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Finding an exercise plan for 2011
Expert answers to your health and wellness questions
Question: I have failed many times at sticking with my New Year’s resolutions for exercise. How can I make this year different?
Answer: That’s a question on the minds of many right now as we jump into 2011 with both feet! First of all, congratulations to you for not giving up! Here’s how to make this year different:
1. Break your goal down into bite-size chunks and be specific and realistic. Don’t make the mistake of trying much too soon. Maybe this month it’s just to walk for 15 minutes during your lunch break every day and then again after work. Then next month you add something new, like a resistance training exercise or two or add some more time on your daily walk.
2. Get help and support. You can’t do this alone. This is huge! Enlist a good friend to do this with you. Get your spouse on board or even your kids.
3. Map out a plan. Setting the right goal is part of it but coming up with a plan of execution and breaking it down into steps is critical. This might require the help of a trainer at your local gym or a relative who is a fitness expert.
If your car broke down, you’d pay a mechanic to fix it. If your house is cold, you call a heating expert. If your hair is out of control, you go to a salon. Why then would you try to deal with an issue as important as your health and fitness on your own? This year set attainable goals, rally support from others and get help setting up a plan of execution to help you get results. I will guarantee you this: If you do manage to exercise five to six times per week for all of 2011, it will change your life. There is no more powerful medicine or tool for overall health and well-being as it affects our quality of life. Go for it!
Question: Several my friends are using websites to track their nutrition and fitness and they’re trying to get me to do the same. Do you think these health and wellness websites are worth the time, money and effort?
Answer: Research has proved that consistent monitoring and added accountability can pay off in the long run when you’re looking to make lifestyle changes. There are a number of website options out there, from basic nutrition or fitness tracking sites to others that offer a wide variety of capabilities in all areas of health and wellness.
I personally prefer anytimehealth.com as it is one of the most comprehensive I have seen. The site has a diet tracker, an activity tracker, a workout planner that uses more than 300 high-definition videos, as well as a robust community with support groups, a contest page, a site blog and more. As with most of the sites out there, you can sign up for a free account that gives you somewhat limited access, and if you like what you see, you can access all features of the site for a nominal yearly fee. Other good examples include calorieking.com, sparkpeople.com, livestrong.com and myfooddiary.com. — Jay
Question: How often should I exercise? My friend says I only need three times per week — any more often is only for narcissistic reasons and can even produce exercise addiction. Is that true?
Answer: Well, if I had to pick something to be addicted to, exercise would be my drug of choice! Your friend is wrong! Three times per week is a minimum guideline for cardiovascular benefits and for prevention of many chronic disease types. Three times per week is infinitely better than zero times per week. However, daily exercise of the right type, duration and intensity, is usually even better (five-six times per week) for most people and most desired outcomes.
Your body craves the chemistry of exercise. Your brain craves the chemistry of exercise. You were designed to move, not just to move three times per week. When you exercise, it tunes up your entire system to function better. There is an acute blood pressure lowering effect of cardio exercise that lasts for two-three hours after the exercise session. Skip a day and you miss out on that.
The stress management effects of exercise provide huge benefits the day you exercise (including better sleep) but less benefit on nonexercise days. The residual metabolic effect of exercise, if performed daily, can make all the difference between success and failure with weight loss. A 20-30 minute bout of cardio exercise even enhances mood and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. I could go on and on in answering this one! Just be sure not to do too much every day or do the wrong kinds of exercise that could produce chronic overuse injuries. Other than expressing that warning, I say go for it and make exercise a priority in your day, every day! — Jay
Question: I have a friend that stocks her cupboards with low-calorie versions of everything and she seems to be losing weight. Are diet foods really the key to long-term weight management?
Answer: Diet foods certainly can help but they have to be used in moderation, just like anything else. When they’re used as a crutch, achieving your weight loss goals can be difficult over the long term. Look what happened in the 1980s and 1990s when low-fat diets were all the rage. People consumed fat-free cookies, low-fat muffins and reduced-fat chips in an effort to lose weight and the nation’s waistline continued to bulge. Fat intake dropped but carbohydrate intake skyrocketed, resulting in an increase in total calories for many folks.
Bottom line … even supposed “health” foods can make weight loss difficult if you simply eat too much. Try this: Write down everything you eat for a week. Then go to anytimehealth.com or calorieking.com, plug in your food intake list and figure out how many calories you are consuming each day. Then enter your age, weight and activity level into a BMR formula (again online) that will tell you how many calories you expend each day.
Do the math and make changes appropriately. I am not saying you have to count calories in and calories out for the rest of your life, but you do need to get a handle on it until making good food choices begins to come naturally for you. Diet foods certainly can be used as a tool, but until you really know what you are taking in versus what you are expending in terms of calories, you won’t be in control of your weight. — Heidi
Jay Bryan is an exercise physiologist and Heidi Bryan is a certified personal trainer. To ask Jay or Heidi a question, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.