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Swim into the New Year
By Eric Schmalzried, BS, ACSM-HFS, WSI, LGI

Eric Schmalzried, BS, ACSM-HFS, WSI, LGIThe New Year is here, and with it often comes a slew of new aspirations, hopes, and dreams in the form of resolutions. Frequently these resolutions are health-related and take on a generic form such as "lose weight," "get fit," or "be more active." Unfortunately, many people don't stick to their resolutions long enough to see lasting, positive results.

The good news, however, is there is a way to set yourself up for long-term success, and there is a ready solution to many common resolutions. First, you should be using the SMART acronym as a framework for a successful New Year's resolution. That is, your goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-anchored.

Second, there is a straightforward answer for reaching common health-related resolutions like "weight loss." The answer is swimming. Swimming enhances overall physical fitness, including cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and flexibility. It's also an excellent activity for weight loss and weight management, burning more calories than walking while being easier on the joints.

This last point is important, because a common barrier for individuals beginning a new exercise program is experiencing musculoskeletal injuries such as joint pain or muscle soreness. While some soreness is expected and is actually a positive sign that your body is adapting to the new challenges you are imposing on it, joint pain should be avoided. Swimming is an excellent way to achieve your physical fitness and weight management goals while avoiding issues with joint pain.

Applying the SMART goal-setting tool to the activity of swimming would result in a resolution like the following: Swim 10 laps on 3 days of the week for a total of 21 days. Be sure to mark your calendar with the days you plan on swimming, and re-evaluate after one month of adherence to increase the challenge appropriately as your body adapts. A general rule of thumb is that it takes at least 21 days of adherence to develop a habit, so use that as your initial time frame.

If you're having a little trouble getting started with your swimming routine, the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center offers private lessons and group swimming classes in addition to an excellent swimming program for kids. You are never too young or too old to make swimming a part of your healthy lifestyle

For more information on the WRCWC aquatics program, visit www.wrcameronwellness.org or call (724) 225-WELL. Eric Schmalzried is Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center Aquatics Supervisor.

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