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And thus it is resolved...

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image The Sun City Center Fitness Center. Mitch Traphagen Photo

2012 will be the year to get in shape.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

And thus it is resolved: 2012 will be the year to get in shape. Well, at least it has been resolved for roughly half of the people out there. And it is a resolution that will stick — for a week or three. Of course it all begins with intensity, such as signing up for a health club membership and hitting the gym, but it all too frequently ends with…well, making the decision to actually walk into McDonalds for the Egg McMuffin rather than sitting in the car in line for the drive-thru window. Hey, exercise is exercise, right? Well, yes! Yes, it is!

“A tired swimmer cannot perform a rescue. Staying mentally and physically fit is the key to being productive in your relationships both personal and business.”
 — From William Hodges in his syndicated newspaper column “Positive Talk.”

The world has only recently passed from a time when the word “work” meant physical labor instead of sitting at a desk in front of a computer. As a result, physical inactivity is a growing problem not only in the United States but also around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, just over one-third of Americans are obese and while Florida doesn’t top that list, with an obesity rate of 26.6 percent it is certainly a problem that many have come to recognize. As “work” has changed from meaning physical activity, “working out” has gained in prominence. More and more, people are realizing that remaining physically active is the key to a better and longer life.

Of course, there is no better time than at the beginning of a new year, with the custom of making resolutions, to make some changes that may change your life for the better. According to a 2002 study of the outcome of New Year’s resolutions published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (Vol. 58, Issue 4), approximately 40 to 45 percent of Americans make one or more New Year’s resolutions. Of that group, 75 percent of them maintain those resolutions after the first week. After a month, it’s down to 64 percent, by mid-summer, the number is down to 46 percent. But that remains a significant number of people following through on their resolutions.

The study went on to reveal that of people who identified a problem in their lives, only four percent of those who did not make New Year’s resolutions were successful in resolving it six months later. This suggests that making a resolution towards a goal made those people ten times more likely of achieving that goal.

And what is that goal? According to the study, the top two resolutions were weight loss and joining an exercise program.

Fitness Centers abound in South Hillsborough, ranging from the Apollo Beach Racquet Club to Anytime Fitness Centers to several Curves franchise locations. For some, a fitness program may take the form of that which is offered by any number of martial arts academies in the area. For those living in Sun City Center, certainly one of the perks of being members of the Community Association is free admission to the impressive, fully-equipped, 7,000-square-foot Sun City Center Fitness Center. Also, once the domain of the rich and famous, personal trainers have entered the mainstream — most fitness centers offer the services of a personal trainer and there are numerous trainers in private practice at rates that run the spectrum. Affordability, after all, is a personal viewpoint, but the fees charged by trainers and health clubs also work to encourage those who sign up with the intensity of a newly-made resolution to, perhaps, stick with it. They are paying for it, after all.

While fitness centers offer programs to speed along and efficiently manage the process of becoming or being healthy, working towards fitness does not require a monthly fee. There are no snow banks to trudge through in Florida. It is a rare day that the weather doesn’t cooperate for a simple walk around the neighborhood — which, of course, is an exercise program that comes at no cost whatsoever.

The Mayo Clinic describes walking as “a gentle, low-impact exercise that can ease you into a higher level of fitness and health.” It is an exercise program that almost everyone can take part in and it doesn’t require practice. The Mayo Clinic recommends walking, citing the benefits as a reduction of “bad” cholesterol and an increase in “good” cholesterol, a reduction in blood pressure, a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes, a reduction in weight and an improvement in mood. The clinic also recommends that people forget about the “no pain, no gain” mentality and just get into the routine of taking a brisk walk. For safety, they recommend spending a few minutes walking slowly (or walking in place) and then stretching your muscles a bit to avoid the possibility of injuries. The clinic also recommends that people start slowly, with five or ten minute walks, that eventually lead to 15 minute walks, that over several weeks’ time become 30 or 60 minute walks.

Diet, of course, also plays a role. Not even McDonalds would recommend a diet exclusively of Egg McMuffins, but few people choose to live on flaxseeds alone. As in walking or any exercise program, moderation is the key, as is the resolve to stick with a plan. Food is an essential part of life and no one says it has to be boring — but perhaps cutting back on the cheesecake in favor of some wild salmon or garbanzo beans and broccoli now and again is an achievable goal. And, of course, anyone with health problems or concerns should consult with their doctor before beginning any exercise program.

And now, into the second week of the New Year, with most people still healthily resolved to becoming healthy, fitness centers are seeing the upswing. According to Scott Bernath at the Sun City Center Fitness Center, a peak in traffic at the center is expected soon, perhaps as early as this week. As such, there is no better time to get started — whether you join a fitness club, hire a personal trainer or just start walking down your street. After all, lots of people will be doing it, and the chances are good you’ll make a new friend or two in the process. If you stick with it, six months from now you’ll be healthier and at least half of the people you met along the way will still be there with you.

The Mayo Clinic article on walking may be found at www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ01612

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