13 ways to a healthier 2013

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We’re two weeks into the new year and, for many of us, those resolutions to get in shape are just faint memories. But there’s still 50 weeks to go in 2013, and nothing says we can’t start anew.

We called on local experts in fitness and nutrition for their best advice. Before starting a new exercise program, you might want to check with your doctor. And, make sure you have the proper clothing and footwear to avoid injuries.

1. Get real. Set goals.

Whether it’s eating better or exercising more, the first step it to make a commitment of mind and body. Be honest with yourself about what you really want and how much you’re willing to work to get it. Write down your goals for the week, the month or the year. Be specific. (Ex.: Walk 30 minutes 3 days a week). Tell others. Be accountable.

2. Track your progress.

Journal (whether in a notebook or computer) what you eat and when, as well as your workouts. Take note of your progressions and digressions. It will help you pinpoint problem areas.

3. Move more. Everyday.

Getting in shape is not just about workouts. Move every chance you get. Embrace walking – even standing – more. Walk or ride your bike for errands, take the stairs, mow your lawn with a push mower, get up to change the channel, walk to talk to co-workers rather than calling.

4. Try something new.

Try a variety of activities to find ones you like and want to do long-term. Explore yoga, Zumba, a walking group, running, Pilates, spinning, kickboxing, biking or swimming. Try exercising at different times of the day. Work with a personal trainer for new ideas.

5. Pick up the pace.

Walking speed is an important reflection of overall health. Slowing down is associated with aging. A faster pace provides greater health benefits, so move faster when you can.

6. Crank it up.

To get the most out of your cardio, try interval training – alternating short bursts of intense exercise with a period of easy-to-moderate recovery. Do it with running, cycling, swimming and even walking. Start with 1-2 sessions a week. Get your heart rate to 85-90 percent of its maximum. Compute it by subtracting your age from 220. During recovery, try to not let your heart rate drop below 60 percent of its maximum.

7. Eat breakfast.

Think of it as “front-loading”: Eating more of your calories earlier in the day gives you the whole day to burn them off.

8. Eat more fiber.

High-fiber foods, such as produce, legumes and whole grains, keep you feeling fuller longer. Look for breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and rice that state “whole grain” on the Nutrition Facts label and that are at least 3 grams of fiber or more per serving.

9. Make small changes.

Small daily changes done consistently can have a big impact. Hate exercise? Park farther away, take the dog for an extra block. Can’t stick to a diet? Tackle one thing, such as cutting down on soft drinks.

10. Weigh weekly.

If you go up 3-5 pounds, pay more attention to food choices, portion sizes and activity levels. If you’re up 6-8 pounds, it’s time re-focus your efforts. Begin by decreasing portion sizes and getting more active.

11. Stay motivated.

Look for encouragement in any form: A friend, a fitness professional, even an old photo.

12. Reward yourself.

Have a non-food reward system. When you accomplish one of your goals, treat yourself to a massage, pedicure or that new iPad.

13. Be patient. Be consistent.

Weight loss and exercise are a journey, not a destination. Don’t let one slip throw you off track. Instead of waiting for the next Monday or the first of the month to resume your efforts, make healthier choices at your next meal. If you miss a regular day of workouts, don’t make it two.

Katherine C. Cash, Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Jheri Bellard, Baton Rouge General Medical Center

Pam Stone, Woman’s Center for Wellness

Sandra Guidry, Sandbox Training

Carey Long, Spectrum Fitness Club

Theresa Townsend, Townsend Personal Fitness

Bill Gvoich, Rxercise at Spectrum Fitness and Medical Wellness Centers

Ty Barrett, Foxy’s Fitness Centers

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