New Year's Resolution: Get Fit
Resolved to exercise and get in shape? Here's how to actually do it.
To avoid overwhelming yourself, set realistic expectations, says Marilyn
Tanner, RD, co-creator of the Head to Toe program at the St. Louis Children's
Hospital and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"Assess where you are now, and then break it into achievable goals,"
says Tanner, noting how important it is to limit the number of resolutions.
Stick to one small physical activity goal and to one small nutrition goal, and
keep a reserve list of objectives, she says. Once you have accomplished your
primary goals, move on to the next set.
How does one go about choosing an appropriate fitness program? Different
things work for different people. Fortunately, there are more than enough
Starting to Make Healthy Choices
When fitness clients ask, "Which machine is the best for cardiovascular
training?" Ross usually answers, "The one that you hate the
Exercise does not have to be dull. Yet as people grow up, they lose the
connection between fun and movement, says Ross. He suggests thinking about the
kind of person you are and what you like to do. Some people may love going to
the gym while others prefer to play team sports. Still others favor jogging or
walking around the neighborhood.
"It really doesn't matter what you do, if it's running up and down the
stairs in your house, if it's sitting up and down in a chair 20 times, or
running around the yard, or running around the treadmill, all (cardiovascular)
exercise has to be is something that increases the demand for oxygen," says
Ross. "If you are asking your body to use oxygen more rapidly, that is by
very definition, cardiovascular training."
Exercise does not need to be a formal activity, either. It does not require
a big chunk of time carved out of your day. Decades ago, people stayed fit by
doing ordinary things like doing housework, taking the stairs, and playing with
their kids, says Pauline Wallin, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private
practice, and a personal life coach in Camp Hill, Pa.
Some activities can even double as weight-bearing exercise, the other
component of an ideal fitness program. This type of exercise involves anything
that uses body weight against gravity. Examples include walking, jogging,
playing basketball, yoga, martial arts, push-ups, weight training, and free
To get maximum benefits, focus on working out the larger muscle groups. Most
of the muscle mass in the body lies in the trunk, thighs, chest, back, and
abdomen. Targeting these areas will give "you the biggest bang for your
buck, so to speak, for your workout time," says Ross. He suggests starting
out with one set of eight to 15 repetitions of one exercise two days a
If you are unsure about how to perform certain exercises properly, seek
expert help. You may hire a personal trainer for one or two sessions to get
started. "Many people try to (start a fitness program) on their own, and
they try things that really aren't meant to get the long-term result," says
Ross. "It's extremely beneficial to get education if you feel like you need