The holidays may have left behind more than just good memories: are

you carrying a few extra pounds as a memory of your holiday season,

haunting you like the Ghost of Christmas Past? Or are you struggling

to keep to get back to an exercise routine that took a hike during the

hectic holidays? Let’s face it, it is harder to stay motivated about

keeping yourself fit when the sun doesn’t rise until 7:30 a.m., the

sky is grey, and the temperature a frigid 20 degrees. You’d rather be

tucked up under a cozy comforter, not heading out for an early morning

run or trip to the gym. Sure, that sounds great on a sunny morning in

June, but right now it takes commitment!

There’s no doubt about it: It is more difficult to stay healthy and

fit through the winter months. How do you motivate yourself to eat a

healthy diet when you’d rather be sipping hot chocolate by the fire?

And what about those other components of health? Have you had a

physical in the past 12 months? What else should you be doing to

improve your health this winter? What anti-aging strategies could you

be finding out about? How can all the new high-tech equipment make

staying fit and healthy easier? How can you find some real calm and

peace of mind? Here are some tips for getting fit and staying fit

physically, mentally, and emotionally this winter:

Keep walking. Remember, walking in cold weather burns even more

calories than walking when the temperature is warm. You can burn up to

50 percent more calories by walking on a cold day than on a warm one.

But you do need to take some precautions if you are walking outdoors.

Do remember to go a little slower until you warm up and make sure that

you keep hydrated. Exercise can make you sweat even if the temperature

is below freezing.

If the weather is just too bad to walk outside, try a treadmill,

either in your home or at the gym. If yours is collecting dust in some

out-of-the-way corner of your home, try moving it into a part of the

house where you will use it, preferably an area used by other family

members and a television set (to keep you company). Or try one of the

local malls. Many malls have organized walking programs that you can

join, or bring a friend. It’s a lot more fun to exercise when you have

someone with you.

Try an indoor sport. Basketball, volleyball, swimming, and tennis are

a few of the sports that can be enjoyed throughout the year at a

variety of facilities in the area, from the local Ys to health clubs

and gyms. What better way to stay in shape and beat cabin fever than

with a regular sports night with friends. Just think how much better

shape you’ll be in when spring arrives!

Hydrate! The air is dryer during the winter months, so it’s just as

important to drink eight glasses of water a day as it is when you are

feeling hot and sweaty during the summer months. Indoor heating is

drying, also. Adding plants to your home and office is one simple way

to bring more moisture into the indoor atmosphere. Plants give off

moisture and oxygen, increasing the humidity of the air, and they can

brighten your mood on a grey, winter day, too.

The dryness in the air can also dry out your skin. Using a moisturizer

regularly is one quick and easy way to rehydrate your skin. But

instead of just slapping on a little lotion, why not think about a

trip to a local spa? A facial or a massage will not only improve your

skin tone and elasticity, it will relax and refresh your mind as well.

Massage for health. Massages don’t just make you feel good, they’re

good for your health, too, says Melissa Nelson, a massage therapist at

Pivotal Physical Therapy and Wellness in Monroe Township. She works

with rehabilitation clients as well as clients who come just for the

healthy benefits of a great massage. Nelson, who is a member of the

American Physical Therapy Association, has two techniques she

particularly recommends for winter. An aroma therapy wrap and hot

stone massage. "The aroma therapy wrap is excellent for hydrating dry

winter skin," says Nelson. First, she exfoliates the skin with a dry

brush, then uses moisturizing lotion during the massage, and finally

wraps the client in a thermal blanket for several minutes.

"A hot stone massage really feels great at this time of year. It helps

to heat up the muscle tissue and relax it," says Nelson. The hot stone

massage uses smooth basalt stones dipped in warm oil to massage the

tissue. It’s particularly good for people with arthritis, says

Johnson. Nelson can be reached at the Pivotal office at 609-683-4747.

Massage is not just for adults. Everyone can benefit from a massage,

says Darby Line, of Full Circle Family Massage. Massage is good for

people of all ages, from children to the elderly, and even infants and

pregnant women. "With the changes in the body during pregnancy,

massage can help to ease the joints and muscles, help with the back

aches and the swollen feet."

