Live Healthy Iowa, a program through the Iowa Sports Foundation, along with its sponsors, challenges Iowans to come together and make health-conscious lifestyle changes through a ten week challenge beginning Jan. 28.

Hy-Vee and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, two of this year’s Live Healthy Iowa sponsors, help provide information individuals can use to make health-related changes in diet and exercise for the challenge.

“Live Healthy Iowa is a great opportunity to work toward healthy goals in a positive team environment,” said Nicole Bruce, the director for Live Healthy Iowa, “and a great way to start the year and become healthy in 2013.”

The program is a team-focused challenge with the objective of individuals setting goals to make lifestyle changes for better health, such as weight loss and the amount of time spent on an activity.

Laura Kimm, a registered dietician at the Hy-Vee in West Ames, encourages individuals to utilize the Live Healthy Iowa website, where goals ca be recorded.

“We hope that the ten-week challenge through Live Healthy and ISU Extension [will help] people increase their awareness of health-related topics, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and getting at least 150 minutes of exercise or activity a week,” said Sarah Francis, professor of food science and human nutrition and ISU extension educator.

Bruce said individuals should stick to research-based information when making decisions for their health through Live Healthy Iowa, Hy-Vee and the ISU Extension.

Francis said to be cautious when using other sources because several resources are available online for health-related information, but not all of them are based on research.

Individuals who would like help planning meals can find guides and recipes through the ISU Extension’s website, said Francis. These include printable PDF handouts and a Spend Smart, Eat Smart guide, which aids individuals in planning healthy and affordable meals.

“The best diet is one that contains all foods in variety, balance and moderation,” Kimm said. “Beware of diet plans that promote miracle foods, little or no physical activity, focus on or eliminate a specific food group, suggest quick weight loss or follow rigid menus.”

Bruce said the USDA and Iowa Department of Public Health also provide useful, research-based information.

The program also encourages individuals to increase physical activity.

Francis said ISU Extension and Outreach aims to encourage individuals to spend at least 150 minutes engaged in physical activities. These don’t necessarily include lifting weights or running.

“Try and find ways to be active without going to the gym every day. There are creative ways to get out of the gym and be active, even though it’s difficult in the winter,” Bruce said. “Local conservation projects, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and indoor activities provide some options.”

Bruce said individuals should schedule their physical activities so they are difficult to ignore. This could include planning on biking or walking for commutes, which adds time to an individual’s daily total.

The ISU Extension and Outreach office is offering physical activity assessments to show individuals how much they accomplish through the program and to aid in making healthy decisions, said Francis.

Bruce, Francis and Kimm said Live Healthy Iowa’s challenge is a good starting point for individuals to begin making health-related decisions and act on them.

Registration for Live Healthy Iowa can be found on the group’s website. Kimm said individuals may take $5 off the registration fee by obtaining a coupon from the Hy-Vee website or visiting the store’s customer service counter.

“It’s not the end-all to becoming healthy, but more of a launch pad or jumping point towards healthy living,” Bruce said.

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