Breakfast is my least favorite meal, so I usually skip it. (I rarely have time for more than a cup of coffee anyway.) Is breakfast really that important?
Yes, it is. Studies have shown that a balanced breakfast improves concentration and performance at work (or school) and helps with hunger management later in the day. Statistically, breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight and have a lower risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
But eating the right breakfast is essential. If your cereal comes with a prize in the box, forget it. Choose healthy carbohydrates like whole grain cereals and fruit, and lean protein like egg whites, low-fat yogurt or milk, or soy milk. Avoid refined white-flour grains, processed foods and added sugar -- they elevate blood sugar, spike insulin production and will leave you feeling hungry again by midmorning.
If you dislike traditional breakfast foods, have peanut butter, turkey or light cheese on a slice of whole grain toast along with a bowl of berries. No one said you have to have eggs and bacon.
I'm bored with walking for exercise, but I really want to stay in shape. How can I make it more fun?
No matter what your exercise of choice, everyone goes through periods when working out seems like more of a chore than a diversion. To keep your workout fresh and fun, get creative with who, what, when, where and how:
* Who. Recruit your best friend to tag along.
* What. Substitute walking with biking, swimming or yoga one day a week.
* When. Try walking at a different time of day.
* Where. Reverse your usual route, or find a new one.
* How. Time yourself to meet a goal, or mix in periods of speed walking.
I'm trying to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but I have no idea how big a serving is. Is each serving about a cup?
According to the American Dietetic Association, a fruit serving equals one small piece of fruit, one cup of chopped fruit, or 1/2 cup of fruit juice. For vegetables, a serving equals one cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. While portion guidelines vary, the key thing to remember is to incorporate fruits and veggies into every meal. The last time we checked, a little extra fiber, vitamins and minerals never hurt anyone.
I've been hearing a backlash against strength training. Really, how healthy is strength training for my body long-term?
When we posed this question to personal trainer Danielle Hollenshade, of Metropolitan Health & Fitness in Baltimore, she responded: "I'm in shock."
Most health experts agree that, if done correctly, there are no long-term disadvantages to strength training.
Not only does it keep your body toned, strength training enhances bone density, increases metabolism, strengthens joints and prevents injuries. It even improves balance and keeps you warmer.
If done incorrectly, however, you run the risk of injury. With the help of Hollenshade, we've compiled a list of strength training dos and don'ts, so you can reap the benefits and reduce the risk.
* Warm up the muscle beforehand
* Use proper form
* Give each muscle group a day's rest
* Lift explosively or with a jerky motion
* Lock joints
* Lift more weight than your body can support
Do you have a fitness question? Write to Fitness, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. You can also fax questions to 410-783-2519 or e-mail fitness @baltsun.com.