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A better you

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It’s the start of a new year — a time when people make plans to improve their health. One way to do that is through exercise.

Whether you are just starting an exercise program or have one already and want to challenge yourself even more, there are many ways to do this, both at home and at the many local gyms throughout Wayne County.

If you are not used to exercising, check with your doctor before starting, said Alice Huneycutt, health and wellness director at Goldsboro Family YMCA.

“The community has so many great ways to get out and be active,” she said. “There are gyms, the YMCA, lots of parks, the greenway and more.

“Walking is a good way to exercise. You can go for a walk by yourself, take your kids in a stroller and walk or even walk your dog. Any time you’re getting out, getting active, getting your heartrate up a little bit, you’re doing something food for yourself.”

Huneycutt said there are group fitness options from which to choose.

“A lot of people really like those because they try things they’ve never tried before,” she said. “They are also able to push themselves in a way that they might not do if they’re just running on a treadmill.”

Simple classes like yoga 101 will let you get a good stretch and some strength and balance exercises. Classes go all the way up to high intensity interval classes and high intensity cycling classes.

“There really is some kind of class for everyone,” Huneycutt said. “And most gyms will allow you to try a class for free one time to see if you like it or not.”

Regina Burston-Valley, fitness instructor and personal trainer at the Y, said you can minimize your movements and weights in any class until you progress to the next level.

She also said those just starting to exercise can also use weights and a variety of machines.

Not only does exercise get you in shape physically, but it’s also a social outlet if you take a class.

“I find a lot of people come here and that’s their social outlet,” Huneycutt said. “They sometimes go out to dinner or for drinks after class. And if somebody doesn’t come one week, the others will call to make sure everything is OK. I never knew how much classes meant to people on a social level.”

In addition to classes, there is a variety of cardio equipment. The Y also has water exercise in its pool.

Huneycutt said you can just walk in the pool, taking it as slow or as fast as you want. Or you can swim in the pool. There are also water classes like aerobics and Zumba.

“And we have a warm water pool, which is nice for people with aching joints,” she said., “We also have a ramp so people in wheelchairs can still use the warm water pool. Exercising in a pool is less stress on your joints.”

If you have some kind of disability, there are exercise machines for that. Recumbent bikes let you sit back and exercise if you have mobility issues. There are machines where you can exercise your arms if your legs give you trouble.

“No matter what you do, you’re moving and that’s what really matters,” Huneycutt said.

Burston-Valley said there are exercises for people who’ve had knee replacements and hip replacements or who have back problems.

“Nothing should stop a person from exercising,” she said.

If you have trouble getting out of your home or just prefer to exercise at home, there are videos on You Tube to help you. You can use weights or if you don’t have any, use heavy cans, water bottles or even your child.

“I have a new baby and I do squats with him,” Huneycutt said. “So you can take a class at home by yourself.”

Those who already have an exercise routine can bump up their game in different ways. You can take classes that are more intense or use heavier weights in a class. You can also go to the weight room and use the heavy duty weights. Even in a pool, you can walk faster or swim harder.

Or add more repetitions and do more sets of exercises. And also add more days of exercising.

If you walk every day, you can add an incline to your walk simply by taking a slight hill. Or add arm or ankle weights or even a backpack filled with items.

Walking can help prevent chronic disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. If you already have one of these conditions, walking can sometimes help you decrease or even get off your medicines, Huneycutt said.

Exercise in general, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, can make your whole body feel good.

“It gives you peace,” Burston-Valley said. “It helps you relax more at the end of the day. It keeps you moving instead of just sitting on the couch all the time getting stiff and having aches and pains. Once you exercise, it will improve your whole body overall, mentally, spiritually and physically.”

Huneycutt said to be able to stick to an exercise regiment, be sure to find something that you like to do.

“You should not suffer through something that makes you miserable,” Huneycutt said. “There’s going to be something out there that you like, you just have to find it.”

Huneycutt and Burston-Valley both stress that it’s never too late to start an exercise program, no matter what age you are.

“As you progress with exercise, you can see a big difference in your attitude and everything else,” Burston-Valley said. “It should be a lifestyle.”