A New Year for a New You

When you hear New Year’s Resolution what are some of the first thoughts that come to mind?  Lose weight, eat better, quit smoking, exercise more.  And what is the common denominator with each of these? Improving healthy habits, which is a noble and hopefully life changing endeavor. 

There are an infinite number of ways to attack these goals.  Hopefully this article will shed some light on what different experts recommend and some helpful hints on how to safely implement these strategies.

According to the Center for Disease Control and American Heart Association, adults should be getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.  Looking at these numbers can be daunting initially, but when broken down they do not seem too bad.  If you were to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity (walking, biking, skiing, hiking, etc) 5 days per week you would be meeting the goal.  If a 30 minute chunk seems too big, breaking it up in to three 10 minute bouts gives the same effect!

On top of aerobic activity, it is recommended to do muscle-strengthening activities for each major muscle group 2-3 times per week.  Although the traditional method of going to a gym and using free-weights or machines is a great strategy, there are also many other ways to do strength training.  If you do not have weights at home get creative, soup cans and old milk jugs filled with water are great for arms, loading the kiddo up into your hiking pack for lunges and squats creates a challenging leg workout. There are also a host of DIY yoga, Pilates, and body-weight resisted programs you can find on line if that is more in your wheelhouse.  And for those who like the camaraderie or competition that comes from group exercise there are multiple options here in the valley.

When establishing a program to improve your health habits consider these three basic rules: 

1. Start with small steps and develop a routine.  If you have not run in years you will have difficulty going out first day and running a marathon; however, jogging or walking 10 minutes is a very attainable goal and a great place to start. It does not matter where you start just that you start.  Be sure to establish a routine that can be maintained no matter your phase of life.  

2. Couple exercise with activities you already enjoy.  If the thought of running on a treadmill or lifting weights sounds like purgatory to you then don’t do those activities.  Substitute with an activity you enjoy such as skiing, hiking, or biking.  Another strategy that has significant success is exercising while watching TV or reading, so while you are binge watching Netflix or catching up on the latest American Idol (is that still even around?) jump on the treadmill, get out your yoga mat, or grab your kettle bells and get to work. 

3.  Do not compare yourself to others, only compare against yourself.  There is absolute validity to there being different body types, and each of these body types responds to physical stress and activity differently.  I believe we all know individuals who fit better into plus-size clothing that have an incredibly high level of activity and could hike circles around most folks on the mountain.  A nice strategy to compare against yourself is to set a reminder on your smart phone calendar every two to four weeks and do a self-assessment.  Ask yourself, do I feel better than I did one month ago, am I more active than I was a month ago, do I eat better now than I did one month ago?  If you can answer yes than keep on going!  If you answer no, you have a great place to redouble your efforts.  So whether you’ve got a little junk in the trunk or you’re built like a Greek god, self-perception and functional capacity is infinitely more important than what is reflected back in the mirror.

The last piece of advice to get you started is make sure you are at a physical fitness level suited for your desired plan of attack.  Schedule a “yearly” with your physician to make sure your ticker, lungs, and internal organs are functioning properly.  An often overlooked piece is the “yearly” with your physical therapist to ensure your musculoskeletal system is functioning properly.  As an expert in human movement assessment a physical therapist can detect altered biomechanics that can lead to decreased performance and higher risk for injury. Even if you haven’t experienced a major injury but feel like you aren’t quite moving like you used to, an assessment of your movement can detect and prevent major injuries from happening.

Here at High Country Physical Therapy, our New Year’s Resolution is to provide a Blog designated for helpful hints on improving health, dispelling popular myths, and giving an honest and objective commentary on popular health topics.  Most importantly, keeping you active no matter your age in the things you enjoy most.

Brett

Specialist Physical Therapy Clinic serving Logan and the Cache Valley Area