It goes without saying, we all want to be fit and healthy. But doing so is easier said than done. But with these tips you can stick with the program to living a longer, healthier life. Read on to find out why it isn’t so hard to commit after all.

Unwrap the chocolate
Dark chocolate may help control diabetes and lower blood pressure. An Italian study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, explains that dark chocolate contains flavanol, an antioxidant that neutralizes cell-damaging oxygen-free radicals. Unfortunately, chocolate is also full of fat and calories, so savour in moderation.

Lose weight for a better sex life
If you ever needed an excuse to shed some excess pounds, this is it. A study presented at a recent meeting of The Obesity Society found that losing just 10 per cent of your body weight can make you feel better about your body, thus improving things in the bedroom.

Start flossing
“If you don’t floss, you’ll lose your teeth. It’s that simple,” says Stephen Forgacs, a dentist in Toronto. Bacterial plaque can cause gingivitis — inflammation of the gums — and lead to periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease in which the tissue and supporting bone is destroyed. “Force the floss right into the base of the gap, between the gum and the tooth,” says Forgacs, who adds that nearly 80 per cent of his patients still don’t floss regularly. “Otherwise, you’re accomplishing nothing.”

Quit smoking
There’s a new reason to butt out: according to a study published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, smoking can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The study found that women who currently smoke have a 40 per cent higher risk of breast cancer than someone who never smoked. The good news is that the risk decreases as the number of years since quitting increases.

More tips for exercise, nutrition and caffeine on the next page…

Hollywood hip list: Celeb diets
Fitness: Tips, myths and exercise essentials
Survival of the fittest: Get in shape by playing outdoorsGrab a coffee
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that drinking coffee does not cause long-term increases in blood pressure and may actually offer a slightly lower risk of developing high blood pressure than drinking little or no coffee. Researchers suggest that the antioxidants found in coffee help protect the heart and reduce the risk of cancer.

Value fitness
“Exercise improves your energy level and your ability to deal with stress,” says Lisa Fenton, a fitness specialist with the Ella Centre for Pregnancy and Parenting in Toronto. “Give it the same priority in your schedule as your other important tasks.” Block time in your day planner for an activity that you enjoy. “If you like what you’re doing,” adds Fenton, “chances are you will do it again and you will get results.”

Prevent skin cancer
You know that worshipping the sun is bad, so why are you still doing it? According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, this year more than 60,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer, brought on by frequent severe sunburns and intense sun exposure as a child. Basal cell skin cancer is common in people over 50, but is now being found in teenagers. To reduce your risk, stay out of the sun between 11 am and 4 pm, and wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeve shirt, pants, sunglasses and a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when you are outdoors.

Eat fruit
In his new book SuperFoods HealthStyle (Harper Collins Canada, 2005), Dr. Steven Pratt writes that pomegranates, kiwi and apples can all keep the doctor away. Research suggests that pomegranates may protect you from cancer, heart disease and osteoarthritis, among other diseases. Like aspirin, kiwis help to thin the blood, and apples may reduce the risk of asthma and prevent lung cancer.

Take vitamins
Eating well is a great way to get the nutrients you need, but sometimes it may not be enough. “It can be challenging to meet daily nutritional needs through diet alone,” says Gina Sunderland, a registered dietitian in Winnipeg. “Research shows that taking a daily multivitamin can help fill in the “nutritional gaps” in our diet, give our immune system a boost and help us maintain optimal health.” Speak to your doctor about specially formulated multivitamins, such as those containing higher B vitamins, which, says Sunderland, have an impact on how we look, feel and perform.

Pamper your unborn child
It’s never too early to start spoiling your child, even if he or she has yet to be conceived. In The Mother of all Pregnancy Books (Macmillan Canada, 2000), Ann Douglas writes that your pre-game plan should include giving up cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, cutting caffeine to about a cup a day, taking at least 0.4 mg of folic acid a day, getting your weight in check (a BMI reading between 20 and 25 is ideal), reducing your stress and eating a balanced diet. You and your child will be happy you did.

Read more:
Fitness funk: Transform your body!
Clean your diet: A healthier you!
The antioxidant diet
The anti-cold diet