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Staying Fit Locally, Quit Making Excuses | Health

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Staying Fit Locally, Quit Making Excuses
Staying Fit Locally, Quit Making Excuses

It is predicted that, over the course of the present decade, Americans will be looking to spend less money on exercise options and a lot less time to it due to tighter budgets and hectic schedules. Combine that with a mostly unregulated commercial food industry that still relies heavily on inexpensive and low quality resources high in fat, salt and processed additives. Not enough time to move and poor food choices at the ready. This is our nation’s crisis with obesity, which is expected to climb as high as 85%, up from an already disheartening 60%. Prevention is possible, through awareness and a little creativity. While nutrition accounts largely for body fat content, exercise raises metabolism and muscle can fill up space previously occupied by fat cells. It’s a package deal. Making wholesome food choices (yes, it really is that easy—just do it) will give you energy to work burning fat. Local libraries are stocked with low-fat cookbooks and most cooking websites have search options for healthy recipes.

Living in the metropolitan area, outdoor activity options are abound. Many are free or inexpensive, and can be enjoyed as a family. Hiking trails are plentiful, such as the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail, the Sligo Creek Hiker/Biker Trail, the C & O Canal Towpath, the Mt. Vernon Trail, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Cabin John Park Trail, and Great Falls Overlook. One of our greatest local assets is the W&OD trail, which measures 45 miles long, and is ideal for bicycling, roller skating, jogging, walking or even horseback riding. Parking lots are stationed from Shirlington to Purcellville, allowing accessibility for transporting bikes or other gear. After a workout on one of the trails, take advantage of cherry blossom season downtown by renting a paddleboat at Fletcher’s Boat House on the Potomac River.

If the weather is not cooperating, indoor rock climbing challenges multiple muscle groups simultaneously, and works core strength and balance. Most Northern Virginia cities now have studios. Indoor bowling is always a popular family sport that burns approximately 250 calories per hour and strengthens the upper body.

Local gyms offer seasonal promotions, so keep an eye out for specials in newspapers or coupon magazines delivered to your home. Group training is free with membership. There are classes that focus on cardio, many of which are becoming very creative. Ethnic dancing and even pole dancing classes are excellent calorie burners. Muscle building classes focus on weights, such as barbell or dumbbell lifting classes. For time-pressured gym goers, higher intensity workouts that combine cardio and strength maximize time, such as boot camp and circuit training classes, and burn significant calories while improving muscle mass.

Short on time and unable to venture out of the home? There are several fitness videos that focus on express workouts, some less than one half hour, that claim to burn as many calories as the full hour classes. Trainers Jackie Warner and Jillian Michaels produce such videos that are available for free rental at local libraries. Their exercises focus on easily followed compound movements, which combine lower and upper body motions, usually accompanied with weights. Home workout equipment has evolved since days of the thigh master. P90X aims for improved physique through rigorous interval training and nutrition plans. TRX Suspension uses straps that utilize your own body weight as leverage to sculpt muscles.

If the most exercise you’ve gotten lately was tuning into the Super Bowl or following March Madness, it’s time to shift the paradigm away from the daunting forecast for our future state of health. Contemporary challenges in mind, innovative solutions make getting in shape just as easy as staying out of it.


SARAH R. PETER is a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, freelance writer and mother of three young children living in Loudoun County. She can be reached at sarahrpeter@yahoo.com