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Ester Marsh column: Make getting healthier one of your New Year’s resolutions

By Ester Marsh

New Year’s is right around the corner! Have you made a New Years resolution?

Not that you have to. Maybe your resolution is not to make any New Year’s resolutions. As you know, I am not one to wait, I would rather start today than wait for a certain time or event before I got started.

Of course, popular resolutions are losing weight, getting active or eating better.

Some our YMCA members are down on themselves because they have not reached a particular goal. I tell them that if it was easy, everyone would be healthy, exercising and eating right. The weight loss business isn’t a billion dollar industry because its “easy.”

People who know me recognize that I am all about health. And health comes in all shapes and sizes. There is the BMI (Body Mass Index), where they take your height and your weight. One of my trainers who is in great shape and has great muscles on the BMI chart is considered overweight and she wears a small size in clothing. Personally, I don’t put much confidence in the BMI charts due to the fact it only takes your height and weight in consideration. One very easy way to see if your weight is unhealthy is to look at waist circumference. All you need is a measuring tape. To measure your hip-to-waist ratio, use a measuring tape and take the smaller section of your natural waist. It’s usually located right at or just above your belly button. Stand relaxed and do not pull tape tight and breathe. For the hip, your measurement should be taken at the hips on the widest part of your buttocks. Now divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. A healthy waist-to-hip ratio for women is 0.8 or lower and men should be 1.0 or lower. Ratios above that are associated with obesity and seem to have a greater risk for health issues and diseases. For example, let’s say your hips are 38 inches and your belly is 40 inches — your ratio would be 2.0 and yes, that is too big. At many doctor’s offices, they have started to use this measurement because its an easy way to check if you have a lot of belly fat.

Research has shown that people with a high hip ratio measurement (belly a lot bigger than the hips) their health risks increase a lot. Are you a lot above 0.8 (females) and 1.0 (males)? This would be a great New Years resolution to lower your hip waist ratio. Now, before you jump on the crunch machine, just know that you cannot spot reduce. Just by doing crunches, the belly fat will not go away because you are doing crunches. And once again, you need to increase your cardiovascular workouts (fast walking, running, swimming, aerobics, cycling, etc.).  Add in full body strength workouts, but don’t forget about flexibility. We just got two new machines which help you stretch your hip flexors (front of hip) and another machine which stretches your hamstrings (back of upper leg). And, don’t limit your flexibility to just legs. And — here it comes — eat a sensible meal. Check out www.myplate.gov, which has a world of sensible food knowledge and it’s free. There is even a way you can track all your food intake. If you need more help with eating right, in my opinion, Weight Watchers is one of the best and affordable programs out there. It teaches you how to eat real food and show you portion control.

So if you are setting New Year’s resolutions, set them with your health as No. 1. The rest will follow.

Ester H Marsh Health & Fitness Director JF Hurley YMCA

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