If you’re like a majority of people, you’re going to try to get in better shape or lose some weight in 2013.
Losing weight or getting in shape—which usually go hand-in-hand—are among the most popular New Year’s Resolutions every year. I think part of that is because we tend to have an increased understanding of the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, but a more cynical side of me thinks it remains popular year-in and year-out because so many people fail at it the first time around. Or the second. Or the third.
Put me in that boat, and give me an oar.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s as natural to fall short in this type of goal as it is to want to make the goal in the first place. We are people, not switches, and the changes we want to take more than a little effort. With a few tips and a little extra persistence, this can be the year for you.
First of all, start slow and make realistic goals. If it helps, don’t set a specific weight loss goal, but rather a resolution to live a generally healthy life. Make a plan and tell other people about it, because speaking the words gives them additional power—and provides extra incentive. You don’t want to keep answering the question about how your fitness goals are coming along with: ‘They’re not.’ Also, by starting with something simple, perhaps as easy as walking half an hour a day, you reduce the risk of overdoing it, hurting yourself and getting discouraged. You can always build on your plan later on.
If you have a chronic condition, like I do, you should check with your doctor first. I am a type II diabetic and exercise is an important part of managing it—or will be, once I get into a regular routine. If you have heart disease or are worried about joint pain, though, your doctor will tell you what type of activity is safe for you and how much he or she recommends.
You should aim for about 150 minutes of cardio vascular exercise each week. Walking is good, as is riding a bike, swimming or the like. If you can’t afford a gym membership or aren’t too keen on the prospect of negotiating an icy sidewalk, mall makes an adequate substitute—even if you have to leave your credit cards at home to keep up with your getting out of debt resolution.
I also plan to incorporate some muscle building exercises, because strength training helps your body process blood sugar. The bigger your muscles are, the more sugar they burn. Muscles are more active than fat, so building them up tends to increase your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories—even when you’re resting. It’s good for the bones, too.
This doesn’t mean you have to pump iron or join a gym. It can be something as simple as using a resistance band while watching television, doing sit ups or pushups. The point is to do something, and get into a routine.
It’s also important to be patient. This takes time. It’s not a quick fix, or an easy fix; you’ll be more successful if you gradually get your body accustomed to regular exercise and better food. If you don’t see changes right away, don’t get discouraged. Remember, even if you’re one of the lucky ones who can flip a mental switch and start these new behaviors right away, your body may take a while to catch up.
Now, bring on 2013!