Getting Healthy: Tips from Local Experts

| January 18, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – If getting healthy was on your list of New Year’s resolutions, and you need a boost, we have some tips from local experts to keep you on track.

Whether you set a goal to fit back into those old jeans, or gain a little more strength, or even just to work on improving your overall wellness, January is a common time for people to look at getting healthier, so exploreVenango.com spoke to some experts on health and wellness in our area to get tips on how to make your goal a reality.

Get Started

“Usually people start the new year with their heart in right place, and their mind wants to do it, but they have to understand that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and they don’t have to exercise seven day per week starting out,” said Jesse Kelley, Branch Director for the Clarion YMCA.

Kelley, whose background is in strength training, recommends starting smaller and working toward getting exercise on a more regular basis.

“You have to start somewhere attainable. You can start small, exercising twice a week, then go up to three times a week. Exercising three to five times per week is generally enough to improve your health, even it is just walking 20 minutes per day.”

“Give yourself the long term goals. It may take baby steps to get there, but give yourself a target to aim towards,” Kristy Droske of No Excuses Gym said.

Katie Port, the Health and Wellness Director at the Oil City YMCA, said much the same.

“Set reasonable goals. Health and wellness is a lifelong journey, so set goals that can be accomplished and celebrated when they’re met,” Port said.

Get Moving

Tina Householder, the CEO of Brookville YMCA, whose background is in health and physical education, noted that just getting moving can be a bit step forward for many people.

“One of the biggest things we find today is that because of modern technology, we’re less active in our daily lives. Even if it isn’t an exercise program, we’d like to just get people to engage in more simple physical activity, even if it’s just sweeping or gardening,” Householder said.

“Getting people moving is a start, but what we really try to recommend is that people do something physical most of the days of the week, or at least five days per week, for at least 30 minutes per day. That can be an amazing way to start seeing a change for them.”

“Just start somewhere, don’t make it too rigid, and set smart, reachable goals,” Kelley said.

According to Kelley, it doesn’t matter if you get moving at home or at a gym, the important thing is getting your heart pumping.

“Cardio is where you get the most benefit. Anything you’re going to do to help prevent chronic disease, to exercise your heart, is good. Guidelines recommend being active six to seven days per week, moving around and elevating your heart rate for at least 30 minutes, and you can do that at home. You just have to get up and get moving.”

While cardio is very beneficial, it is more of something to work up to than a starting point, and it isn’t the only way to go.

“You need to have the mindset that you don’t need to go from very sedentary and not healthy to marathon running and eating kale in two days,” Port noted.

“Small successes are what will motivate you and help you move through the process, so start small. You don’t have to dive straight into intense cardio. Your body will not enjoy that, and that can get discouraging.”

Make a Lasting Change

Making a change toward a healthier, more wellness centered life is about more than just getting moving, though, and there is often more to consider than just squeezing in some exercise.

“The reason I’m so passionate about general wellness rather than just fitness is because general wellness takes into consideration all of the elements that seem to end up being roadblocks to moving forward in a health and fitness journey,” said Franklin YMCA Membership Director Marcy Shoenfelt.

“I would say if anything, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and those roadblocks are things we don’t often think about. They can be anything from being a parent, working 60 hours per week, being a caregiver, feeling lonely or overextended. General wellness relies on you getting somewhere and doing something, so those issues can be a big deal.”

According to Shoenfelt, looking at the issues that can throw a wrench in your plans and taking them into account in advance can help prevent you from getting frustrated later.

“You have to take a few minutes and think about what your lifestyle goals are, not just your fitness goals,” Shoenfelt said. ” If you don’t find a balance, fitness can feel like punishment, and then people get discouraged.”

“I think the biggest thing that I try to teach in health classes is for people to change their mindset from going on diet or exercise plan to thinking of it as a way of life,” Householder said.

“You have to pick something you can live with and continue it instead of going for a short fix or a fad. You have to make it a lifestyle change.”

Even if you find that working more activity into your days on a regular basis is difficult, there are always ways to work around that.

“If you have a tight schedule, and struggle with workouts before or after work, something is better than nothing. Keep a resistance band or two at your workplace. During lunch breaks, squeeze in a few extra sets,” Droske noted.

Adjust Eating Habits

On the topic of lunch and dinner, just meals in general, local experts all agree that working toward more healthy eating habits is a major part of getting healthier.

“It is a huge component in goals of weight loss or living healthier,” Port said. “Food is not bad. It’s our fuel, it’s what allows us to do our everyday tasks. Don’t be fearful of food. Just start small, maybe by cutting down on sugary drinks, and work toward a healthier lifestyle.”

“You don’t have to be a nutritionist to eat healthy,” Kelley noted, going on to say that avoiding sugar, processed foods, and fried foods is a good starting point.

“Moderation is important, though, and nobody’s perfect. If you’re going to get pizza, get pizza, just try to have one or two slices and don’t eat until you’re completely full.”

According to Householder, limiting sugar intake is one of the biggest issues for many people.

“We know that limiting sugar is a tried and true way of improving your health and you don’t have to have a nutrition degree to know it. The big challenge, for many, is to try not to drink so many calories. Stick to water or simple beverages without a lot of sugar,” she said.

Find a Wellness Buddy

While getting healthier can be a challenge, having a support system is one thing that can make all the difference, according to several of our local experts.

“Get someone to do it with you,” Kelley said. “It can be hard to do it on your own. That’s why we created the Buddy Program at the Y. People who join tend to stay if they’re doing it with a friend.”

“Doing everything with someone is always a great way to start and to being able to hold each other accountable,” Port noted.

“We’re hoping to develop programs to embrace change by embracing the whole family unit,” Shoenfelt said. “A lifestyle change for mom and dad can lead to a lifestyle change for the whole family, from nutrition to keeping active, and it can build connections between parents and kids.”

Your lifestyle change may also affect more than just your family unit, according to Shoenfelt.

“When a set of individuals start perceiving wellness and valuing wellness on an individual level and they start enjoying the benefits of wellness, then the community starts to become more wellness aware,” Shoenfelt said.

“This nation is desperately in need of communities that value wellness, and I think it’s contagious and, at least here at Y, it’s also fun. It’s something that makes your day worth living because wellness just feels good.”


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