Line also works with mothers and fathers to teach them to massage

their infants. "Massage aids in digestion, helps infants sleep, and is

also an excellent way for parents to bond with their infants," she

says. To find out more about massage for the whole family, check the

website at www.fullcirclemassage.com.

Take care of your spirit. The dark winter days can stress us

emotionally as well as physically. That’s why Deborah Metzger, founder

and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health offers a

variety of workshops and classes designed to relax the body and soothe

the spirit. "We have all levels of yoga from the most gentle to the

most intense," she says. A favorite class at this time of year is "Hot

Yoga," conducted in a room with the temperature set at about 100

degrees. "People either love it or hate it," says Metzger, who says

the heat and exercise are a great way to relax as well as detoxify the

body.

At this time of year, when our first inclination is often to

hibernate, PCYH also offers a variety of classes designed to relieve

stress and relax. Drum Circles, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction,

Oneness Blessings, yoga makeover courses, and concerts are just a few

of the workshops and courses offered at the center, located in

Skillman. For more information on classes, visit the center’s website

at www.princetonyoga.com.

Get fit. Yes, you’ve said it for years, "I need to get more exercise."

Then you find all sorts of excuses not to. Have you ever told

yourself, "I always climb the stairs at work instead of taking the

elevator. That’s a lot of exercise." Or what about, "I just cleaned

the kitchen, that has to count for something!" The reality is that it

will take one and a half hours of stair climbing or three and a half

hours of housecleaning to burn off one six-ounce slice of cheesecake.

Do you really have that kind of time?

That’s one of the reasons that Curves fitness centers have been so

successful in the past few years. Curves specializes in helping women

fit a "reasonable workout regimen into today’s busy lifestyles," says

Sally Harrison of Curves of Pennington. "Staying fit is important to

so many aspects of health, such as combating diabetes, osteoporosis,

hypertension, and heart disease."

The Curves workout is designed so that women of all ages and fitness

levels can perform all five components of a complete fitness program

combining both strength and cardiovascular training. You can find out

more about the Curves program at www.curvespennington.com.

Try a personal trainer. The hardest part of a workout at the gym may

be just getting there. "You get the gym membership and you always say

that you are going to go on your lunch hour or after work, but somehow

it never happens, it just turns into another good intention," says

personal trainer Bill DeSimone. Working with a personal trainer makes

it much more likely you’ll actually get to your workout, he says, just

because you’ve made a special appointment. DeSimone works strictly

with individuals and small, pre-organized groups at his studio,

Optimal Exercise in Cranbury. Workouts are personalized for each

person’s level of ability, making a personal trainer a particularly

good choice for a person who is inexperienced. For more information on

personal training, check the Optimal Exercise website at

cranbury.org/Business/OptimalExercise.

Eat healthy. Losing weight is number one on the top 10 of America’s

favorite New Year’s resolutions. So why is it that so many of us make

the same resolution, year after year, and seem to gain as many pounds

as we lose? Some nutritionists are now saying that the whole concept

of dieting is part of the problem.

Dieting involves deprivation: eating a minimum of calories, avoiding

foods that taste good while stoking up on delicious snacks of lettuce

and carrots. The concept of the diet is also something that we do for

a short period of time, a matter or a few weeks or months, before

returning to the all of the bad eating habits that made us overweight

in the first place.

So if we aren’t supposed to diet, what are we supposed to do?

Nutritionists suggest that the best way to lose the weight and keep it

off is to change our eating habits. Instead of living on an artificial

plan that includes only a few types of foods, learn to pick from a

wide range of healthy food choices.

Another secret to changing our eating habits is to find a support

group, whether you use one of the traditional organizations, find a

personal diet coach, or start your own informal group of friends, it

will be easier to stick to your new routine if you have other people

around you who understand how difficult changing your diet can be.

If you are still finding it difficult to get motivated to stay fit and

health this winter, try thinking ahead to the spring. A little work

now means you’ll be in much better shape once the warm weather

returns.

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