Keeping a Beach-Ready Body Under a Winter Coat

"Let's do it. Let's shed the pounds off for the summer."

It's a conversation I hear in the spring on the subway, at dinner parties or at work facilities. Invariably, late spring is a time when everyone seems excited about trying to achieve the perfect beach body.

Now, as we approach fall, the barbecue season has taken its toll, and some of our fat tissue is around our waists again. And with the holidays not that far away, the forecast is looking pretty grim for our earlier body aspirations.

But why not continue what you have started? Why let it go again, just because you are soon going to be hiding in winter clothes once more?

It turns out there are many reasons to keep motivated as the colder months approach.

Reasons Not to Fall Off the Exercise Wagon

Think about it: How did you feel after a great run, gym class or lifting weights? Wasn't your mood lifted, and didn't you feel as if you could conquer any problem?

Today's environment presents us with constant hassles; it's a fight to move forward. So staying ahead of the curve to be in a good mood goes a long way toward tackling the problems that are thrown at you.

And what could be better for your mood than exercise? Not only can it be fun, but exercise releases serotonin as well -- a simple and easy way to receive a healthy dose of natural antidepressants.

This is especially important for those who experience a condition known as seasonal-affective disorder, or SAD. Studies have shows that for these people, the shorter hours of daylight can actually lead to depression. So an extra daily boost of happy hormones could be just what those people need to get over the fall and winter doldrums.

And remember, you don't need to pay for these antidepressants; your body produces them for free! It doesn't get any better then this.

Fighting Through the Holiday Food Fest

Oh my, you want to enjoy eating. Have you thought about what happens when the cookie season approaches?

Many of us just let loose when presented with this temptation. Fair enough, enjoy them. But keep in mind that if you want to eat more, you need to exercise more. If not, you need to take a serious look at your calorie intake.

Most likely, the kind of food you'll be eating in the fall contains higher levels of carbohydrates -- think of those squashes, potatoes and stews. Many of these high-calorie dishes are also prepared with more fat to comfort ourselves when it gets cold again.

Ok, yes, we need to keep warm -- but that's why we have clothing, right? Counteract the potential weight gain by keeping going on what you have started over the summer. Then just enjoy what you want to eat from time to time.

Keeping Active Through the Cold -- and Until You're Old

Summer is a great time for being active outdoors. But why not in the winter as well? Winter sports offer some great ways to improve your balance, strength and flexibility, all while keeping you active.

Standing for at least five hours on the snowboard or skis requires endurance, strength and balance. Train for it now. The sooner you tackle these challenges, the more you will enjoy these activities in the winter.

Keeping active through the cold may also keep you well. Research has shown that our immune systems are also stimulated through physical exercise -- a good thing to remember if you hope to stay well through the winter.

And there is another great reason to keep up your regular physical activity in the long run. These days, we are living to 70, 80, 90 and even 100 years old. Your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility play important roles in how self-sufficient you will be at an older age. In case you fall, you want to have great bone strength to prevent broken bones.

This is where consistent resistance training comes in. Resistance training, like lifting weights, allows your body to adjust to the external environment and store more calcium in your bones, thereby strengthening them.

Let's stay on strength and balance for one second. Many studies have shown that in the aging process, besides hearing loss, we also lose flexibility and lean muscle tissue. Studies have shown that our metabolization slows down 2 percent every decade.

I am sure you care about how you feel and what you look like. The way to prevent your body from deteriorating is to exercise -- most importantly, through resistance training and cardiovascular training.

Beating the Seasonal Yo-Yo

Consistency is key to any success, and fitness is no exception.

Studies have shown that the yo-yo effect of losing and gaining weight is more damaging than maintaining one weight.

Yes, sometimes, life gets in the way of this consistency. This is why you constantly need to find new reasons to stick to your fitness plan.

Find activities that you like to do. When you enjoy activities that you participate in, most likely you will stay consistent in your activity level.

So, the advice that I can give from what I have seen firsthand is this: Don't let one more year go by without a commitment to stay active -- as difficult as it might be. Stay consistently active and fit in the long run, and you will reap some serious benefits in old age when you run alongside your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Stefan Aschan is the owner and founder of www.strength123.com, providing nutrition and exercise programs in New York City.

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