Late in December, the dust of the nearly completed year began to settle, offering an opportunity for reflection. That reflection brought about change - or at least plans for change - for the new year.
The holidays vanished into their year-long hibernation a week ago, leaving the people of the Northeast trudging through mounds of snow in the infant stages of January. The exhausting schedules of the holiday season may have left, but the grind of everyday, early year life won't disappear so quickly.
It's 2012; the time to act on New Year's resolutions has come.
Michelle Fairbanks uses the vertical chest machine at the Jamestown YMCA.
Eric Williams continues with his exercise routine on the treadmill at the Jamestown YMCA.
Vanessa DeLand uses the ballast ball to do chest presses in the weight room at the Jamestown YMCA.
In the realms of diet and exercise, putting off healthy goals may reel in life's ultimate deadline, leaving one with two choices, according to Meg Pickard.
"They can either make time to exercise or do up their will, and prepare to run out of time," said Pickard, wellness director at Jamestown YMCA. "Prepare to have extensive medical costs; it's going to catch up with you sooner or later."
MAKING A PLAN
Incorporating exercise and healthy eating habits into daily routines reduces the chance of skipping out on them, according to local health experts. Those who hope to cram healthy habits into thick, immovable work, family and social schedules will likely end up capping off their days with easy-to-grab fast food and exercise-free, pajama-clad evenings.
To avoid that scenario, pulling out a pen and paper or making a couple of phone calls might be the best starting point.
"I think it's really important for you to have a plan and to strategize what you're going to do, so in small steps, you can reach your final goal," said Toni DeAngelo, R.N., WCA Hospital community health and wellness director. "If you don't have a plan on how to eat better on a daily basis or a plan to take time out every day to exercise, life happens and you don't incorporate it into your daily habits. It's putting yourself in a mind-set first, then coming up with a plan and talking to somebody about it; that's what WCA Wellness does is talk to people about their specific needs. We go through what's happening in their daily lives and how they can choose healthy choices on a daily basis and how they can accomplish physical activity on a daily basis."
She believes making annual visits to see specialists or physicians helps define physical activity guidelines for each individual interested in exercise. Those visits help find health issues early, allowing for improved treatment and recovery success rates.
Those with unresolved pain might consider taking their planning one step further.
"Ask your physician for a prescription for physical therapy to address the issue," said Patrick Green, M.S., P.T., Cert. M.D.T., owner of Chautauqua Physical & Occupational Therapy. "Once the pain is a thing of the past, you can get into the habit with a regular fitness program and enjoy the benefits of good health. Regardless of the fitness level you are starting at, feeling better will surely be the outcome."
Generally, medical professionals could divide those who don't exercise or eat properly into two groups. The first would consist of those spirited, well-intentioned folks who made those New Year's resolutions, planning big things and falling short when it was time to put the money down. Those who just don't care at all would fall into the latter group.
If anything could change their minds, motivating them to trade in those old habits for healthy ones with diet and exercise benefits would be the popular choice, according to DeAngelo.
In hopes of making "diet" and "exercise" sound a little friendlier and more accessible, the health and wellness professional replaces those terms with "healthy choices" and "physical activity."
Although some of those who live sedentary lifestyles may not bulge out in overweight curves, DeAngelo believes everyone who fails to exercise could eventually suffer the consequences.
"Sedentary lifestyle should be the diagnosis - not obesity. Obesity is a symptom of a sedentary lifestyle," she said. "Our bodies were made to move. When you have physical activity, everything works better. All your internal organs work better. You get more blood to your brain and you can concentrate better."
The best way to get motivated and get out of a sedentary mind-set, according to Pickard, is for one to plan on doing the forms of physical activity that he or she enjoys.
"If I think of it as torture, I'm not going to stick with it. I'm going to dread it; I'm going to hate it," she said. "If they take a little time up front, find out what they like, stick with it and make a pact with themselves - maybe they hire a trainer to keep them on task or solicit friends to keep them on task - they'll be more successful."
REAPING THE BENEFITS
The benefits of regular exercise and healthy eating habits stretch beyond physical shapes.
Green shared the seven benefits of regular physical activity, which were drawn up by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice and research group.
The benefits include weight control, disease prevention, mood improvement, energy boosts, better sleep, a better love life and having fun exercising in a social setting.
Pickard outlined similar results.
"There are real health benefits to achieving a healthy weight and exercising in general: anything from a better night's sleep, to more confidence because you feel better about yourself to a reduction in major disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure," she said. "You may or may not see the weight loss because, in order to achieve weight loss, you've got to make changes to your nutrition."
Success in keeping up with any New Year's resolution, particularly health-related goals, must ultimately come from within. Once all of the information has been gathered and the plan has been made, each individual goal-setter must put everything into action alone.
"I can't get on the treadmill and get you the health benefits that you want," Pickard said. "They've got to stay committed to themselves; they've got to make themselves the priority."