Illustration of woman eating healthy and exercising


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Think lifestyle changes, remote workouts

Published on Saturday, January 1, 2022

By: Andrea Wright Dilworth,

This year’s obligatory resolution to get in shape might seem harder than most, what with Omicron breathing down our necks and Delta still lingering like an overstayed guest.

Though many are avoiding the gym to lose the pounds that the two contagious variants have helped us gain, there’s nothing stopping us from getting back on track from the comforts of our own homes, minus the comfort foods, of course. And it’s a lot easier than you might think.

Portrait of Lauren Turner

“The biggest thing we can do for our health is make good decisions on what we put in our bodies,” said Lauren Turner, a family nurse practitioner in the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at UMMC. “My biggest recommendations revolve around food choices.”

That means half our plates should consist of fruits and vegetables, for each meal: one-fourth as a protein source, and one-fourth a high-quality complex carbohydrate, Turner said.

Portrait of Josie Bidwell

We should also add whole grains for more fiber and reduce processed snacks and animal-based products, said Dr. Josie Bidwell, associate professor in the School of Medicine and a lifestyle medicine clinician with the Department of Preventive Medicine.

Bidwell teaches patients to view weight management as a lifestyle change, not a temporary fix.

“It’s less about the ease of losing and more about the maintenance of that weight loss,” explained Bidwell. “A multitude of fad diets will work for weight loss, but they don’t work in terms of sustainability. It’s very important for us in lifestyle medicine to help people not only improve their health but to also be able to maintain it.”

Getting our bodies moving is an important component of that.

“During the pandemic, people are not going to the gyms like they used to, and that’s ok,” said Turner. “You do not have to be a member of a big fancy gym to be active and increase your heart rate.”

Turner, who is also a CDC National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle coach, said most of her patients have gained 10 to 20 pounds since the pandemic. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

“It is hard to lose weight,” she said. “But the hardest thing is changing our habits and the ways we think about fueling our bodies, whether with diet or exercise. I think maybe when we look at it as improving our health, and a long-term goal, it seems easier than saying, ‘I need to get these 20 pounds off.’”

To get back in shape, Turner recommends these weekly goals: 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, and two to three days each of stretching and resistance or weight training.

“YouTube videos are great,” said Turner. “There are millions of videos that meet every patient where they are, whether that be intense workouts or more sedentary exercise.  We focus on moving. So any increase in moving is a success.”

Turner also shared these recommendations, which can be done using things we have around the house: 

  • Body resistance like squats, pushups or sit-ups work just as well as weights.
  • Canned goods or gallons of milk can be a substitute for dumbbells.
  • Dancing, jumping jacks, sweeping and mopping to get in more cardiovascular exercise.
  • Walking can be as effective as a treadmill because we can adjust our speed and incline for an easier or harder workout.

“The most important thing to focus on is setting a realistic goal and developing a specific action plan to accomplish,” said Bidwell. “The Southern Remedy Fitness Prescription has resources for aerobic, strength and flexibility. I get asked a lot about what the best exercise is, and it’s the one that you will do consistently.

“Finding a plan that you can and will do for a lifetime, and focus on slow, steady and sustainable.”

The above article appears in CONSULT, UMMC’s monthly e-newsletter sharing news about cutting-edge clinical and health science education advances and innovative biomedical research at the Medical Center and giving you tips and suggestions on how you and the people you love can live a healthier life. Click here and enter your email address to receive CONSULT free of charge. You may cancel at any time.