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Recipe For A Successful New Year’s Resolution

Store displays and music on the radio station seem to indicate that the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving feasts are being planned, December parties organized and in some cases end of the year resolutions considered. New Year’s resolutions are as common as apple pie. More than half of Americans consider exercising more while more than one third cite weight loss as their New Year resolution. Others double up the promise by committing to do both in the upcoming year. But despite all the good intentions, most resolutions are soon forgotten come spring.

Studies have shown time and time again that for a resolution to succeed certain parameters have to be in place. Probably the most important is how well our resolutions, goals or promises are articulated. Ideally goals should be S.M.A.R.T.

S = Specific

Vague goals will likely fail. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” consider making “I want to lose 15 pounds by June” or “I want to lose one pound a week” the goal. The more specific the goal, the better the results.

M = Measurable

Can you measure your success? Ask yourself “Is there anyway I can measure how I am doing?” or “How will I know that I have reached my goal?”  For example: “I want to drink more water” does not really tell you how much more you want to drink. A better goal might be “I want to drink 8 cups of water each day,” or consider “I want to drink two more cups of water than what I am currently drinking every day.” These goals tell you exactly how much, and it will be easier for you to measure how well you are doing with this goal.

A = Achievable

Ask yourself: “What is important for me to achieve?” or “Is my goal too easy or too hard?” This is where you have to really know yourself and be honest with yourself. If you make the goal too easy you won’t really feel that you have accomplished much. If you make it too hard you might feel disappointed if you don’t reach it.

R = Realistic

Ask yourself: “Am I willing and able to work toward this goal?” and “How hard am I willing and able to work toward this goal?” If you truly believe that you can achieve your goal, you most likely will. You can make hard goals that are realistic but know how challenging your goal should be.

T = Time

Ask yourself: “Have I given myself enough time to reach my goal?” S.M.A.R.T. goals usually include some sort of deadline or timeline. “I will lose weight this year” does not really tell you much about when you will lose the weight. Will you lose all you want the first month or the last month of the year? Again, you have to be honest and be able to articulate how long you are willing to give yourself to reach your goal. Deadlines also give you something to look forward to during your efforts.

When resolving to change a habit, do it slowly. Focus on one habit at a time. Working on too many habits at once will likely be frustrating. Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to set just one big goal for the behavior you want to change. You can start by focusing on short term baby steps that lead to your overall goal. So you may want to focus on ways to cut down on evening snacking for example, which ties in to your overall resolution to lose weight. However, remember to make these short term goals S.M.A.R.T. goals as well for better results.

 

Tracking Your Path to Success in Weight Loss

 

Many people are interested in losing weight. Eating less, starting an exercise program and limiting fatty foods are strategies that many people utilize to reach their weight loss goal.

One strategy to help individuals lose and keep off the weight is to track what and how much they eat. Tracking also helps individuals start and consistently maintain an exercise routine. For example, pedometers track how many steps a person takes in a day, while keeping a food journal allows them to view their daily food intake.

Food journals have come a long way from the pen and paper version. The tediously written food logs that were very time consuming to complete are long gone. Today there is a myriad of weight-management applications at our disposal. These food and nutrition programs are available online, and the apps are available on smartphones or tablets.

Some apps are more user friendly than others, and in order to know which one would work best you may have to try a few before deciding on one. Basically, the apps allow you to enter the foods you eat on a daily basis, giving you access to an enormous database of foods to choose from. Some allow you to track your consumption of water, your physical activity and your weight as well as other measurements such as waist circumference. At the end of the day a daily report on calories and nutrients consumed as well as other variables is available for viewing.

However, like buying a new car in which you have a choice of one with standard features or one with more bells and whistles, some weight management apps have more to offer than others. For example, some apps will provide additional information about specific nutrients like sodium or saturated fats, while others simply report on calories, fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Many apps provide an opportunity for social support. You can sign in to join a ‘community’ or ‘team’ – groups of people sharing a same goal or having something in common. “Mommies over 40,” for example, brings together mothers over the age of 40 while “Healthy Hearts” is a group of people with heart health issues that support each other, share information and learn from each other. These teams may have a blog where each team member can communicate or share resources with other members of the group, communicate about events, etc. It provides support and a means to reach out to others who may be struggling or experiencing the same things as you.

