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Holiday Fitness and Diet: Tips From Lee District Rec Center

Local experts weigh in on working out and counting calories during the holidays, and keep resolutions

Overindulging? With all sorts of delights being exchanged in the neighborhood, at school and in the office around the holidays, some local experts want Patch readers to know how to curb your appetite and stay on the move this time of year… no matter what your age.

“Historically, we do tend to see new faces during the holiday season at Lee,” said Morgan Buck, who lives in Kingstowne and is the fitness director at  in . She holds a bachelor of science degree in exercise and sports medicine and a master’s degree in health promotion and management. 

“However, I would say most new faces tend to come around the new year," she said. "You get those who are trying to lose weight as their New Year’s resolutions, as well as those who feel as if they have packed on a couple of extra pounds during the holidays and are interested in fitting back into their ‘pre-holiday’ clothes.”

Keeping those folks coming back is a challenge for fitness instructors, agrees Elizabeth Ittner, the fitness and wellness program coordinator for the Fairfax County Park Authority. (She previously directed the fitness program at Audrey Moore RECenter.) Ittner holds a bachelor of science degree in health, fitness and recreation resources and a master’s degree in exercise and sport sciences.

She and other trainers, she said, hope that they can "retain a majority of the people on this mission, and turn them into lifelong exercisers, instead of three-week ‘resolution warriors.’”

Ittner manages the Park Authority’s “Take 12! Steps for Community Health in 2012.” The free, county-wide program promotes a new goal each month. It features workshops, events, tips and a downloadable calendar located here. “It’s a great tool for changing your own life and the lives of others in your community,” said Ittner.

Buck believes moderation is key. “You only live once, so go on and enjoy that small piece of grandma’s famous apple pie," she said. But she does suggest eating a healthful meal before going to a party. “This way you have filled your stomach with a nutrient-dense meal, leaving minimal space in your stomach for sweets and other high-calorie holiday treats.”

She also recommends drinking two to three glasses of water before eating.

Ittner recommends looking for online tools to modify long-standing recipes into more healthful dishes, and giving alternative treats as gifts. For example, instead of cookies, try some cinnamon popcorn?

In terms of beverages, Ittner advises avoiding heavy, cream-based foods and drinks, like eggnog. But if it’s a favorite drink, she recommended using lower fat, lower cholesterol and lower sodium ingredients. As for liquor, Ittner suggests trying to limit your intake to one drink (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine or 1.5 oz. liquor). “The empty calories consumed in alcoholic beverages add up,” she warned. “Just one regular beer is about 149 calories, whereas a glass of white wine is about 75 calories.” She also reminds everyone to drink responsibly.

For workouts, Buck suggests:

  • If you’re just starting an exercise routine, begin slowly; use low impact cardio equipment such as an elliptical or stationary bicycle.
  • Incorporate movements into your daily routine that will burn excess calories, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking farther away than usual.
  • Consider “non-traditional” exercise; do something fun—dance, ride your bicycle outside; ski; play sports. “Any form of movement is better than none,” says Buck.
  • Advanced exercisers can get what Buck calls the “most bang for your buck” —the most calories burned in the shortest amount of time—with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Buck says HIIT keeps your heart rate at a high level and provides short periods of active recovery times. Lee offers a boot camp using HIIT.

Buck promotes the relatively affordable cost of joining Lee and a variety of programs including aqua fitness, cardio and strength training. Lee’s Healthy Heart pass sale begins Jan. 1; there are also discounts for youths and seniors. 

Buck says Lee truly is a community-oriented center. “You are always more than just a number here. The staff treats all of our patrons as family.”

Staying Fit… At Any Age

The at 6488 Landsdowne Center, open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., has been welcoming the mature set for a couple of years. The 55-and-older guests say they are staying in shape through the holidays and beyond, by staying active.

There are fitness programs on everything from tai chi and yoga to jazzercise … from zumba to line dancing. There are dozens of cooking, language, music and financial planning classes and a computer lab. Not to mention field trips. 350 seniors join in the fun here; 3,000 seniors belong to 13 senior centers across the county.

Patricia Childers of Springfield takes exercise and other classes three to four days a week at Kingstowne and other local senior centers. “It gives you an outlet, keeps you mentally alert," she said. "Any means of communications increases health and wellness and cultural awareness.”

She uses the step machine. “It takes very little effort but has good effects on your health,” she said. “We’re not the type of people who just sit around and play cards all day.”

Diem Nguyen of Alexandria comes almost every day to the Kingstowne center. He said he enjoys taking part in activities here year-round -- not just during the holidays -- and visiting the adjoining Kingstowne Library.

More information about the Kingstowne Center for Active Adults is available by calling (703) 550-0134, or logging on to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/rec/senior_ctr/.

rodneyspaulding December 26, 2011 at 11:22 AM
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