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December 15, 2010

How to commit to an exercise plan

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Rachel Ernzen (pictured), weighs in on beginning an exercise regime.

With all the extra calories and added stress of the December holidays, does losing weight and exercising top your New Year’s resolution list every year? If you’re like most people, chances are you won’t be able to keep up with your resolution past June.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans emphasize that all adults should avoid inactivity. Research has shown that some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.

The American Heart Association encourages at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, or 30 minutes, five days a week. Other benefits of regular exercise include improved immune function and mental clarity, better sleep, and strong bones and muscles.

Most people can and should exercise. However, there are those with injuries and unstable medical conditions who should check with their doctor before starting a fitness program.

Here are some tips to help you overcome the odds and turn a difficult resolution into reality.

Choose your attitude How do you view exercise? If the words “time consuming” or “boring” come to mind, try putting a positive spin on your outlook. Physical activity can boost energy, dissolve stress and release tension.

Find an environment that feels approachable for exercise. Explore early-morning mall walking, off-peak hours at the gym, exercise DVDs or fitness video games you can participate in at home.

Move in new ways. Try water aerobics or yoga, sign up for salsa dance lessons or jump into a Boot Camp or Zumba fitness class.

Make a lifestyle change You’re motivated and ready to turn over a new leaf. But before you hit the ground running, ask yourself these questions:

Is my goal attainable? Start slowly and be mindful of pain. Mild soreness is normal; severe soreness or pain is not. Include rest.

Healthy weight loss is defined as one-half to two pounds per week. At this pace, it is realistic to lose 20 pounds in four to eight months, not 20 pounds in four to eight weeks.

Is my goal sustainable? If you have to replace your morning mocha latte and pastry for whole-grain oatmeal and black coffee to reach your goal, can you agree to sustain it?

Develop a plan Recruit support by joining a running group, seek out an exercise buddy or enlist the help of family in committing to healthier eating at home. Group efforts build accountability and a sense of companionship. New habits become more fun and more consistent with a friend.

Set aside time every day for exercise. Remember, each workout puts you closer to your goals.

Choose aerobic activities you enjoy. Start with 10-15 minutes of exercise daily and add five minutes to your routine weekly until you reach your goal.

Beat the odds this year and discover a healthier you. How do you help yourself stay on track? Share in the comments.

Posted by Kim Walker at 7:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Nutrition


Great tips to follow!
This year I noticed a significant drop in my exercise drive. For the first time in my adult years, I was not motivated to exercise. I started to eat more and rest more. The result? Higher blood pressure and weight.
My doctor advised me to get serious about my health and weight loss starting 1-1-11. I also have to cut out sodium.
I know what I have to do, but it won't be easy. I think if I stay focused on my health, my desire to feel and look better, I will be fine in the long run.
Thanks again for the tips!
Happy Holidays to all!

I definitely would not exercise regularly but for the fact that I sign up for organized race events. I do four long runs every year, and so I need to hit the gym to train for them. I need the accountability of knowing that a long distance race is in my future! This has worked so well for me that I've branched out and will be doing the Iron Girl Triathalon in Columbia this August. I hope that I can find my sea legs!

Beth, I definitely feel the same way. It's so much easier to make time for a workout if I am training for something specific. Good luck with the Iron Girl! Some of us here are on the blog are also doing our first triathlon this year (the Columbia Celebration Sprint) so check back in the spring for triathlon training tips! - anica

Great tips, I just wanted to point out this website that makes easier to commit to an exercise plan:
This kind of commitment devices are very useful when you need accomplish goals.

Now it's easier than ever to commit to an exercise plan, thanks to free online fitness tools like can help you set-up a schedule, find new workouts, and find other people with similar active interests. The social networking aspect of the site can help provide support and motivation as you strive to reach your fitness goals.

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About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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