Starting 2023 Strong: Diet and Exercise

Alyssa Erickson

Alyssa Erickson | By Brent Dundore-Arias

January 4, 2023

By Mark C. Anderson

Myths have a way of meddling with helpful health habits. 

For example, many believe a quality workout must involve a certain amount of suffering.

Not the case. At least that’s what CSU Monterey Bay Kinesiology Department Chair Kent Adams loves to remind anyone who will listen. 

“You don’t have to be tortured in elaborate exercise to get health benefits,” he says. “You can get good outcomes from simple mild to moderate activity. The short and sweet of it is this: Move more and sit less. Any amount of physical activity has benefits.”

CSUMB’s Nursing Department Chair Alyssa Erikson is similarly equipped to correct misbeliefs around good eating. 

“For nutrition, you always want to be thinking about what you’re putting in your body,” she says, “but you don’t want to be too restrictive either.”

In other words, those dramatic new year’s resolutions to pack in ambitious cross training—or cut out all the carbs—often aren’t the most realistic or even beneficial strategies. Life-affirming activity can happen in simpler ways.

Kent adds that the benefits of basic movement, while broadcast widely, might still be undersold. 

“Physical activity and exercise have a ripple effect on all aspects of your health, mind and body,” he says. “It increases efficiency, lowers depression and decreases anxiety.”

So, yes, muscles and lungs are aided by exercise, but so are head and heart. More good news: It’s fast acting.

“Physical activity has immediate health benefits, reducing blood pressure, improving sleep,” Adams says. “I like to say, ‘Exercise: It does a mind and body good.’” 

Longer-term positive effects follow, Adams adds, including prevention of eight types of cancer, from bladder cancer to breast cancer to kidney cancer to stomach cancer, while reducing risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“People don’t put those connections together,” he says, “but they’re real.”

As with exercise, simple rules also reign when it comes to diet. A good one when grocery shopping comes around calories. It’s not so much the quantity, Erikson observes, as the quality. 

“A lot of people think nutrition is about restricting calories,” she says. “They’ll choose processed foods with fewer calories when they could choose whole foods like fruits and vegetables and grains. We can all benefit from focusing on unprocessed rather than calories.” 

Her favorite case in point is totally nuts. 

“People think of them as high-fat and high-calorie,” she says, “when there’s a lot of good nutrients in nuts.” 

Erikson also counsels self awareness. A minor amount of mindfulness can reap powerful gains.

“One area that’s gaining a lot of attention is intuitive eating: Being more in touch with how you eat, how you move your body, and how you talk to yourself really works,” she says. “Overall trusting that you know yourself.”


This 3-part new year’s series also includes Starting 2023 Strong: Mental Well-Being and Starting 2023 Strong: Financial Fitness