Your Wellness Guide: Stay Active

Set fun, measurable and attainable goals to help you move more, sit less and achieve better overall well-being.
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No excuses: The YMCA offers outdoor exercise classes on the front lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center. (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)

Just two years ago, Victoria Hanson was on the fast track to a lifetime of health issues from being overweight and sedentary. But with the help of her personal trainer, the 27-year-old has dropped 50 pounds and recently completed her first triathlon.

The Winter Springs woman has learned a lesson that experts say the rest of us need to learn as well: Get moving and keep moving.

“Sitting is the new smoking. That’s why they want people to move,” says certified personal fitness trainer and health coach Suzanne Barrett, owner of Spirit Health and Fitness of Orlando.

“Moving the body can result in miraculous transformations” of mind, body and spirit, Barrett says. “First and foremost, weight loss is not the big issue here.” Instead, she says, it’s a matter of overall health—heart health, blood pressure regulation and management of Type 2 diabetes, immune disorders and other chronic ailments. But, she adds, it’s also a matter of spiritual and mental well-being.

Hanson sought out a trainer after someone told her she was obese. “I wanted to be healthy and fit. Then I realized I didn’t have the motivation to work out by myself. I decided doing a triathlon would give me the motivation to start exercising daily,” she says. Every day she would run, bike or swim. “Then once a week, I would do running and swimming or biking and swimming.”

Some of her sisters plan to participate in Hanson’s next triathlon, for which she continues to work with her trainer three times a week while also exercising on her own. Meanwhile, Hanson focuses on physical and mental wellness, including good nutrition. “I’m slowly learning how to bring good things back into my life,” she says.

Not everyone can set a goal as lofty as completing a triathlon, so Barrett uses the acronym SMART to help clients identify and set goals:

  • S is for specific. Be specific on what you want to achieve.
  • M is for measurable. Set measurable goals.
  • A is for attainable. “Start out small. Remember, small gets big rewards. Big steps—trying to lose 50 pounds in weeks—is not going to happen,” Barrett says.
  • R is for relevant. “Find something that has meaning for you,” she suggests, such as running or walking a 5K in honor of someone you know with an illness. Most important, let it be something you enjoy. “If you do something you enjoy, no matter what it is, you start to feel better.”
  • T is for time limit. “Give yourself a goal. Say, ‘I want to get off this medication, or I want to decrease my dosage’ within a certain timeframe, or ‘I want to get to 10,000 steps in the next two months.’ Get that timeline because that way you’re holding yourself responsible.”

The 10,000-a-day step goal that has become popular in health and fitness represents a good baseline for average people, Barrett says. “Even if you can’t get 10,000, if you start out with 5,000, you have a goal to strive for.” Better health begins with just showing up, she adds, which is exactly what happened when Marilyn Wattman-Feldman began her journey to better health in 2007.

When the Oviedo woman was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes that year, “it was a big ‘aha’ moment for me. I had to exercise. My life depended on it,” she says. A survivor of multiple bouts of cancer and recurrent injuries, Wattman-Feldman began considering the nearby Oviedo YMCA. “I took my walker and walked across the street and asked, ‘Can I just join to use the pool?’ ”

Aqua fitness classes led to chair fitness and classes for senior citizens. “Eventually I added Zumba classes,” she recalls. “I was actually still pushing a walker around.”

At the time the pandemic struck, Wattman-Feldman had added weekly cycling and barre classes. “I was doing a stretch meditation class. I was also doing a lot of resistance work.”

But the pandemic has led her to begin at-home workouts. She misses the encouragement. “You would see someone walk by and give you a thumbs up. There was always someone around who cared,” she says. Meanwhile, she continues to “do what I can here at home.”

But working out at home doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. You can still enjoy the group dynamic while exercising “with friends at your house together or by doing a Zoom workout with others,” Barrett says. Some people have turned to fitness apps that offer a variety of dance, barre, boxing and yoga workouts.

During the pandemic, Barrett has seen many of her clients thrive with at-home exercise. “We’re doing virtual workouts, whether it’s through Skype or FaceTime or Zoom,” she says. Her clients “ended up buying 5-pound dumbbells. Then they started buying other equipment. They like the convenience at home.”

Barrett recommends people incorporate movement into their daily routine, even when watching their favorite shows. During commercials, “you can start doing squats off the chair. Do tricep dips. Do push ups.”

During the workday, she recommends taking a short break every hour to incorporate some of the same exercises. Set an hourly alarm and treat the break as you would any other appointment, she suggests. In addition, “everyone has to do some sort of weight-bearing activity” to strengthen bones, especially women over 40. She recommends lifting light weights—even 3 or 5 pounds will do—or doing yoga or Pilates.

To help combat childhood obesity and set healthy habits for life, Barrett says parents should set a positive example for their kids by making fitness a family affair. Go for a family bike ride, play hide-and-seek outside, play kickball, or try out some dance moves. 

“My husband and I turn our music on, and we have a dance party. My nephew and my family come over, and we all do it together. Then you realize you’re getting a workout.”

 

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