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Take small steps to reach fitness goals
By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Every January, gyms across America are filled with ambitious people striving to keep New Year’s resolutions, but far too often, the resolutions are set aside and forgotten within a couple of months or even weeks.
Brent Fountain, nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said the key to sticking with New Year’s resolutions is to set realistic goals.
“It’s important to set a goal you can actually reach and accomplish in the first 30 days, and then start to make longer-term goals,” Fountain said. “If people do not reach their goals quickly, they give up. Start with small goals you know you can accomplish, and then work your way up to bigger goals.”
Fountain pointed out that little things—such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the grocery store and walking—can lead to big changes.
“We all shoot for the moon at the first of the year,” Fountain said. “But instead of shooting for the moon, we should shoot for a tall tree. Once we reach the tree, then we should shoot for the clouds.”
Sandra Cook of Senatobia, who has kept her New Year’s resolutions successfully for four consecutive years, suggested using rewards as an incentive to exercise regimens.
“Whenever I don’t feel motivated to stick to my exercise plan, I remind myself that if I do a little extra work right now, I can treat myself to a small treat later,” Cook said. “And it also works the other way around—if I’m tempted to overindulge in unhealthy snacks, I remind myself about how much extra time I’ll have to spend in the gym later. It really helps keep everything in perspective.”
Fountain added that an accountability partner increase the chances of meeting a weight loss or exercise goal.
“Having a partner you rely on, and who also relies on you, holds you accountable,” he said. “It’s much easier to stick to something if you enjoy doing it and if you have someone to do it with. If gyms are not your thing, but walking your dog is, then walk the dog with a friend instead of getting a gym membership. You’ll have a greater rate of success if you enjoy the activity you are doing.”
Chiquita Briley, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, said getting the whole family on board with a healthier lifestyle can make keeping weight loss goals easier. Briley said preparing meals as a family is a good way to get everyone involved in eating healthier.
“Families can maintain healthier lifestyles by increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables. One way to do this is by featuring a new fruit or vegetable each week. Have the family choose a fruit or vegetable each week that can be incorporated into family meals,” Briley said. “Research indicates that if kids are involved in food selection and food preparation, they are more willing to accept foods that are healthier because they are taking ownership of the meal being prepared.”