Both your diet and your physical activity probably changed for the worse during the holiday period. In the summer break your focus is on relaxation, sunshine and leisure activities, so you are perhaps less likely to pay enough attention to healthy habits. But don’t worry, because the members of the UOC’s Faculty of Health Sciences UOC Anna Bach and Laura Esquius have created a guide to help you return to healthy eating and physical exercise now that the new academic year has started.
Eight tips for a healthy diet
Organization and planning are key to reprogramming your consumption habits according to Bach, the director of the Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Health. She offers the following eight recommendations:
1. Commit to variety and nutritional density. The Mediterranean diet pyramid helps you determine the right proportions. All types of fruit and vegetables should play the central role in your diet. To help you design a seasonal menu, autumn diets are now available in the Nutrition section of the Healthy UOC site.
2. Avoid highly processed foods and fast food.
3. Eat in moderation. Pay attention to portion size. Use the dimensions of your plate as a guide to avoid overeating. Stop eating before you are full. When eating out, try to follow the same healthy habits and proportions as you would at home and pay attention to portion size. It is advisable for lunch to be your main meal rather than dinner.
4. Read the labels if you are unsure which one of two similar products to choose. The Nutri-Score nutritional rating system for packaged products, which will be implemented in Spain in late 2021, will help you make healthier choices. A colour code will allow you to identify high-calorie foods based on saturated fats, simple sugars and sodium.
5. Avoid drinking alcohol. If as part of returning to a healthy routine you want to reduce weight, this recommendation is even more important.
6. Prioritize culinary activities. To avoid monotony and enjoy each meal, it is advisable to use a variety of culinary techniques and place limits on the amount of fried food you eat. Use salt sparingly; herbs and spices can also be used as seasoning and to enhance flavours.
7. Enjoy a meal in the company of others at least once a day. Sharing food, coming together around the table with no digital devices and having a pleasant conversation all contribute to good health.
8. Chew your food carefully and focus on the dish in front of you.
Do aerobic exercises, muscle-strengthening activities and stretching to get back in shape
It is not unusual for people to take less physical exercise during the holidays. The anxiety and stress associated with getting back to your work routine can be reduced by increasing your physical activity. Laura Esquius, the director of the UOC’s Master’s Degree in Food for Physical Exercise and Sport, explains how to break the cycle of inertia with three recommendations:
1. Aerobic exercise to improve cardiorespiratory fitness
Walk, jog, run, cycle, row (if possible), etc. every day for 20 to 30 minutes at light or moderate intensity. For the uninitiated, light or moderate intensity means being able to breathe easily while exercising. Do not be in a hurry to increase the intensity of your exercise on the first few days. Aerobic exercise produces a pleasant sensation and, as a result, your body will ask you to do it for longer periods of time and also with more intensity. The idea is to enjoy yourself and not suffer in the early stages, so you can become accustomed to doing exercise and every day be willing to do more.
If you’re used to doing regular exercise, you are the best person to choose which type of exercise is most suitable for you. But be careful not to initially overdo it in terms of intensity and duration. If before the holidays you had a certain level of physical fitness, do not be overly anxious to recover it. There’s no hurry. To avoid surprises (injuries), light or moderate intensity is recommended at first and half an hour to an hour, depending on your profile, should be enough. After exercising, you should spend 10 to 15 minutes stretching all your muscle groups.
2. Resistance training to improve muscular fitness
For strength training beginners, it is advisable to start with simple exercises and light weights. For the upper body, we recommend using low resistance bands and choosing exercises that involve several joints and muscle groups. If possible, it is highly advisable to do upper body exercises that use your own body weight. For your lower body, it is advisable to do squats with your body weight, going down only far enough for your thighs to be parallel with the ground. Getting up and down from a bench, doing lunges (long, deep steps) and standing on your tiptoes are all good exercises.
As a general rule for these first few days, it is advisable to do 3 or 4 upper body exercises and 3 or 4 lower body exercises, and to do 1 to 3 series of each exercise, depending on your ability. There’s no hurry. Muscular training is a pleasure and if these first sessions go well and you don’t overdo it, your body will ask you to gradually increase the weight, the number of repetitions and the number of series.
It is advisable to choose a weight that allows you to do 8 to 15 repetitions. And you should alternate upper and lower body exercises, as this allows for a speedier recovery and increases cardiorespiratory activity. It is a good idea to finish your session with abdominal and lumbar work: 2 or 3 exercises and 1 to 3 series. Here, good technique is the watchword. After exercising, you should spend between 10 and 15 minutes stretching all your muscle groups.
If you’re used to taking regular exercise, you are the best person to choose which routines are most suitable for you. If you worked out during the summer, keep it up. But if you took a break, ease yourself back into it, making sure you don’t take on too much too quickly.
3. Flexibility exercises and yoga
These exercises help you relax and, above all, improve your joint mobility. Beginners should seek the help of a qualified instructor.
Health and well-being, a priority for the UOC
Promoting health and caring for people are, at times like this, a priority for the UOC, and so we would like to encourage our staff to follow a healthy lifestyle with the proposals in the Healthy UOC space on the IntraUOC. There are online sessions for muscle toning, healthy teleworking and Zumba. Download this calendar to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!
You can now book a check-up! Likewise, in the Health and wellbeing space, you can find a wealth of services provided by the University to help you stay healthy.