Exercising your options

Cory A. Haywood | 4/2/2013, 12:22 p.m.

Feeling and looking good has become one of the fitness focal points of the modern era. As a result, billions of dollars are poured into chic megagyms that offer everything from yoga classes to freshly squeezed juice after a workout.

Additionally, a barrage of infomercials that promote the next big thing in weight-loss or muscle enhancement are constantly being streamed. Combine that with people's annual New Year's practice of making vows to change--most often beginning an exercise or fitness routine--and you have a recipe for potential disappointment.

Health-related goals, such as losing weight or starting an exercise program are consistently ranked among the most popular resolutions Americans make each year, says John Norcross, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Scranton.

Norcross, who published a study on resolutions in the "Journal of Clinical Psychology" in 2002, found that 40 to 50 percent of Americans make resolutions each year, and only 40 to 46 percent of those who make resolutions are still successful six months into the new year.

A quantifiable reason cannot be offered to explain why so many people throw in the towel well before realizing their goals. But in the fitness world, staying motivated is central to losing weight and keeping it off.

In many cases, people often start quite energetically on an exercise regimen only to lose their enthusiasm after time. Fitness authorities call this process "burning out" or losing steam--a beginner overexerts himself as a result of choosing to meet high physical standards in a short, and often impractical, period of time. When these goals--rapid weight loss for example--are not met within the allotted time frame, patience begins to wear thin and confidence begins to wane. Abandonment of goal(s) commonly comes next.

This may be particularly true for those who suffer from severe obesity. Chances are if you fit this category even sitting and standing can be difficult. In addition, carrying excess weight is one of the leading causes of joint and back pain among adults young and old, which in turn, makes it difficult to exercise effectively.

Lack of variety or a repetitive routine are other reasons people fall off the exercise track. Ironically, failure to craft an enjoyable workout plan from the beginning is a lot like running on a treadmill. For many who fail to incorporate variety into their exercise program, especially those who are more obese, the road to success can be long, hard, monotonous and generally boring. Creative alternatives might include going hiking, dancing, rollerblading at the beach, cycling, rowing or even shopping. You don't have to suffer to burn calories.

Finally, lack of results or slow weight loss can also sap motivation. But remember, regular exercise is only 10 percent of the battle. What you do or don't eat is also critical.

Contrary to what many people may realize, eating with a purpose is, bar none, the most important aspect of losing weight consistently. That doesn't mean eliminate the foods you love. By all means, eat to enjoy. The trick is to cut down on, but not cut off, the foods that mama used to make or find ways to make these dishes healthier. So, instead of frying, try baking, boiling or grilling. Try using lemon, pineapple or lime juice for flavor instead of excess sodium. Opt for low-fat alternatives when choosing ingredients to bake in the sweet stuff.