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January 2, 2008

U-M Health Minute: Today’s top health issues and medical research

Bring in the New Year with a new fitness routine

U-M health expert offers tips on how to develop a plan to get fit and stick with it at the gym

ANN ARBOR, MI – It’s that time of year again – you have had your final glass of eggnog and your last bite of pumpkin pie. Now you are ready to start the year off right with a new exercise plan – and to keep it up throughout the year so that fitness becomes a routine rather than just another resolution.  

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Colleen Greene, wellness coordinator with MFit, the University of Michigan Health System’s health promotion division, says that in order for a workout plan to succeed a person must realize that pounds won’t come off within the first clutch of a dumbbell. Instead, exercise must become part of a regular routine rather than be thought of as a short-term solution.  

“The number one New Year resolution people have is to lose weight, and it is really not that difficult. But many expect it to be done overnight, and they lose their motivation when that doesn’t happen,” says Greene. “You didn’t gain weight overnight, so you’re not going to lose it overnight either.”  

One main way people jump into a fitness routine is by joining a gym. But often the motivation disappears only weeks after a new membership. Greene offers several tips on how to start and stick with a new workout plan.  

  1. Join a fitness center that is convenient to your lifestyle. “It’s great if you see that a fitness center across town is all new and sparkly, but if you have to fight cross-town traffic to get there it’s probably not a good choice,” advises Greene. It is also important to make sure the center’s hours mesh with your schedule, if it offers child care or other programs you may need and that it has a qualified staff.
  2. Ask questions. Don’t be shy about learning all that the fitness center has to offer, says Greene. Most gyms have specialists and personal trainers that can help you navigate equipment and devise the best plan for your fitness needs. You should also get the OK from your doctor as you begin a new workout routine, and ask any questions that you may have about your health.
  3. Try things you’ve never done before. “If you think Pilates is something for dancers only or if you think yoga means standing on your head, most gyms will have some sort of special drop-in rate for either the first week or first few sessions of a class,” says Greene. “Go ahead and try it! You may find that you like it.”
  4. Work out at GymAim to meet your goals gradually. Greene notes that the most common mistake people make when they join a gym is coming in and doing everything at once. Instead, work toward your goals at a steady pace so that you can sustain your new fitness routine.
  5. Schedule time to exercise into your calendar. “Sometimes people burn out because other things happen; they have this or that responsibility. Remember that you have a responsibility to yourself too,” says Greene. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine so that it becomes part of your day and not something you can easily blow off.
  6. Get a support system. Find people you can count on, whether it is an exercise buddy or someone taking care of your responsibilities at home or on the job, so you have time to work out.  
  7. Make your exercises fun! Working out does not have to be drudgery. Many fitness centers have intramural leagues and an assortment of classes. Also add a variety of workouts to your routine to prevent boredom. “Find out what you like and switch it up every so often,” Greene suggests.

As the winter months roll along, you may begin to feel less motivated. But Greene notes that there is one thing to always remember: “Fitness is a time for you and a time to take care of yourself,” she says. “You will end up feeling good because you’ll be getting fit and feeling better.”

For more information visit these Web sites:
MFit home page
MFit Personal Fitness Plan
Physical Activity for Everyone
Tips for Exercise Success

Written by Laura Drouillard

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