It’s 2009 why not get fit?

Posted Dec. 31, 2008, at 9:10 p.m.

Fitness is the most common life change proposed for the new year, overriding other popular goals such as smoking cessation, debt reduction and stress management.

“Fitness resolutions often come out of an optimism about making a change, and getting in shape is a very doable change. After the holiday season, and maybe a little overindulgence, a lot of people tend to have a heightened awareness of fitness and weight,” said Jeff Hunt, director of campus recreation at the University of Maine.

Optimism and awareness have a tendency to diminish over time, especially when the demands of “real life” interfere with the best laid fitness plans.

“We definitely see more people in the fitness center right after New Year’s, but a couple of factors cause attendance to dwindle,” Hunt said. “A common problem is setting unrealistic goals, like planning to work out every day. Another challenge is exercising in isolation, instead of finding a workout buddy. Other people are great sources of motivation when it comes to getting fit.”

The best method for sticking to a weight loss resolution, Hunt advises, is to develop a realistic plan with tangible goals such as losing a certain amount of weight or training for a specific event. Instead of vowing to hit the gym every day, start with two or three workouts a week, preferably in the company of one or more friends. An exercise plan should be tailored to a person’s individual standards, abilities and time constraints.

Try not to agonize over missing a day of exercise or cheating on a diet. Give yourself a break and look forward to getting back on track the next day. If the optimal 30- to 40-minute workout will not fit into a particular day’s schedule, squeeze in 10 minutes at least.

“The most important thing is to make exercise a habit,” Hunt said.

Habit and sustainability apply to successful dieting as well. Despite the booming market for fad or “miracle” diets, the most reliable approach to nutrition is to follow the basic food pyramid and consume only as many calories as you can expend. Regular exercise is the most efficient and beneficial method of expending unwanted calories acquired during the holiday season.

UMaine’s Recreation and Fitness Center is open to members of the community looking to get fit in the new year. The center has seven trainers on staff who will work with individuals or small groups to set reasonable goals and develop routines.

“Big Bears to Little Bears,” a program reminiscent of the TV show “The Biggest Loser,” is an excellent starting point for groups of three to four adults who are new to exercise. More experienced athletes are welcome to participate in “Survival of the Fittest,” a program that aims to expand each individual’s range of fitness knowledge and explore different varieties of exercise.

Additionally, the Recreation and Fitness Center offers 60 different exercise classes from step aerobics and core classes to spinning and yoga. All classes are scheduled by semester.

For more information on UMaine’s Recreation and Fitness Center and its services, visit www.umaine.edu/reccenter.

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