Maintain motivation for health during the holidays

by Bradley Hartsell

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Sandra Holt of Synergy Fitness in Newnan, left, works with Britt Cox on her training. Fitness is not seasonal, Holt said. 

The coldest days of winter are still to come, and with Christmas and New Year's, it's only natural to want to curl up indoors and feast with family and friends.

However, Georgia is the 20th most obese state in America with a 29.1 percent obesity rate, according to 'F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013,' a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. With bitter cold days in December, January and February, combined with southern cooking, it is an especially dangerous time of the year to lose focus on personal health.

The Newnan Times-Herald solicited tips from several Coweta residents, some professional, some personal, for things people can do to stay active during the winter. These tips aren't for the hardcore gym-rat or the aerobics guru. They're for the working mother or father who likes to take an evening walk but it's 20 degrees outside or the senior who can't move around like they used to. These tips are for everybody and require only a little extra focus during the holidays.

How do I stay motivated?

• Sandra Holt, owner of Synergy Fitness in Newnan: 'Your fitness is not seasonal. In the winter, you may have to get out of your regular routine to find something comfortable and different to do.

'It's important in the winter to stay motivated. You can do that by setting a goal. For instance, to lose five pounds or to walk a five-mile road race in the spring. Focus on what your body can do and what you should be doing.'

• Karen Barber, PT, director of oncology rehabilitation at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan: 'In reality, the most effective way to combat health problems is to address them before they arise or become worse - let's call it prehabilitation. Make a commitment to get ahead by writing down a few weekly goals today.'

I don't mind a walk around my neighborhood but it's too cold outside.

• Julie Torres, Newnan resident, personally interested in fitness: 'Use commercial breaks to have mini-workouts. Maybe it's only a three-minute workout but you can do jumping jacks for one commercial break.

Act like you're skipping rope, or just march in place or raise your knees. Just something to get your heart rate up.


• Barber: Try light aerobic exercise five times a week, even if it's only a few laps around the mall or your local grocery store. It is a great place to start.


• Stephen Bruce, Newnan resident, personally interested in fitness: 'It's a busy time of year, so set a time to go to exercise and stick to it, but don't get overwhelmed. Cut back to a minimum of 20-30 minutes of cardio three times a week if you need to.

What about my diet during the holidays?

• Torres: 'People have to know what is healthy. A lot of people look at a box and it says 'healthy' or 'low fat' but you can't get any healthier than eating real foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

'The diet mindset is really big right now. You can spend your whole life looking for diets. But just go to water as a beverage. Have a day where you eat just fruits and vegetables. A day might not make a huge difference but you'll feel better and you might want to do it more.

'Also, watch mindless eating. People often sit in front of the TV, distracted, and eat for no reason. You can eat a whole bag of chips or cookies and not even know you're doing it.'


• Bruce: 'It's important to maintain a good balance. You don't have to starve yourself or not enjoy anything during the holidays, but you also don't want to undo the last three months of hard work. Enjoy some good food, just don't throw away your self-control. Set an amount that you'll have in your head and stick with it.'


• Torres: 'Go on YouTube and watch workout videos. Forget buying a DVD these days. A seven-minute high-intensity or interval workout video on YouTube is great. It's nothing you need to invest money or a half-hour into. Just one or two of those videos a day can make a big difference.'

How do I keep from tapering off?

• Barber: 'Find an accountability partner who will hold you to your New Year's resolution, [someone who'll] ask you the questions you might otherwise avoid. Besides, an emotional connection with someone who cares deeply about your well-being will help you keep sight of your resolution. You might even motivate them to exercise with you.'


• Bruce: 'Don't fool yourself into thinking you're going to magically change your ways in the new year. Slow, consistent, manageable changes are best if you're just getting started. Plan what you're going to do, with exercise and diet, rather than deciding as you go. That's an easy way to start making excuses for yourself and forget what the point of it is.

'The single most essential factor in maintaining your motivation is just that: remember why you're trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the first place and let that keep you going when you don't feel like doing what you're sup



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