Resolved: a new year, a healthier you

Health

December 07, 2008|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Karen Green doesn't like the typical gym - the smell of sweat, the clang of the weights, the glare of the lights.

But as the owner of a fitness studio, she knows the importance of exercise, how good it can make you look, how great it can make you feel and how much healthier you can become by doing it.

"If it were really easy, we'd all be skinny," says Green, a "30-something" who owns the Studio Edge in Mount Washington.

The start of the new year is when many of us make fitness resolutions: to lose weight, eat right and exercise. But often the change is short-lived. To make it stick, Green says, "you've got to put in the time."

"You need to be exercising for more than 20 minutes with your heart rate up to get to fat-burning [level]," she says. "Thirty minutes a day is just to maintain good health. If you want to lose weight, lose fat, you need to do more than that."

If your schedule doesn't allow exercising in one session, exercising in 10- or 15-minute increments has benefits, says Dr. Kerry J. Stewart, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at its Heart and Vascular Institute.

Exercise has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, hypertension, high blood pressure and insulin resistance - all of which contribute to heart disease, stroke and Type-2 diabetes.

Stewart is working on a study to show how exercise might reduce those risk factors in black men and women specifically. "It's a population that has been understudied," he says.

The trouble with any study of exercise benefits is getting participants to stay in the program.

Part of the problem is that people expect to see the results of their labor within three to four weeks, Stewart and other experts say. "The reality is that it takes three to four months," says Stewart, but "people want a quick fix."

It might help to think of exercise as medicine that needs to be taken daily, Stewart says. Physical exercise works like several pills, reducing cholesterol levels, improving the body's ability to use insulin and reducing fat composition, he says.

Exercise and healthy living have to become a habit, he adds.

Exercise also has to be enjoyable, says Green, who offers hula-hoop, exercise-ball, pole-dancing and belly-dancing classes in a studio that looks more like a day spa.

Exercise at the Studio Edge "is about mind and body," says Green. "It's fun. You laugh here."

But if gaining a tighter stomach and lower blood pressure isn't enough of a motivator, keep in mind that experts say you'll look younger if you're physically fit.

To those of you 50 years and older, Green says, "You're not going to look 40 sitting on the couch."

Laura Barnhardt is a former reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

HEALTH RESOLUTIONS

Put in the time: To lose weight and fat, strive for 40 minutes of exercise daily. To maintain good health, aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week.

Adjust your expectations : Weight loss and other visible improvements from exercise and modified diet can take three to four months.

Eat less : Keep favorite foods in your diet, but control your portions.

Location, location, location : Gym membership isn't necessary. Walk or run at the track at a nearby high school, and use the fitness equipment at a community center.

Sources: American College of Sports

Medicine; American Heart Association;

Karen Green, owner of the Studio Edge; Dr.

Kerry Stewart, professor of medicine at the

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

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