A new year, a new you Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

Guilt drives most executives to make amazing fitness resolutions every year. In the end, unfortunately, the only exercise many of us get is pushing back the resolutions we made and pulling out a litany of excuses as to why we did not get them done.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Jason Ivory, health and fitness manager at Akron General’s Health and Wellness Center-North says one of the secrets to a successful program is keeping things realistic.

Smart Business spoke with Ivory about how busy professionals can stick to a workout plan.

What’s a reasonable time to set aside for a workout and still get some benefit without ruining my schedule?

Allow about one hour to accomplish an adequate workout. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of exercise three to five times per week. The key to adherence is to schedule exercise with the same importance as a business meeting. This way, exercise time is on your schedule and you can’t double schedule another appointment. Many people make exercise a secondary priority so, many times, it gets bumped to the bottom of the list and put off until tomorrow.

Any goal that is obtainable or encourages a high level of adherence is a reasonable goal. I recommend focusing on goals of increasing activity as opposed to a numeric weight goal. A goal such as increasing exercise to three times per week is very feasible for most busy executives to schedule into their week. It is more practical than a goal to lose 25 pounds. Exercise regularly and weight loss will follow.

What types of exercise are best?

Any physical activity is better than no physical activity; so running 30 minutes a day is very acceptable. When seeking out an exercise program or information about exercise, I recommend contacting an exercise professional with a four-year Exercise Science degree from an accredited university. There are many myths and misinformation in circulation, so by seeking out the proper exercise professional these myths and misinformation can be dispelled and true knowledge delivered.

For the general public or someone who has been sedentary, the primary goal should be general fitness. Focusing on general fitness will allow any health concerns to be addressed and managed or corrected. Typically, someone who has been inactive for some time will need to gradually work into an exercise program and progressively advance to minimize the risk for injury.

For those individuals who are currently active and do not have health issues to address, it is quite appropriate to train for a specific sport or event. Training for a specific sport allows an individual to target muscles and movements that may not be addressed in a general exercise program. Training these sport-specific movements will enhance an individual performance and outcomes of that sport.

Will a good exercise regimen let me get away with eating seconds?

No. In most cases, the calories consumed in seconds are greater than the calories burned in an average bout of exercise. Exercise and proper nutrition go hand in hand when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Just as it is important to seek out the proper exercise professional, it is equally important to seek out a registered dietician when it comes to nutrition information.

How do I benchmark a fitness program?

Benchmarks are key to a successful exercise program, too. Benchmarks will be different for each person depending on his or her specific goals. Getting a fitness assessment from a qualified exercise professional when beginning an exercise program will give you a baseline for comparison down the road. The data collected in the initial assessment will allow the exercise professional and you to set obtainable goals along the way. For a person who is new to exercise, one of the most overlooked benchmarks is learning about different exercises and the areas of the body worked.

Many people like objective numbers to use as benchmarks in their programs. You can track resting blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat percentage, muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. These are great indicators of progress. Lowering resting blood pressure, lowering bad cholesterol, raising good cholesterol, decreasing the body fat percentage, being able to lift a greater weight or a specific weight more times, and being able to walk or run longer or at a faster pace are all indicators of success. Finally, looking at how a person feels is a great way to track subjective progress.

How do I know when I’ve ‘made it’?

You’ve made it when you’ve made appropriate lifestyle changes that allow you to be physically active on a regular basis and eat a nutritionally balanced diet. When these two things become permanent fixtures in your life, the objective benchmarks will follow. The hardest part of a New Year’s resolution is making the permanent lifestyle changes needed to obtain other goals.

JASON IVORY is the health and fitness manager at Akron General’s Health and Wellness Center-North in Stow, Ohio. Reach him at jivory@agmc.org.