January 2008 - Leap into 2008!

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Each year I, and almost everyone I know, will make New Year's resolutions. We will all resolve to lose weight (often the same 10 pounds we resolved to lose last year), exercise regularly, stop smoking, eat a healthier diet, get more rest, and minimize the stress in our lives. This is a time when we all resolve to "do better."

However, if you've ever gone into the gym on the day after New Year's Day, you'll find it packed with lots of "couch potatoes" that have resolved to get in shape during the new year. The whole world seems intent on strengthening abs, toning hips and thighs, and improving cardio capacity. So many new converts fill the gym that the "regulars" can hardly get to the equipment or find a space in aerobics class. Unfortunately, the experience, a packed gym right after the new year is a short-lived phenomenon. The reality is that by the end of January, many of these folks will have quit their exercise routines and there'll be more than enough space in your weekly cardio-fit class and ample opportunity to use the gym equipment. People fail because of unrealistic expectations coupled with the fact that they have no real plan for achieving their fitness goals.

This leap year, make the simple resolution that each day, you will make some effort to re-write your personal story of health and wellness. The following steps will get you on your way:

  1. Recognize the link between your health and your finances. It makes good financial sense to get fit and be healthy. Being sick actually costs you money. When you're well, you're saving money that you'd have to spend on medications or hospitalizations. You're also losing money by missing time at work.
  2. Devise a strategy for wellness. The old adage, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail," holds true for your fitness goals. Sure, you'd like to lose weight or get in shape, but what's your plan? Remember that a successful fitness plan has five elements: a realistic goal, physical activity, healthy eating, a positive mental attitude, and time. There are no short cuts or quick fixes.
  3. Refuse to be a victim. Despite the dismal statistics about African-American health disparities, you don't have to fall victim to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, or stroke. Take personal responsibility for your health. Do not assume that it's up to someone else to take charge of your health. Be sure that you get your annual screenings, practice safe sex, take medications as prescribed, and make an effort to be aware of your body. Make time to check out any signals or symptoms that something is not right and needs to be checked out by a health professional.

How many times have you said, "If I just had a little bit more time, I could get this done." Well, this year is no excuse because 2008 is a leap year, which means it offers you an extra day - an extra 24 hours - for you to get fit and be healthy. So don't just ease into the new year, jump in with both feet!

With you on your Journey To Wellness!
Dr. Mary S. Harris

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