the heels of holiday-related overindulgence in sweets and treats,
the word "exercise" manages to surface on many people's lists. What
are the keys to getting a new fitness program off the ground, then
staying the course?
"I would urge people to be creative, flexible
and forgiving when it comes to setting their New Year physical
activity resolutions," said Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko (VOY-tek HODGE-koh-ZYE-koh),
a fitness expert who heads the
Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign. "There are countless enjoyable and creative
ways to build physical activity into a daily routine," said the U of
I professor, who also is principal investigator of the National
Blueprint Project, a coalition of more than 50 national
organizations with a joint commitment to promoting independent and
active aging in people 50 years old or more.
Many of the activities proposed by Chodzko-Zajko are suited for
people of all ages and run counter to traditional notions of what an
exercise program looks like.
"Many of us grew up with a very rigid conception of ‘exercise'
that involves participation in a ‘formal' exercise program or
joining a gym or fitness club," he said. "This kind of exercise
almost always involves wearing special clothes, traveling to an
exercise facility and finding time in a busy schedule to fit it all
"Not surprisingly, the majority of Americans fail to achieve the
Centers for Disease Control recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate
physical activity on most days of the week."
And the health consequences of that failure can actually be
"Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for many physical and
psychological conditions," Chodzko-Zajko said. "Sedentary living is
associated with heart disease, obesity, diabetes and many other
diseases. Inactivity is also linked to low self-esteem and
psychological depression. Many studies have shown that regular
physical activity can positively influence all of the above
In addition to physical and psychological benefits, regular
physical activity can often have social benefits as well.
"Some people enjoy participating in group exercise programs where
they have a chance to interact with fellow exercisers of all ages
and abilities," he said. "Others like to work out with a close
friend or partner.
"Regardless whether you choose to be active for health or social
reasons, building more activity into your everyday life can be an
excellent way to improve your overall quality of life and add fun
and fitness into the new year."
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