Fitness and Exercise on a Vegan Diet
Reducing excess body fat and maintaining a healthy weight is essential to a long and healthy life. One of the most effective paths to achieving this goal is by changing eating habits and embracing a vegan diet. A vegan diet consists entirely of plant-based foods (no meat or animal byproducts, including honey, milk, and eggs). This diet offers many health benefits beyond weight loss, including reducing the risk of developing certain cancers. However, there are precautions that vegans must take, such as ensuring that they obtain the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids through their restricted diet (or via dietary supplements). Also, and as with any diet, a daily exercise routine is crucial to maintaining one’s weight and living a healthy lifestyle.
Daily Exercise and Physical Activity
Regular physical activity is a must for everyone, regardless of whether they are attempting to lose weight or simply maintain good health. Reducing calorie intake can lead to a lower metabolism, which results in a more efficient storage of calories and greater difficulties with losing weight. Exercise, on the other hand, raises the body’s metabolism and burns calories more efficiently. Adults need at least 150 minutes or 2 and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week. This means one should engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise or physical activity on a daily basis for at least five days of the week. Additionally, one should also aim for two days of engaging in muscle-enhancing exercises. Children need to be active for at least an hour per day, which can include playing outside, bicycling, skating, sports, or swimming, among many other activities. Being a vegan does not affect how one exercises or how often they should do so on a daily basis.
Cardio and Weight Training
Exercise comes in many forms, but it is primarily broken down into three categories: aerobic or cardiovascular activities, resistance-training or muscle-building, and weight-bearing or bone-strengthening exercises. Cardio exercises are designed to increase stamina and strengthen the heart and they include riding a bicycle, jogging, walking briskly, basketball, soccer, or swimming. Resistance exercises can include push-ups, climbing a tree, sit-ups, or lifting weights. Exercises that strengthen bones include gymnastics, tennis, jogging, push-ups, and the use of resistance bands. Certain martial arts, such as boxing or kickboxing, can also strengthen bones.
Replacing animal meats with vegetables, fruits, and legumes requires an understanding of which nutrients a person needs to consume for good health. The chief nutrients that everyone needs to be concerned about are protein, calcium, iron, vitamin D, B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, and amino acids. Protein is good for muscle growth and regeneration and is plentiful in peanut butter, quinoa, kidney beans, spinach, chickpeas and garbanzo beans. Many of these foods also contain sufficient levels of amino acids. Calcium, necessary for strong bones, is plentiful in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, and mustard greens. Iron is needed so the body can use oxygen more efficiently. Any lack of iron can lead to excessive exhaustion and anemia. Strong sources of iron in vegan diets include cashews, almonds, peanuts, spinach, seedless raisins, and dried apricots. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium for strong bones and higher levels are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Excellent vegan sources of this vitamin (aside from sunlight) include kale, okra, spinach, soybeans, and collard greens. Vitamin B-12 is good for preserving the good health of the body’s nervous system and can prevent certain types of anemia that causes exhaustion and weakness. Recommended sources of Vitamin B-12 include certain breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts, and soy milk. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the proper function of the kidneys and liver, as well as the immune system, and proper vegan sources of this resource include soybeans, walnuts, mungo beans, flax seeds, and flax seed oil. When it comes to regularly working out or participating in sports, it is important that vegans are meeting their nutritional needs for the best performance results and to reduce the risk of injuries.
Tips for Getting Active
Becoming active in the first place may be difficult for some people, due to a lack of motivation, time restraints, obesity, or other issues. Each person’s case is unique and there is no single solution that fits everyone. A common method for starting to exercise is to take it easy at the start, with short ten minute walks outside or indoors on a treadmill when the weather is too hot or cold. It is also possible to start out by lifting water bottles or bags of grocery items. Exercising while listening to music or watching television is another common way to develop a habit of physical activity. Some video games also encourage physical activity, such as games that feature dancing competitions.
- Eating to Exercise and Compete: Visit the Vegetarian Resource Group’s article for in-depth vegetarian diet advice for athletes. Pre-event meal tips, fluid intake during an athletic competition, and what to eat afterwards are covered here.
- How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?: For information about what level of exercise is necessary for adults, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s web page on recommended physical activity levels. There is also a link to a related video on the right hand side.
- Vegan Diet: On this U.S. News Best Diets page, you’ll find an overview on vegan diets. The article ranks diets and reviews topics such as how they work, the role of exercise, and how easy any diet is to follow.
- Vegan Calcium: Visit this page to read about vegan sources of calcium. Examples include tofu, kale, collard greens, and Bok choy. Also look to the right hand side for top vegan cookbooks and other recommended reading.
- Power Sources: Learn about essential forms of nutrition on this page by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Vegetarian sources of protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin D and B12, Omega-3 fatty acids, are discussed (along with advice related to the consumption of nuts and seeds).
- Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Explained: WebMD explains the difference between vegan and vegetarian diets in this two-page article. Other types of diets are also described and it also points out health benefits that come from vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, including a reduced risk of cancer.
- Vegan Food Guide: Click here to go to a four-page TeensHealth article about vegan diets and various form of vegetarian diets. Also check out the topics at the bottom of the page, including how to become a vegetarian, vegetarian recipes, and vitamins and minerals.
- Raw Deal – Can a Guy Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet?: For those who are interested in bodybuilding without consuming meat, Muscle & Fitness Magazine features an article with interesting information about how to do so while eating vegan.
- Building Muscle on a Vegetarian Diet: Click this link to read about how several famous athletes bulk up while following a vegetarian lifestyle. It also covers the difference between veganism and various forms of vegetarianism.
- Tips to Help You Get Active (PDF): Physical activity and exercise motivation tips are the subject of this PDF brochure by the Weight-control Information Network. It covers potential objections and reasons for procrastinating and offers answers and solutions in return.
- Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults (PDF): Readers interested in learning how to become active and fit will find this PDF based booklet worth downloading. Getting started and developing an active lifestyle are all covered here.
- Sports Nutrition for the Vegetarian Athlete (PDF): Go here to read a PDF document about vegetarian diets for athletes. Nutritional needs for athletes, as well as advantages and disadvantages of meat-free diets are discussed.
- Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Planning a Healthy Vegetarian Diet: Recommended daily diet tips are the subject of the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Lifestyle page. It covers vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and other categories of foods, as well as vitamins and minerals.
- Vegetarian Diets: Visit the American Heart Association’s web page on vegetarian eating for advice on proper dieting. Types of vegetarian diets (and the types of nutrients needed to get the best out of them) are the topic of discussion here.
- Energy Out: Daily Physical Activity Recommendations: Readers interested in learning about proper levels of exercise for children and teens will find useful information in this page on the Healthy Children website. Various types of aerobic, bone-strengthening and muscle-building exercises are listed here as well. Links to other related sites are available at the bottom of the page.
- World Health Organization: Physical Activity and Adults: Click this link to go to the World Health Organization’s web page about recommended levels of physical activity for adults.
- Physical Activity Fact Sheet: How Much Physical Activity Should I Do?: Physical fitness advice for women is the subject of this extensive article by the U.S. Government’s Women’s Health website.
- Physical Activity: The Department of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University presents readers information about the benefits of exercise in this article. It also includes a pyramid chart of what kind of activities a person should do most and which they should do least.
- Health Benefits of Physical Activity: Visit MedicineNet’s physical activity web page to read about various ailments that can be avoided by exercise. Heart disease, back pain, osteoporosis, and diabetes are some of the examples.
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