Many of us have put on weight over the winter months and have begun to think about shedding extra pounds and getting back into shape.

However, it's important to realize that exercise is an important factor in the reduction of body fat. An exercise fitness program is the driving force in the burning of calories which will reduce body fat, as well as the risk of coronary disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes.

As you begin your fitness and weight-loss programs, keep in mind the importance of staring out slowly. You must decrease your calorie intake in moderation in order to have the energy to exercise.

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The best way to gradually cut calories is to reduce your fat intake. Cut out saturated fats from animal fat, as these can create heart disease. As we age, exercise becomes necessary to improve body circulation.

Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist specializing in foot and ankle surgery. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Weiss is a veteran of 35 Marathons and has a practice in Darien: The Foot & Ankle Institute of Darien. For more information, visit www.therunningdoctor.net.