End of summer no excuse for not staying (or getting) active

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Published: August 22,2005

Summer is winding down with its many opportunities for outside activities. Even though we live in a temperate part of the country, fall and winter loom with rainy, sometimes cold days, and hectic times busy with work, children’s school activities and holidays. So what happens to the fit lifestyle? Fitness consultants aren’t cutting any slack for changing seasons or schedules.

Noel Sharp, a physical therapist and owner of Byram Physical Therapy, says it’s important to pick an activity you enjoy for staying in shape year round. “If you enjoy something you are more likely to stick with it,” he said. “It is also important to develop a schedule for exercising and not just say, ‘this year I’m going to exercise more’ or ‘my resolution is to lose weight’.”

He says just 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise will make a big difference in how you look and feel no matter what your body type or fitness level. “Working out makes all of your muscles stronger, including your heart,” he said. “So it should come as no surprise that regular exercise is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death among Americans.”

Healthy benefits

Studies show that the 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day can be broken into 10-minute segments and still bring health benefits.

Heather Sudduth, an occupational therapist at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, thinks people are definitely more active in the summer. “We see less people at the gym because they’re outside doing things,” she said. “The kids are out of school and people are out sailing, swimming, biking, cutting grass and many other things.”

However, when summer’s over it’s time to head back to the gym, not only for exercise but for stress relief and social interaction. If going to a gym is not an option, Sudduth recommends walking around an indoor shopping mall or buying home workout videos. Some videos now include exercises to do with kids.

“We’re lucky because we can still be outside here in the winter most of the time,” she said, “but there are plenty of indoor options, too. There’s yoga, racquet ball and indoor swimming available and bicycles can be modified to make them stationary, too.”

She says it’s more about keeping your mind open to what you can do. That’s a key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “The main thing is the mind set,” she said. “If you’re into the habit, you will do it whatever. You just have to modify your clothing to fit the season.”

Willingness to change

Having a friend encourage you to stay fit and finding the time that’s best for you are helpful, too. That may mean adapting to changes in your life by finding a different time to exercise. Sudduth has a new baby and can no longer go to the gym in the afternoons. She now makes time to go at noon three times a week.

“You can always find excuses to not stay fit, but once you adopt that lifestyle you will find a way to fit it in,” she said.

Sharp points out several benefits of his 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise theory. This activity helps prevent osteoporosis and high blood pressure; lowers the risk of diabetes and some cancers; relieves stress, depression and some symptoms of PMS; increases metabolism, which helps control weight; and reduces some of the effects of aging such as waning energy.

“Best of all, when you exercise, you feel healthier, stronger and more comfortable with your body,” he said. “It can even help get a good night’s sleep.”

The fitness consultants suggest incorporating staying fit into your daily routine so that it becomes part of your lifestyle.

“Don’t fight for the parking space closest to the door and take the stairs instead of the elevator,” Sudduth said. “Park farther away from your destination and force yourself to walk. Anything that you do for 20 days in a row becomes a habit and these are good habits.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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