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Reducing Stress through Diet, Exercise

Adequate Rest Also Essential to Improved Physical Health

8/13/2014, 2 p.m.
In order to avoid life-threatening conditions — including diabetes, obesity and certain forms of cancer — a proper diet, exercise ...
Sydney "Flex" Porter, a former track standout at Howard University, has made exercise and nutrition a lifelong mission. (Courtesy of Tommy Wu)

Americans today can expect to live longer than their parents and their grandparents due to new breakthroughs in medicine and technology.

But in order to avoid life-threatening conditions that include diabetes, obesity and certain forms of cancer, all of which can shorten one’s life or have detrimental effects, a proper diet, exercise and plenty of sleep must be part of everyone’s daily routine.

“The three-pronged approach to physical fitness is a quality workout [exercise], optimum nutrition and adequate rest,” said John Young, a New York City resident and fitness trainer certified by the Aerobics Fitness Association of America [AFAA] and the American Council on Exercise [ACE].

“The daily allowance of sleep for the average [person] is between eight and 10 hours per night – most people don’t even come close. If you’re not eating right, exercising and resting, it’s certain that you will feel more irritable, fatigued and find it more difficult to focus even on simple tasks,” said Young, 52.

With more gyms and fitness centers popping up across the country, one would expect that Americans would be healthier. But sometimes it takes a little education in order to know what workout plan is best for you.

One Howard University graduate, who attended college on a track scholarship, said he decided to make exercise a lifelong commitment. And in order to learn more about nutrition and health, he began to use the Internet to gather information and to share it with others.

“I teamed up with several certified trainers and nutritionists who were knowledgeable about exercise which makes you feel better, eating balanced meals that increase your energy and doing simple things to add years to your life – like walking and drinking plenty of water,” said Sydney “Flex” Porter, a resident of Los Angeles, California. “Many people skip breakfast because they’re in a hurry but because it replenishes your body after a night’s rest, it’s the most important meal of the day,” said Porter, 52, whose Facebook page, bodyboyzunited, has more than 20,000 members exchanging information on health and nutrition.

One certified trainer from Suitland, Maryland, said exercise does wonders for relieving stress.

“Personal trainers are required to learn the fundamentals of human anatomy and nutrition and I know that when you exercise regularly, you are helping your body to prevent disease and lowering the need for medication,” said Steven Plater, 29. “In terms of diet, blacks tend to eat what their parents [enjoyed]: fried foods, collard greens, milk, butter and high levels of sugar. I chose to begin eating differently and it wasn’t hard to adopt a healthier diet,” said Plater, an ACE certified trainer.

One former vegetarian who has since become a vegan said the way we eat not only reduces stress but also keeps the number of visits to the doctor at a minimum.

“As a vegan I follow a plant-based nutrition program and eat as much raw and organic foods as possible,” said Jarid Manos, an AFAA certified trainer. “We all have stress in our lives so it makes sense to watch what you eat so that the immune and digestive systems are stronger. I feel more unbreakable and that has transcended to spiritual health as well,” said Manos, 40, who currently commutes between Miami and Houston.

Glenn Miller, who calls himself a health freak, said watching his older brother and Navy veteran workout, prompted him to develop his own routine.

“I wake up every morning with great energy and I believe it comes from exercising and eating the right kinds of food,” said Miller, 28. “We may be living longer but I wanted to live longer and really enjoy life. Lifting weights and revising my diet have eliminated stress and given me energy that I never knew was possible,” said the Little Rock, Arkansas, resident.