Fitness in the New Year: Strategize for Success

For the Miami Valley Today

MIAMI VALLEY — Did the effects of the holidays catch up with you? In the cold light of mid-winter, are a few more pounds reflected in your mirror? Do you huff and puff when you take the stairs?

The most effective way to return to fitness and a healthy lifestyle is with a combination of sensible, nutritious eating habits and creative exercising. It’s a simple concept: Eat fewer calories and engage in more physical activity. Health experts agree this works, but it is easier said than done.

If motivation is a problem, consider this: According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight or obese ranks second in total preventable deaths in the United States, close behind tobacco use. An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the weight-related illness.

Planning a strategy is the best way to jump into your program:

• Set realistic goals. Plan your nutrition with foods you will be able to afford, and prepare and design your exercise plan on a schedule you will be able to keep.

• Make fitness a priority. Put your plan at the top of your priorities. Think of your plan as part of your daily life, not as something to squeeze in when you find time.

• Work with a health/fitness professional to design a safe, effective plan that will work for you.

Especially if you have high blood pressure or are considerably overweight, it is important to check with a health professional before beginning a fitness program.

Jenny Jones, physical therapist and manager of the UVMC Center for Sports Medicine, offers advice in selecting exercises and proper eating plans.

“You need cardiovascular exercise to get your heart rate up, at least three to four times a week for 30-45 minutes,” Jones said. “To estimate your maximum age-related heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For a moderate-intensity workout, your target heart rate should be between 64-76% of your maximum heart rate. For a vigorous-intensity workout, your target heart rate should be between 77-93% of your maximum heart rate.”

“Routinely monitor your heart rate while exercising to determine if you are exercising at the level of intensity you are aiming for,” she added. “Take your heart rate mid-way through your routine and toward the end, when it should be slowing down.

Jones recommends aerobic exercises like brisk walking, biking, or exercising at a gym on a stationary bike or an elliptical glider.

Interval training is extremely effective, she notes. “For example, you could walk for one block, then jog for half a block, then walk a block, then jog a half block. The spiking of the more intense activity seems to be more beneficial for many people,” she explained. “It’s important to change or alternate the intensity level.”

Strength training is important, too, Jones added. “Many people don’t lift weights. But it is important to know that it builds muscle, because muscle mass burns calories much faster than fat does,” she said. “So, if you’re lifting weights, you’re burning more calories.”

“I recommend alternating between cardio exercises Monday/Wednesday/Friday and strength training Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, if possible. Then give your body a rest on the seventh day,” Jones said. “People whose schedules don’t allow that much time could consider a three-day-a-week schedule performing 30 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of weight training.”

“To stay interested, exercise with a friend, or sign up at a local fitness facility for whatever classes you enjoy,” she said.

Exercising alone isn’t enough get back into shape. Eating the right foods goes hand-in-hand with the exercise plan.

“Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. On weekends when there is more time, prepare low-fat casseroles. Use fish and chicken or lean ground beef or lean turkey bacon,” she said.

Jones said not to deny yourself things you really like – just remember to eat them in moderation.

For additional fitness-related information, contact the UVMC Center for Sports Medicine at 937-667-2614 or log on to www.premierhealth.com.