AUM professor offers ways to get in shape for 2011

Mike Esco
Mike Esco

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Mike Esco, assistant professor of physical education and exercise science and co-director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Auburn University at Montgomery, offers the following Eleven Ways to Get in Shape in 2011.

1. Make achieving a healthy lifestyle a priority.
This is the most important tip. Most people wish to become healthier but really don't want to make it a priority. Success, whether it be with weight loss, running a marathon or increasing muscular strength, begins with a choice to make personal health and fitness a top priority.

2. Remember, it doesn't have to be typical exercise.
When most people think of becoming healthier, they immediately imagine running on a treadmill, jogging in the park, lifting weights or some other form of traditional exercise. While these activities are great, they are not mandatory. Research suggests that becoming more physically active overall, such as walking instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can be just as effective as traditional exercise for maintaining or losing weight and decreasing chronic disease risks.

3. Make it a goal to at least meet the minimal physical activity guidelines.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that every American adult should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on most days of the week. For most people, 30 minutes per day can significantly improve health and help maintain a healthy body weight.

4. Accumulate exercise.
Research shows that accumulating bouts of physical activity throughout the day is just as effective as one exercise session performed continuously. You can achieve the same health benefits by accumulating six 10-minute bouts of activity compared to one 60-minute bout.

5. Wear a pedometer.
A pedometer can hold you accountable by gauging your overall physical activity. You'll be surprised at how many steps you can take just by doing regular daily activities, such as cleaning the house or cutting the grass with a push mower. Studies show that achieving 10,000 steps per day decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps maintain or reach a healthy body weight. Unfortunately, the average American only takes 2,500 to 5,000 steps per day.

6. Turn off the TV.
The average American spends 4 to 5 hours per day watching television, yet the number one reason for not being more physically active is "lack of time." If you don't want to change your viewing habits, at least exercise while watching TV or during commercials – adding to your accumulated activity.

7. Pick enjoyable activities.
Being more physically active does not mean that you need to purchase an expensive gym membership and exercise for hours on end. It simply means increasing your overall physical activity. If you pick activities that are enjoyable, you will be more likely to stick with it. Find a group of friends to walk with, go biking with the family or spend a nice afternoon on a hiking trail. Play! The type of activity isn't as important as actually doing it.

8. Understand that one pound of fat equals approximately 3,500 calories.
If a person could replace a 20-ounce bottle of regular soda with water (saving 250 calories) and walk two to three miles (burning about 250 calories) every day, then he or she could lose one pound per week. For great information on how to eat properly, visit Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietician if you have a special need like diabetes.

9. Get involved.
Participate in an incentive-based physical activity or weight loss program, such as Scale Back Alabama, or sign up for a physical activity event, such as a 5K walk/run. These can give you something to focus on and will hold you accountable.

10. Keep a journal.
If you are trying to lose weight it is very important to write down everything you eat on a daily basis and tallying up the total amount of calories consumed. This will allow you to look back at your day and see where you went right or wrong.

11. Make goals.
It is important to establish short and long-term goals. Write them down on a piece of paper and read them every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep. If you write your goal down and read it often, it will stay fresh on your mind. But make sure your goals are reachable and realistic.