Please review our most frequently asked questions about our Fitness Challenge. Simply click on the question to reveal the answer.
Exercise and Physical Activity
The short answer is NO. We all burn fuel during our daily routine, and there’s even a catchy name for it: non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT) . It’s the energy we use for everything from walking up stairs to texting, and with a little imagination, it’s easy to turn mundane activities into calorie burning opportunities – no gym required.
We might not work up a sweat while shopping or doing housework, but what we want for our Fitness Challenge are those above and beyond routines.
Our website will provide you a list of selected physical activities in which you can choose from. These have been vetted through the past years but we always welcome new ideas.
Remember, adults need at least: 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not. You can spread your activity out during the week, so you don’t have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. It’s about what works best for you, as long as you’re doing physical activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Aerobic activity or “cardio” gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. From pushing a lawn mower, to taking a dance class, to biking to the store – all types of activities count. As long as you’re doing them at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Intensity is how hard your body is working during aerobic activity.
How do you know if you’re doing light, moderate, or vigorous intensity aerobic activities? For most people, light daily activities such as shopping, cooking, or doing the laundry doesn’t count toward our guidelines. Why? Your body isn’t working hard enough to get your heart rate up.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Here are some examples of activities that require moderate effort:
- Walking fast
- Doing water aerobics
- Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- Playing doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower
Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Here are some examples of activities that require vigorous effort:
- Jogging or running
- Swimming laps
- Riding a bike fast or on hills
- Playing singles tennis
- Playing basketball
You can do moderate – or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a mix of the two each week. A rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
Some people like to do vigorous types of activity because it gives them about the same health benefits in half the time. If you haven’t been very active lately, increase your activity level slowly. You need to feel comfortable doing moderate-intensity activities before you move on to more vigorous ones. Find a physical activity that is right for you.
Besides aerobic activity, you need to do things to strengthen your muscles at least 2 days a week. These activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms).
To gain health benefits, muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. Try to do 8—12 repetitions per activity that count as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets.
You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity, whatever works best. Just keep in mind that muscle-strengthening activities don’t count toward your aerobic activity total.
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or the gym. You may want to try the following:
- Lifting weights
- Working with resistance bands
- Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., push ups, sit ups)
Fruits and Vegetables
In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the Vegetable Group.
See this chart which lists specific amounts that count as 1 cup of vegetables.
Food bars are an improvement over a candy bars, but they don’t count as your 5 cups of fruits and veggies a day. On www.choosemyplate.gov it says that each ¼ cup dried fruit weighs about 1-½ ounces and counts like ½ cup of other fruit and vegetables. If a health bar is entirely made up of dried fruit, then just look at the weight of the bar to work out your cup count. For example, a 3 ounce bar would count as 1 cup of fruit/veggies.
Use these as an occasional snack and continue to eat a wide variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables totaling 5 cups a day.
In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or 1⁄2 cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group.
Wine does not count as a fruit! Sorry ladies! By definition, wine is a drink made by the partial or complete fermentation of the juice of fresh grapes.
Nuts and seeds count as meat alternatives, not vegetables.
Soy milk is part of the milk group on the Food Group Plate because it is nutritionally close to cow’s milk when it is fortified with calcium. Soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow milk and is fortified with calcium, which makes it a great option for people who are lactose intolerant.
Before being made into soy milk, soy beans are counted in either the vegetable or meat/beans group of the food guide plate. Soy milk is made from soaking mature soy beans, so why wouldn’t it still count as a vegetable? Since the liquid extracted from the soy beans does not have the same nutritional values as the whole soy bean, soy milk jumps from the vegetable group to the milk group.
Soybeans that are sold fresh, frozen or canned, count as vegetables as well as in the protein group. Each cup counts as a cup of vegetables. But other soy products, like veggie burgers, would replace meat and are counted, according to www.choosemyplate.gov as part of the meat group and not the vegetable. They have been processed to the extent that their role in the diet is more as a protein source, not a vegetable. However, tofu does double duty as a protein and a vegetable.
Popcorn is a grain, not a vegetable. And 3 cups popped is the equivalent of one ounce of whole grain which makes it a healthy choice.
When it comes to soups and counting them in cups – unless it has been determined for you, you will have to estimate it. While broth has nutrients – we do not count it in the cups. You need to estimate the amount of vegetable or beans you seen in the cup of soup. For example, a lentil soup could be a thick soup with lots of beans and veggies, but you need to eat 12 oz of it to get 1 cup of veggies (the rest of the volume is the broth).
Also, with regard to canned soups – the volume depends. Some Campbells soups require you to add water, usually an equal amount. The good news is – before you add the water you could get a good idea of how much veggies are there for your estimate. Thus, if you need to add water to the 15 oz can – that would mean it would reconstitute to ~30 oz, so for each cup of soup you could potentially have ½ cup of veggies – but again depends on the type of soup. Best approach is your best estimate based on what the soup is and how much you are eating.