Tis the season for new year’s resolutions, and the two most popular goals are staying healthy and losing weight.
We checked with a local expert to find out how Hoosiers can maximize their chances of meeting those goals.
NiCole Keith is a professor of kinesiology at IUPUI and an expert in physical activity and fitness, healthy aging, and health equity.
The most important message, she says, is not to get discouraged if exercise doesn’t lead to weight loss.
“There’s enough evidence that shows that it’s better to be fit and fat, than it is to be thin and unfit,” Keith says. “You can’t really exercise enough to lose weight without dieting. But you can exercise enough to improve health outcomes without dieting.”
Keith says almost every health problem can be impacted by exercise, including arthritis, hypertension, blood pressure, decreased risk of developing diabetes, improved mood, and even ability to think.
Here are her tips for reaching your health goals:
Move more, whenever you get the chance
“About 95 percent of Americans can walk,” Keith says.
Her suggestions: the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car farther away from the door, play with your kids instead of watching, and take a walk around the gym or soccer field while waiting for your kids’ athletic practice to wrap up.
“Just being aware of how much you’re sitting and if there’s an opportunity to walk instead of just sitting there,” Keith says. “Like right now I’m talking to you, but I’m pacing. Because there’s no reason for me to sit down.”
She says even people who exercise regularly are likely not getting enough, so changes like these are important for everyone.
And for those who can’t afford the time or cost of a gym membership, walking is pretty accessible – even on days with poor weather.
“You can go to a mall and walk around the mall, or some schools have open use policies,” she says.
If you’re aiming for weight loss, try for two pounds per week.
“People should not be aiming to lose any more weight than that if they’re planning on doing it in a healthy and sustainable manner,” Keith says.
And she says losing weight is hard, but people shouldn’t stop exercising even if they aren’t losing weight.
“You don’t have to lose weight to realize the health benefits of exercise,” she says.
Keith says the recommendation is to eat five small meals a day or three regular meals a day.
“Your body gets hungry every two hours, and if you’re feeding it then it’s going to store calories,” Keith says. “So getting more steps in is always good, but if the goal is weight loss, you have to feed your body.”