Premier Health offers tips, strategies for fitness in new year

TROY — Premier Health finds that the most effective way to return to fitness and a healthy lifestyle is with a combination of sensible, nutritious eating habits and creative exercising.

It’s a simple concept: Eat fewer calories and engage in more physical activity. Health experts agree this works, but it is easier said than done.

According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight or obese ranks second in total preventable deaths in the United States, close behind tobacco use. An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the weight-related illness.

Planning a strategy is the best way to jump into a weight loss program:

• Set realistic goals. Plan nutrition with affordable foods, and prepare and design an exercise plan on a schedule that will be able to be kept.

• Make fitness a priority. Make the fitness plan the top priority. Think of the plan as part of daily life, not as something to squeeze in when there’s time.

• Work with a health/fitness professional to design a safe, effective plan that will work for individual needs.

For anyone with high blood pressure or who is considerably overweight, it is important to check with a health professional before beginning a fitness program.

Jenny Jones, physical therapist and manager of the UVMC Center for Sports Medicine, offers advice in selecting exercises and proper eating plans.

“You need cardiovascular exercise to get your heart rate up, at least 3 to 4 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. To estimate your maximum age-related heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For a moderate-intensity workout, your target heart rate should be between 64 to 76% of your maximum heart rate. For a vigorous-intensity workout, your target heart rate should be between 77 to 93% of your maximum heart rate.

“Routinely monitor your heart rate while exercising to determine if you are exercising at the level of intensity you are aiming for,” Jones said. “Take your heart rate mid-way through your routine and toward the end, when it should be slowing down.”

Jones recommends aerobic exercises like brisk walking, biking or exercising at a gym on a stationary bike or an elliptical glider.

Interval training is extremely effective, she notes.

“For example, you could walk for one block, then jog for half a block, then walk a block, then jog a half block. The spiking of the more intense activity seems to be more beneficial for many people,” she said. “It’s important to change or alternate the intensity level.”

Strength training is important, too, Jones added.

“Many people don’t lift weights. But it is important to know that it builds muscle, because muscle mass burns calories much faster than fat does,” she said. “So, if you’re lifting weights, you’re burning more calories.”

Additionally, Jones recommends alternating between cardio exercises on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and strength training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, if possible, and taking Sunday as a rest day. She added that people whose schedules don’t allow much time for exercise could consider exercising three days a week with cardio for 30 minutes and weight training for 15 minutes.

“To stay interested, exercise with a friend, or sign up at a local fitness facility for whatever classes you enjoy,” she said.

Exercising alone isn’t enough get back into shape. Eating the right foods goes hand-in-hand with the exercise plan.

“Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. On weekends when there is more time, prepare low-fat casseroles. Use fish and chicken or lean ground beef or lean turkey bacon,” she said.

Jones said not to deny favorite foods – just remember to eat them in moderation.

For additional fitness-related information, contact the UVMC Center for Sports Medicine at 937-667-2614 or log on to