Originally created 01/01/02

Starting the New Year off right



Gemma Frock doesn't make New Year's resolutions; she crafts a personal strategic plan. It is paying off for her by helping her to exercise regularly and to lose nearly 40 pounds.

Much of what Mrs. Frock does to keep herself on track is the same kind of things experts recommend for those who vow today to get in better shape. There are many who need to.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, about 60 percent of adults don't get enough physical activity, and 25 percent don't get any at all.

There are a number of factors that determine whether people will stick with an exercise program, especially how confident they feel about exercising and what they take away from it, said Medical College of Georgie researcher Zenong Yin, who studies exercise adherence.

"The feeling you have after you exercise - if you feel strong and happy," Dr. Yin said.

The biggest obstacle seems to be getting started the right way. Although Health Central boasts about a 70 percent retention rate among people who join - compared with 60 percent industrywide - about half who show up because of a New Year's vow don't last, said Buddy Satcher, the operations and fitness manager.

"They probably start out and do a little too much and are a little too sore," Mr. Satcher said.

Another reason is that they don't pick something they would enjoy, said Dr. Robert Gambrell, of Sports Medicine Associates of Augusta.

"It's almost like they are torturing themselves and they hate it from the beginning," Dr. Gambrell said.

Most people also are trying to lose weight, and that's where a big danger comes in - unrealistic expectations.

"You're not going to lose 20 pounds in a month," Dr. Gambrell said.

Mrs. Frock said she sets monthly goals for herself, although she does not get discouraged if she falls short. She also keeps a training journal that helps her keep track of how she is doing.

Although she may not look giddy while doing crunches, she has a definite motivator that gets her through it: "When someone comes up to you and says, 'Gee, you don't look 46,"' she said, laughing.

MAKING IT WORK

Experts have a number of tips for starting off an exercise program and maintaining it:

  • You should probably consult with your physician or health care provider before starting, particularly if you have previous health problems.
  • If going to a gym, pick one that is convenient and has qualified staff.
  • Try the buddy system. Having partners to exercise with can provide support and reinforce motivation.
  • If trying to lose weight, be patient. Weight loss can be deceptive because of heavier muscle, and you are getting other health benefits from being more fit.
  • While the research is unclear on preventing injuries, warming up and stretching properly still seem like a good idea.
  • If working out at home, jogging or walking, try putting on exercise clothes once you get home, even if you are going to be doing something else first. It makes it easier to get started later.
  • If exercising after work, keep your gym clothes and equipment in the car, if practical, to make it easier to go straight to a workout.
  • Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.