January 2014

The 2014 Fitness Challenge

Author: Nate Dixon, PT, DPT

Let’s make 2014 the best year ever! Our health and fitness level is directly related to how we feel and how successful we become. People who exercise improve their brain function and memory, perpetuating their intelligence and self-esteem. Often times, we can get side-tracked and forget to follow an exercise routine, leading to weight gain, poor self-esteem, lethargy, and poor performance at work or school.

Living in the USA, we are bombarded every day with ads to eat fast food, junk food, and to supersize everything, thus causing an epidemic of obesity, heart-disease, and diabetes like we have never seen before right here in our country. Scientists have unraveled the human genome, an enormous feat! Yet, our healthcare costs are on the rise and our country’s politicians can’t figure out how to work together, along with advisors to fix it. Working together, and encouraging our friends and family members to take small steps towards a healthier and fitter nation starts right here on Hilton Head Island.

How can we reduce obesity, heart-disease, and diabetes?
It starts with each of us individually, taking personal responsibility for how we eat and exercise on a regular basis. By challenging ourselves individually and in our households, our workplaces, our schools, and respective communities, we can create the competitive spirit and teamwork needed to support each other and make these positive changes. The results will be amazing, in that our productivity will increase, our relationships will improve, and we will be much more successful, setting the foundation to improve our schools and achieve much higher standards academically.

Taking the first steps
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Cardiorespiratory Exercise, should be performed at a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. This recommendation can be met by completing 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on approximately five days per week. As an alternative, you can perform 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise on approximately three days per week. The ACSM stresses that the required daily amount can be broken up throughout the day.

Building muscle and losing fat
Resistance training for each major muscle group should be done two to three days per week with a variety of exercises and equipment. Performing two to four sets of each exercise, with eight to 12 repetitions per set in order, will improve your muscular strength and power. The ACSM suggests a break of at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions to give the muscles time to recover. According to the ACSM, it is generally accepted that a range of 10-22 percent body fat for men and 20-32 percent for women is considered satisfactory for good health. While athletes are typically leaner, ranging from 5-12 percent for men and 14-20 percent for women.

Improving flexibility while adding muscle
Stretching exercises should be done at least two to three days per week. Static, dynamic, and PNF stretches are all deemed effective. Hold each stretch for approximately 10 to 30 seconds to the point of mild tension. Repeat each stretch two to four times until you accumulate 60 seconds per stretch. Before stretching, the ACSM suggests performing some light aerobic activity. Flexibility exercises are most effective when your muscles are warm.

Staying motivated
Find an activity, sport, or exercise you love and you’ll be more likely to stick with your fitness program and reach your goals. Start slowly and set realistic goals, both short-term and long-term, and make sure you write them down. To add extra motivation, take a picture of yourself to compare with future pictures, giving yourself visual confirmation of attaining your goals. To give yourself even more motivation, share them on your social media!

Keeping accountable
Working with a coach/trainer is always a great way to motivate yourself and add some fun to your program. Your trainer can be your support system, giving you inspiration to succeed, motivating you and giving you the extra push you might need to reach your goals! It is very important and recommended that you start with a thorough assessment to assure you are heart-healthy and have your trainer perform a Functional Movement Screen. Your coach/trainer should have a bachelor’s degree, or preferably a master’s in exercise physiology or kinesiology and also be certified by a credible institution, such as the ACSM. Finally, it is recommended that you have a physical therapist onsite to answer any questions if you have any aches or pains.

Tracking your progress
Start a journal to keep track of your daily workouts and food intake. If you have a trainer, this journal will be an invaluable tool to help identify why you might have a success or failure. Take the time to re-read your entries, as they can help motivate you, comparing to when you first started.

Enjoying immediate benefits
Everyone knows that exercise has long-term benefits such as improving the health of your heart, lowering cholesterol, and increasing your stamina. But it also offers immediate benefits that you can enjoy right away! It will lower stress levels following your workout due to the natural release of hormones such as endorphins and encephalons, which make you feel great! Brain health and memory are also improved both immediately and for the long term.

Make 2014 your best year yet with exercise and healthy eating! 

Nate Dixon is a doctor of physical therapy and owner of Lava 24 Fitness and Palmetto Therapy Services. For more information, call (843) 842-3225.

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