In 2022, the number one New Year’s Resolution was living healthier.
Twenty-three percent of respondents in a survey conducted by Statista Research Department listed living healthier as their top priority, followed by personal improvement (21 percent) and losing weight (20 percent). Establishing a regular fitness routine goes a long way in tackling all three of these resolutions – and so much more. The key is taking a fresh look at fitness. “It’s important to remember that exercise has a much greater impact than losing weight,” said Elaine Ragan, founder of Insane Fit Girls, a Westchase-based fitness group for women.
Exercise benefits every single bodily system, improves mood and boosts energy. “It’s not always ‘fancy’ to focus on the internal benefits of exercise, but if you take the focus off weight loss you will notice the benefits much sooner, which will in turn keep you motivated to keep moving and then your body composition will change,” Ragan said.
Physical benefits of exercise include:
- Heart health: Studies suggest that people who exercise regularly have lowered risk factors for cardiovascular problems, including reduced LDL (bad) and total cholesterol, and increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Strong bones and healthy joints: Weight-bearing and resistance exercise help maintain bone strength as we age. Exercise can also slow age-related loss of muscle mass, which helps lessen the stress on joints.
- Immune function: Studies have shown that moderate-intensity exercise can stimulate cellular immunity by increasing the circulation of immune cells in your body.
- Energy levels: Active adults consistently report less fatigue and low energy levels than their sedentary peers.
Mental and emotional benefits include:
- Improved mood: Exercise not only boosts mood by releasing chemicals like endorphins and serotonin; it also gets you out into to world to help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. “How often are you stressed beyond measure but go for a walk or show up to your workout when you don’t want to and end up in a much better mood?” Ragan said.
- Stress relief: Along those same lines, exercise reduces adrenaline and cortisol and increases serotonin and norepinephrine, which moderate the brain’s response to stress. It also can serve as a form of meditation to distract from daily stressors.
- Improved focus: Physical activity delivers oxygen to the brain and related tissues. Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five days a week is recommended to release brain chemicals that support memory, focus and mental concentration.
- Enhanced self-esteem: Improved physical condition has a positive effect on self-esteem and confidence.
- Better sleep: Studies suggest a link between regular exercise and improved sleep.
For older adults, exercise has added benefits. “Physical activity improves the ability to perform daily activities and decreases the risk of falling,” added Mary Anne Kirsch, Northwest/West Park Village YMCA Group X Coordinator.
To reap these benefits, it is important to view exercise as a part of the daily routine rather than an all-or-nothing endeavor. “I always tell people to love the season they are in and give themselves grace. Life is busy, complicated and unpredictable and starting new things can be intimidating,” Ragan said. “Be flexible with yourself and try all things available to see which fits you best.”
“It is important to start with something you enjoy doing,” Kirsch added. “So, if that is walking, head outside and get some fresh air. If you need accountability, commit to working out with a friend or hire a trainer to help. If you enjoy dancing, find a Zumba or line dancing class. The key is to get moving! Don’t use ‘time’ as a reason for not exercising. Something is better than nothing!”
Fortunately, opportunities to work fitness into your daily life abound in our area. Below are just a few ideas.
Westchase and our Northwest neighborhoods are home to numerous trails perfect for walking, running or biking. Starting a fitness routine can be as simple as popping in your ear buds and going for a walk. If you need a little motivation to get off the couch and onto a trail, sign up for the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree, which runs through March 31. This annual hiking challenge encourages residents to tackle a minimum of eight trails from a list of 26 to earn a prize. There are trails to accommodate all fitness levels and several are just minutes from Westchase. Learn more at www.westchasewow.com/hiking-spree.
Bust a move
There are a number of dance-based workouts in the Westchase area that offer heart-pumping fitness that is fun! Jazzercise has been a household name for 50 years, but what was once synonymous with leg warmers and leotards has evolved into a high intensity dance party that fuses cardio, strength, Pilates, hip hop, yoga and kickboxing to burn up to 800 calories in a 55-minute class. AKT offers a full body workout that combines cardio dance intervals with strength and toning. The YMCA offers Zumba and line dancing classes, while the Westchase Recreation Center offers Zumba, Salsa and Bollywood dancing that are perfect for adults of all ages.
Find your group
Group workouts can be a great source of motivation – and much more. “Some people go to workouts to see friends, others come for the accountability of showing up even on tough days, and there are others who come to be pushed and challenged more than they would do on their own,” Ragan said.
If challenge is what you are looking for, Orangetheory Fitness has you covered. Before each class, you are given a heart rate monitor that tracks your progress and displays it on screens around the room. This feedback not only helps you pace yourself, but it also allows your coach to provide guidance.
There are group fitness classes in the area for everything from traditional workouts to kickboxing, yoga, spin, Pilates, high intensity interval training and much more.
For those who prefer a bit more privacy in their workouts, but are still looking for guidance, personal training is a great option. Westchase-based The Exercise Coach offers customized 20-minute workouts led by certified fitness coaches that offer maximum results in a minimal amount of time. The YMCA also offers sessions with a personal trainer, whether you are looking to try something new or simply need an accountability partner.
“Finding a fitness home is personal and we have different things we look for…If you try something you don’t like, try the next thing on your list,” Ragan said.