping Pong130
Horseback Riding (Trotting)210Cycling (Leisurely)120
Fast Dancing200Fishing115
Working in the Garden200Playing Croquet110
Badminton185Throwing a Frisbee100
Water Skiing180Volleyball100
Hiking165Canoeing (Leisurely)85

Exercise and Hydration

On warmer days, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. The good news is it doesn’t have to be just water. In its latest update on fluid requirements, the Institute of Medicine said caffeinated beverages appear to contribute to the daily total water intake similar to that of non-caffeinated beverages. So juice, milk, coffee, tea, soda and other beverages all help hydrate. But if you are trying to control calories choose low or no-calorie options like water, diet soda or coffee, tea, lemonade and fruit punch sweetened with a low-calorie sweetener like aspartame.

Take the challenge this month to find more ways to be active and establish a routine that will take you through the summer. Your heart and your waistline will thank you.



Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD 
is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Dallas. She serves as a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including the Calorie Control Council. She is passionate about promoting fact-based food and nutrition information to help people enjoy nutritious eating. Follow her on Twitter @NevaRDLD and check out her blog at www.NevaCochranRD.com.

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