If you've decided that 2012 is the year you are going to make a concerted effort to get fit and lose weight, you may be better off adopting healthy behavior rather than setting a specific weight-loss goal.
That's the advice of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension exercise physiologist Annie Lindsay, who has used exercise and fitness messages to help improve the lives of many different groups in Nevada.
"My motto is this: 'If you focus on changes in behavior, you will get results,'" Lindsay said. "If you focus on results, you may never change."
Lindsay says she doesn't recommend setting goals to lose weight - particularly plans to lose weight within a specific time frame.
"Quick weight loss doesn't stay off," she said. "New Year's resolutions should focus on health not weight loss."
"Many studies have shown that people who lose weight slowly are more likely to keep the weight off," Lindsay said. "People who lose weight quickly are much more likely to gain it back."
If you are new to exercise, Lindsay said one key to success is to develop an enjoyable routine. If you hate getting up at 5 a.m. to exercise in the dark, then choose another time of day you'll like better, Lindsay says.
"If you're going to exercise, it has to be something you enjoy," she said. "Otherwise, you'll just quit doing it."
Lindsay has used these methods to reach a variety of demographic groups in Clark County office of the Cooperative Extension.
Her Healthy Steps to Freedom program teaches nutrition, exercise and body acceptance to women and girls in substance abuse programs who often turn to drug use in order to deal with weight issues. She also helped create Extension's All 4 Kids program, which addresses child obesity by encouraging preschool children and families to be active every day and practice healthy eating habits.
Healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand, Lindsay said. The most effective way to lose weight and get in shape is to limit your calorie consumption while you increase your activity level.
Set a goal you know you can achieve," Lindsay advised. "Err on the low side - even if it's only exercising twice a week for 15 minutes. It's easier to add more than it is to back off. Backing off translates into 'dropping off.'"
Lindsay noted that federal guidelines recommend doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity each week. But if you those levels aren't achievable for you, set a lower goal. Making the habit stick should be the primary goal.
"Setting achievable goals simply means choosing the number of days and minutes you absolutely know you can do," she said. "It may only be 45 minutes a week (15 minutes on 3 days) or maybe just 30 (10 minutes on 3 days). It doesn't matter the number. If you know you can do it, it's a good plan."
For more information, check out Lindsay's publication "Get Regular".