Start the new year with fitness in mind

The New Year is approaching fast. It’s that time when a lot of us will be making our resolutions to drop the excess weight gained in the preceding couple months of parties, overeating and inactivity. If you are one of those who fear the inevitable holiday weight gain, I have good news for you.

Contrary to the popular belief that most people gain from five to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, studies show that people actually gain quite a bit less. According to the National Institutes of Health, even though Americans gain 80 percent of their excess weight during this period, it equates to a mere one to tqo pounds. The bad news is that weight isn’t lost during the rest of the year and can lead to future obesity.

There are many tips that you hear every year about controlling the holiday bulge. These include staying active, making healthier choices, limiting alcohol consumption, not arriving at a party hungry and learning to politely just say no. All of these tips are good advice, but the advice I’m going to give may surprise you. I advise allowing for a few pleasures this time of year and don’t feel guilty. It’s best not to go completely out of control, but this isn’t the best time of year to start a diet. The toughest part of a diet isn’t watching what you eat. It’s watching what other people eat!

So enjoy time with friends and family and your break from the daily grind, and if you gain that one or two extra pounds this holiday season, this can easily be dropped just by returning to your normal active lifestyle and way of eating. A week of hard work and a slight calorie deficit will get you back on track. It’s the rest of the year we need to be concerned about. Just an extra 100 calories a day above our energy needs will equal an extra 10 pounds of body fat a year. Stay in shape through the year and you can afford to indulge over the holidays. Therefore, instead of a lengthy list of tips to stay in shape over the holidays I am going to give you a list of ideas to help you stay in shape through the rest of the year.

Research shows that individuals who follow most of these basic health practices will live more than 10 years longer, on average, than those who don’t. So for those who are contemplating what 2012 New Year’s fitness resolutions to set, improving any of the following health indicators would be a good place to start.

Staying with the theme of the season, I present the 12 ways of fitness:

  1. Body Weight. Maintain a healthy, lean bodyweight. Ideal is a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25.

  2. Physical activity. Strive for 4-7 days per week of moderately vigorous exercise lasting 30+ minutes.

  3. Smoking status. Smoking kills over 400,000 people annually. Do not smoke. For anyone that smokes, nothing will improve your health more than to quit.

  4. Consume less red meat and fried foods. Saturated fats are linked to coronary artery disease.

  5. Whole grains. Consume 3 or more servings daily.

  6. Fruits and vegetables. Consume 5 or more servings daily. Do not go on diets that eliminate these healthy carbohydrate foods.

  7. Nuts and seeds. Consume 5 or more servings weekly for a good source of healthy fat.

  8. Limit alcohol. Do not drink or at least drink in moderation.

  9. Sleep. Get adequate sleep, for most people that means 7 to 8 hours each night.

  10. Social support and a general state of happiness. People who make frequent contact with family/friends, and regularly participate in a faith group or a social club live longer.

  11. Blood pressure. Blood pressure should be less than 120/80.

  12. Blood cholesterol. Total cholesterol should be less than 200 and LDL less than 130.

I have been getting many questions from Albany Herald readers. Please feel free to email me at perry@ptgym.com with your fitness questions and future ideas for article topics. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy, Healthy New Year!

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine and has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years.