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Post holiday plan - resolve to get back on track

Focus on Fitness

Posted: January 15, 2012 - 10:26am

Most New Year's resolutions involve something about eating better and exercising more. No doubt this is due to the fact that most of us gain a bit of weight over the holiday season. The average person gains about a pound from Thanksgiving to New Year's. People who are overweight tend to gain more, about two to five pounds. After age 30 your metabolism naturally begins to slow so your risk of holiday weight gain increases as you age. Making a plan to get back on track after the holidays is a good idea. Gaining a pound or more per year for 20-30 years is not a good idea, especially when you consider this weight gain often begins when you are a child.

Exercise is the single most important factor in a weight loss/control program. A program that does not include exercise will not work in the long run. Caloric restriction is a tedious way to lose weight and results in a lower metabolism, which in turn makes weight loss more difficult. In addition, exercise provides many mental and physical benefits independent of weight loss.

Consult a physician before starting an exercise program if you have not participated in one for a long time or if you have special health concerns. Once you have started a program remember that it takes six to eight weeks to make significant gains in fitness.

Sticking with an exercise program can be difficult for many people. Steps can be taken to keep you on track. Write down the exercise you plan to do for the day. As you complete the workout check it off of your list. After a few days, make a plan for the whole week and check the items off of the list as you complete the workout.

Joining a health club can be a great motivator. The equipment will be of high quality, there will be others exercising, and you will be motivated to get your money's worth. Classes are also offered so you can learn key concepts of exercise, which may also help you stick with the program.

Aerobic exercise is the most important form of exercise. Shoot for 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise four to seven days a week. Doing a variety of aerobic workouts is best because it keeps things interesting and works different muscle groups. However, it is also important to find activities that your body can handle and that are realistic for you to fit into your schedule on a daily basis. If you have bad knees running is most likely not the best choice, if you have shoulder problems swimming will probably not work for you.

While a health club is a good choice for many, having a way to exercise aerobically in the home is key for others. It is also a time saver. If you get up 30 minutes earlier you will have time to use an exercise machine in the home before work. Morning is the best time to exercise since it revs up your metabolism for the whole day and gives you more energy to face the day. Even if you have a health club membership it is a good idea to have exercise options at home.

Getting outside to do your aerobic exercise is ideal. Fresh air is invigorating. Walking, snowshoeing, skiing, biking (with studs or a fat tire bike) are all options for winter. Even if you only do one or two of your workouts a week outside, it is worth it.

Strength training is the most efficient form of exercise. A full body strength training program prevents atrophy of the muscles you don't use on a regular basis. It also helps prevent injury when you do use those muscles after a long period of disuse. Strength training gives you a revved up metabolism, which burns more calories throughout the day. It only takes about 30 minutes 3 days a week to reap these benefits.

For most of us there is a natural adjustment in our diet after the holidays are over. There are fewer parties to go to, fewer huge family dinners, less rich calorie laden food and drink at your fingertips. Common sense prevails when getting your diet back on track. Eat more unprocessed and minimally processed foods. Make sure you get your five servings of fruits and vegetables in every day. Try to eat only whole grains. Avoid sugary drinks and drink plenty of water.  Avoid artificial sweeteners because they can actually increase your cravings for carbohydrates. Don't deprive yourself of foods you like, reduce servings sizes and consider certain foods treats rather than staple foods.

Finally, consider weighing yourself on a daily basis. Check your weight first thing in the morning. This can be a motivator to stick with your program. Eating better and exercising more will help you shed that holiday weight gain and prevent your weight from creeping up each year.

Charlie Stephens is a retired P.E. Teacher and owns/operates Kenai Sport & Train, Inc. which specializes in P.E. consulting.  He can be reached at ccstephens@gci.net.

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