4 Ways to Get Fit This Spring

Maybe you want to unveil a sleeker body at the beach. Perhaps you want to get in shape for your favorite seasonal sport. Or maybe you've simply decided that it's time to start improving your health once and for all. Whatever the reason, there's no better time than spring to start slimming down and shaping up. To get started, follow these four tips.

1. Step Outside.

Although any exercise is better than no exercise, outdoor fitness provides more variety than the gym, and fresh air offers an extra feel-good factor. And according to a recent University of Buffalo study, regular workouts may provide some long-term benefits as well, helping aging muscles to retain their flexibility and resist injury. So as the days get warmer, take advantage of the weather with a jogging or walking workout, or do boot-camp training on your deck or in your backyard. You can also invest in a mountain bike, go hiking, or learn how to play tennis.

2. Veg Out.

From avocados and asparagus to spinach and snow peas, spring offers a bounty of versatile vegetables. In a recent Ohio State University study, researchers reported that avocados, rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, may significantly increase the absorption of nutrients that protect against heart disease, cancer, and blindness. Go ahead and mix some veggies up in seasonal salads; use them to make delicious, diet-friendly snacks; or steam them to create low-calorie side dishes. Better yet, celebrate the arrival of spring by planting a garden—not only is gardening a rewarding hobby, it also burns up to 300 calories per hour.

3. Go Slow But Steady.

If you've spent the winter hibernating, working out too hard too soon could lead to injury and undermine your efforts. Instead, experts recommend that you ease into exercise slowly. Along these lines, the American Authority on Fitness (ACE) suggests you always warm up, cool down, and stretch, and remember to stay well-hydrated before, during, and after your workouts.

4. Write it Down.

According to a Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research study of more than 2,000 dieters, the greatest predictor of weight-loss success was whether the dieter kept a food diary. In fact, it trumped exercise, age, and even starting body mass index. So be sure keep track of your calorie, fat, and carbohydrate intake, as well as the times at which you consumed them.