While exercise is important to overall health, conditions such as arthritis and chronic back pain can make even normal, day-to-day activity quite difficult. But all is not lost (or, rather, gained) when it comes to keeping your weight in check. Here are five things you can do.

Watch What You Eat

While you want to watch what you eat, don't be tempted to cut back too much, or skip meals because you are trying to eat less calories overall. Those strategies can backfire and make weight loss or maintenance even more difficult. Here's why:

  • Eating too little food forces your body into "starvation" mode. That means your body actually thinks it's starving and, in response, starts holding on to calories rather than burning them.
  • A healthy food plan should always include at least 1,200 calories a day. Below that number, your metabolism may slow down to conserve energy, plus you won't be able to get enough nutrients from your food to stay healthy over the long term.
  • When you skip a meal, you are likely to overeat at the next meal. The rule of thumb for most people is to eat something, whether it is a snack or full meal, every three to five hours.

Put a Plan in Place

Develop daily menu plans that ensure a well-balanced diet that's high in fiber, moderately low in fat, and includes a reasonable number of calories.

  • Include the foods you like to eat in your diet plan so that you don't feel deprived.
  • Space your meals and snacks out at appropriate times and be sure you have the food you need to follow the plan.
  • Drink plenty of water and include plenty of foods that are high in fluids, such as fruit, vegetables and yogurt in your diet.

Have a Plan B

Besides planning a calorie-controlled, balanced diet, it helps to make a list of things you can do with yourself throughout the day besides eating. That way, if you get bored, frustrated, or you're tempted to eat when you're not really hungry, you can go to your list and choose an alternate activity to serve as a diversion. On your list you might include activities such as taking a walk, having a manicure or pedicure, calling a friend, going to the library to look for a new book, or getting a massage.

Think Positive

A positive attitude goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you can't balance food and exercise as well as you'd like to or as well as you used to. Getting to a healthy weight and staying there is a challenge for many people, with or without a medical condition.

To help you meet that challenge, avoid stressful situations whenever you can, and learn how to manage stress through techniques such as deep breathing and biofeedback, so that when you can't avoid it, you can respond in ways that help reduce stress. Another way to help reduce stress and stay positive is to be sure you get enough sleep.

Move What You Can

Find as many ways to move as many body parts as you can. Light housework or gardening, walking around a mall and other daily activities all contribute to your fitness level. Every type of activity burns some calories, so the more you move, even if you can't do strenuous exercise, the better you'll be able to control your weight, maintain muscle tone and stay fit overall.

Mind-body exercises, such as hatha yoga and t'ai chi, as well as gentle stretching, will help you maintain flexibility in your joints and reduce muscle stiffness and tension. Some fitness centers and yoga studios have classes geared toward older people and those with limitations. Always check with your health care provider to see what specific types of activities you can safely do to help stay fit and maintain a healthy weight.



Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source-How Much Exercise Do You Need? Web Dec 2012

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Relaxation Techniques for Health Web Dec 2012

USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology: Promoting Successful Aging Web Dec 2012