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News > Commentary - Setting up for Success - Be S.M.A.R.T.
Setting up for Success - Be S.M.A.R.T.

Posted 1/22/2013   Updated 1/22/2013 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Lt. Col. Robert York
325th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander

1/22/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Medical professionals have shown an association between lifestyle habits and chronic disease development. The leading causes of death in the United States, heart disease and all types of cancer, are commonly associated with three habits: tobacco use, diets that include too many calories and too few nutrients, and too little exercise. The most common New Year's resolutions consist of eating less and exercising more and living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, many people forget about or give up on their resolutions by the end of January. In order to avoid the usual pitfalls of unrealistic goals, consider setting yourself up for success. The results of your resolutions should be a healthier lifestyle, not a brief period of crash dieting and hours on the treadmill.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. [Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely] method to set your resolutions and goals. If you've made a resolution to lose twenty-five pounds in the next four months, consider focusing on month number one. Assuming that you have 25 pounds to lose, ask yourself what you will do in order to achieve 25 percent of your goal during the first month. Keep in mind that the goal should be realistic. Safe and maintainable weight loss occurs at a rate of one to two pounds per week. Therefore, your goal of, "I want to lose six pounds during the month of January," meets all of the S.M.A.R.T. criteria. We all respond to positive reinforcement and meeting your goals on a monthly basis will increase the likelihood that you'll keep your New Year's resolution. Keep in mind that you didn't gain the weight overnight, so you won't lose it overnight either.

In order to execute your plan and succeed at your goals, planning is critical. Your strategy for success, which includes your S.M.A.R.T. goals, can lead to changes in your life. Many people plan to exercise more, but are not sure what type of exercise they want to participate in. Others aren't sure where they'll exercise or whether they will exercise alone or with a group or a partner. Answering these questions for yourself will help you to follow-up on those resolutions. Given the choice, we all avoid activities that we find unpleasant. If you hate to do aerobics, but you plan to do aerobics every day in order to lose weight, chances are good you won't stick to your plan for very long. Find a type of physical activity that you enjoy. Living in Florida affords us many opportunities to exercise outdoors from a run along the beach to a hike through one of our many state parks. Swimming laps with a masters' swim group can provide a great workout as can carrying your golf clubs for 18 holes of golf, sans golf cart of course. If you like to dance, find a dance class and sign yourself up.

You get the idea--give yourself the gift of being physically active, don't torture yourself with an exercise you don't enjoy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting 175 minutes of exercise every week. Commit to 10 or 20 minutes a day and gradually build up to 30 minutes a day, six days a week. You want to get your heart rate up without overexerting yourself. On a scale of one to ten, you should exercise at six to seven. Over time, the amount of effort you're able to put in will change and those signs of progress in your fitness will help you continue to make your lifestyle healthy and maintainable.

If you want a refresher about healthy nutrition, or just a little support from an expert or two, visit the Health and Wellness Center or call them at (850) 283-3826. A dietitian offers classes and consultations to get you on the right track and help you reinforce those habits. The staff at the HAWC can also assist you with tobacco cessation and set you up on an exercise program. Give yourself the gift of health in 2013: obtain and then maintain a healthy lifestyle starting today.

Thanks to Dr. April Wisdom, the HAWC flight commander for managing an excellent team and for her assistance with this article.

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