Research suggests that establishing a support network can be extremely beneficial for successful weight loss. Online supports groups can be very helpful to many.

To learn more about these apps, a review of the 10 most popular free weight management apps is available through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to this review, some of the top free weight management apps include Myfitnesspal.com, Caloriecount.com and Sparkpeople.com along with many more that were reviewed.

As you work toward achieving a health goal, it may help to track your efforts. Weight management apps allow you to see how well you are doing regarding nutrition and fitness and provide you the opportunity to make corrective actions quickly if needed.

Guest Blog Post: How to stay safe while walking and biking

As the Safe Routes to School coordinator, I love seeing kids and families out on bikes and walking throughout the year. During the summer, it is no exception. Kids enjoy independence and will be out riding their bikes to the pool or walking to a friend’s house. Walking and biking are ways to get families moving and a great way to spend time together. Here are some top summer walking and rolling tips:

Family biking or walking: Try taking a family walk or bike ride to the grocery store, the little league baseball game, out for ice cream or to the neighborhood park. If you are walking on a trail, count the number of birds you see. If you are out biking with small children, bring snacks and water, and take breaks often.

Know where to walk or ride: Many communities have some great family-friendly trails. Fox Cities Greenways along with local municipalities have put together a great trail map that can be found at http://www.focol.org/greenways/newtrails.html. Find trails to walk and bike with your family in your local community.

Walk left, ride right: When walking, always walk on the sidewalk. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic. Bicycles should go with the flow of traffic.

Continue Reading »

How to Warm Up Without Wrecking Your Knee

The knee can be at risk for injury because of the relatively long lever arm of the femur and tibia. Both of these bones are about twice as long as a lug wrench, so the torsional force produced by these long lever arms is substantial. Added to that is the body force that’s six to eight times your weight and transferred to the knee during running, cutting and jumping activities. Changing from quadrupeds to bipedal gait also plays a role in our knees as we change directions because the higher degree of force is concentrated on the knees (or a single knee) with movement instead of balanced on all four legs.

The human knee is made of living tissue and requires warm-up periods prior to athletic endeavors. Techniques to steadily increase your heart rate prior to workouts are crucial for preventing knee injuries. Jumping jacks, biking, walking or rowing are great ways to increase your cardiac output and blood flow before strenuous lower half training.

Dynamic stretching is also important as a mechanism to avoid injury and should be a part of your warm up. Research has indicated that static stretching (ex. lying on the ground and stretching in a hurdler’s stretch) will usually lower athletic performance by pre-stretching muscle-tendon units and changing muscle compliance and elasticity. Rare exceptions, such as dance and rhythmic gymnastics, do better with concentrated static stretching. As the knee increases temperature, there is greater flexibility in our movements and, although there are significant individual variances in flexibility, every athlete functions optimally as blood flow increases. Continue Reading »

Five Tips to Healthy Knees

For healthy knees, follow these five tips:

Exercise:  Development of leg muscles, particularly quadriceps and hamstrings, can help prevent knee trouble. It has been proven women are more likely to suffer a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is a more serious knee problem impacting function and stability. Cross-training, stretching and strengthening can all help knees stay pain-free and problem-free. While knee pain should always be checked with a doctor to rule out injury, early arthritis, or other serious conditions, the good news is that knee pain from overuse is usually solvable with ice, rest and exercises that promote healing.

Pacing: Always warm up before you exercise and choose your workouts wisely. Know your limits. Give yourself time to get in shape and don’t try to do too much too soon. Follow the 10% rule: Never increase the duration or intensity of your exercise or activity by more than 10 percent in a week. Train for at least two months before beginning stressful activities such as skiing or running in a race. Strength, flexibility, aerobic and core exercises will help prevent knee and other injuries. Remember a cool down stretch helps prevent injuries as well. Continue Reading »

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