Just Do It! by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Which way’s the beach?

It was at the young age of 17 when I first found my love of strength training, lifting weights. That was over 23 years ago. I started out as a powerlifter and then a body builder. I was never “huge” but when I first started to see them, I was so very proud of my muscles. I’d do my double biceps pose and point out the beach to my friends…”It’s that way”, I’d say. They would laugh and laugh. They were really good friends.

People use to say, “Sure, you look good now but wait until you stop lifting weights. It will all turn to flab.” Which is just silly by the way, muscles do not turn to flab. But like anything, if you don’t use them, you do lose them. Regardless, I have never stopped “using” my muscles and I doubt I ever will. At least I will never stop exercising. I will always make an effort to move my body in purposeful ways that take me out of my comfort zone of sitting on my butt all day at the computer. You too have to move your body each and everyday if you want to have a beach body all year long.

Maybe you are just starting to exercise. So I say, yeah! Congratulations! I am so happy for you! Whether you live at the beach year round or are simply visiting for a spell, well, it is never too late to start achieving that lean summer bod.

There is a Buddhist principle which states that if you do something for 21 days, you own it baby! OK, I added the “Baby” but I’ll bet that the Dalai Lama won’t mind my little twist; or Nike, when I borrow their “Just Do It!” Take the 21 day challenge. Let’s get physical for 21 days without fail and see what happens.

Let’s start with some basics. Here are the facts. There is a study from the National Weight Control Registry (nwcr.ws). The NWCR is a descriptive study where the researchers looked at the habits of people who lost at least 30 pounds and have kept if off for at least one year. You see, losing weight is actually easy, it’s keeping it off that is the hard part, as we all know.

We want to know the secret to their success so researchers ask questions to learn about the habits of highly successful weight maintainers. Of the participants in the study, 45% lost weight on their own while 55% lost weight with the help of some type of program. Most of the responders, 98%, have modified their food intake in some way. Breakfast eaters make up 78% of the group and 90% continue to exercise for at least 1 hour per day. Walking is the most reported activity. So that’s easy, peasy especially when you’re at the beach. But if the weather is inclement, make sure to have a plan B, perhaps something you can do at home. Jumping rope, walking in place for 30 minutes or exercising with a DVD are viable options so that you too can be active each and everyday.

Most of the study participants also do some sort of resistance training, not just to develop those muscles used in pointing out the beach, but also to improve their quality of life. Building muscle keeps you young, strong and independent longer in life. Strength training helps increase bone density by putting much needed “stress” on the bone which can help in the prevention of osteoporosis. Being strong makes getting around in general much more fun. It allows you to carry stuff. I love hefting my five gallon water bottles up the stairs to my second floor apartment. If I can still do that when I reach my 100th birthday then I will be very happy.

Strength training is a key ingredient to your recipe for weight loss success. Strength training helps you build muscle which can equate to a faster metabolism. A faster metabolism means you burn more calories, during exercise and at rest. Strength training also makes you appear fit by sculpting those beach bearing muscles. If you are new to strength training, please employ the help of a personal trainer. Yoga and other group classes are also a great way to help you develop good form and good habits with other like minded individuals.

It’s never too late to start building muscle. In research studies by Miriam Nelson, PhD, a leading expert on exercise for older women, she has shown improved bone density and increased lean muscle mass in participants who are in their 80’s.

No excuses! Just Do It! Make a commitment to do something, anything, for an hour a day for 21 days. Then you own it! It will be a part of your daily habit. Make an effort to move your body on most days for the rest of your life. I hope to see you hefting water bottles on your 100th birthday too! Even if you are just lifting 8 ounces to your lips; water is the key to longevity and any movement is better than none. For more specific exercise routines please see my book “Banish Your Belly” which was published by Men’s Health Books.