Some people spent the final days of the year as couch potatoes before committing to New Year's resolutions of exercise and fitness.
However, these commitments often are disregarded before the calendar is flipped to February.
Setting small, realistic goals will help to keep these resolutions on track throughout the year, says Dr. Miriam Cortez-Cooper, physical therapist and exercise physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia School of Allied Health Sciences.
"People treat exercise as something they have to do. They know they should do it, but don't really see how they can make it work with their lifestyle," Cortez-Cooper says.
She suggests that people get honest with themselves by writing down all of the pros and cons of being more active. By identifying barriers to exercise, excuses can turn into opportunities to integrate activity into the daily grind.
"Think about your schedule. If you've got five kids and you're constantly shuttling from school to soccer practice, you may not see any time to be active," Cortez-Cooper says. "Ask yourself if that's really a barrier. Could you use the time to walk around the soccer field while you're there?"
Once a person is ready to overcome barriers and get active, five components of physical fitness can be used to determine mini-goals on the way to long-term fitness: aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition.
It doesn't take a gym membership, expensive equipment or a lot of time to reach goals in these five areas, Cortez-Cooper said.
"You can think in 10-minute increments when it comes to physical activity," she said. "You don't have to be sweaty, huffing and puffing to be exercising."
Small goals that can be accomplished outside the gym for each component of physical fitness include:
- Using a pedometer to improve aerobic endurance. Determine the number of steps walked in a day, then work to increase that number by 10 percent.
- Perform crunches, modified or wall push-ups, and squats to improve muscular strength and endurance.
- Stretch key muscles such as the thighs, calves and chest to improve flexibility.
- Eat a healthy diet in addition to exercising to improve body composition, the percentages of fat, muscle and bone in the body.
To stay on track, Cortez-Cooper recommends an accountability partner to check in with from time to time. Non-food rewards are also motivation to achieve one small goal and continue to the next one.
"People see the New Year's resolution as an all-or-none phenomenon. They think if they miss a day or a week of exercise, that it just wasn't meant to be and they'll try again next year," Cortez-Cooper said. "Have the expectation that some kind of activity is better than nothing and you're more likely to stick with exercise for the long term.
"You've got to figure out something you enjoy doing. If you like to volunteer and you stay busy cleaning the church, that's exercise. It counts."
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
The News-Times asked post-Christmas shoppers, "What is your New Year's resolution?" Here are their answers:
Allison Messick-Watkins, Evans: "I don't make resolutions; I make goals. Mine ... is to live in the present moment so I can make the most of my life. ..."
Donnie Hall, Martinez: "To lose some weight."
Laurie Smith, Evans: "To exercise more."
Christine Lawrence, Martinez: "To read 3,000 pages."
Debbie Lafountain, Grovetown: "To stay healthy and well."
Jake Johnson, Harlem: "To get better grades."
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