By Carlee Frank

The New Year is here and that means you can’t take back the health and fitness goals you set for yourself. It’s time to buckle down –but don’t worry, I’m here to help! First, let’s assess last week’s mindset challenge. Did you incorporate the question, “How can this be healthier?” into your diet? Maybe you opted for a lettuce wrap instead of bread and secretly loved it, or tried zucchini noodles instead of pasta and found a new favorite recipe. If your answer is yes, keep going! If your answer is no, don’t fret— simply start fresh this week. Mindful and healthy eating is a lifestyle.

This week, we’re going to address exercise. Exercise comes from the Latin word ‘exercere’, which means to keep busy or practice. Nowadays, exercise brings to mind sweat bands, deadlifting and Cross Fit, but maybe we should just think of it as keeping busy. The human body was not created to be sedentary. There are many scary bodily side effects to inactivity in the human body, but for now we’ll simply address the benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, some include lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improved mood (due to stimulated hormones), better sleep and weight control.

While this may sound inspirational, many people still cannot find the motivation to exercise. However, after exercising nearly every day for the last five years, and becoming a certified Pilates instructor, I have found many helpful tips to keep you motivated.

First, sit down with your calendar and examine your week. Find four blocks of time of at least 20 minutes, and designate those for exercise. If you have more time, then by all means, take advantage of your schedule. If you can only allot four 20-minute blocks, I suggest medium to high intensity workouts for each block, such as running, calisthenics, or muscle toning. Finding workout plans online is simple—Google search callisthenic moves, write down each exercise and the number of repetitions, throw on some music and dive in. YouTube also has many resources, so search for a Pilates workout and move along to the videos. You can complete these workouts in any space about the length of your body.

Secondly, if you are unable to complete medium to high intensity workouts, then use your time to walk. The Arthritis Foundation stated that walking can slow mental decline, improve breathing, support your joints and shore up your bones. So, you can bundle up and brave the elements for a nice wintertime walk, or take an SGI Community Education class and join Free Hallway Walking at the high school Monday-Thursday 4 to 9 p.m.

Lastly, if you are able, go to the gym. It’s an encouraging and social environment where everyone is there for a common goal — to stay in shape. A monthly membership will inspire you to keep attending, and the professional equipment will allow you to expand the range of your workout. You might even make new friends along the way! Just find time in your schedule, even if it means earlier mornings, and head out.

Exercise and a healthy diet will catapult you toward a healthy mind and body, so this week, I challenge you to continue eating mindfully. Skip those guilty pleasure “junk foods” and add some nutrition to your weekly meals. I also challenge you to pick four 20-minute exercise blocks and stick to your workouts. Make 2018 the year you prioritize your health.

Next week we will look into the standard American diet and its effect on the digestive system.