By Caleb Lunetta
Signal Senior Staff Writer
Once again that time of year has come around when the ornaments are taken down, the tree is dropped off on the street, and the weights that had been sitting in your closet once again scream to be taken out.
For many people this time of year can be a return to the regular, more soothing, patterned way of life, with the commotion and buzz of the holidays now being behind you. But for many people, the stress, while not as ever-present, remains, as those weights and those pesky resolutions regarding fitness and health become even louder.
But don’t feel alone in this. According to a University of Scranton study published in 2017, researchers reported that almost 50% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, yet only 8% end up achieving their goals.
“Often, the problem is that our grand expectations can suddenly feel unachievable,” the 2017 report read. “In such cases, consider exchanging big goals for small, easily tracked commitments that address behavioral changes and take things one day at a time.”
This scientific research into the causes of failing at achieving our Jan. 1 goals is supported by the local experts here in the Santa Clarita Valley, especially when it comes to exercise.
Apart from the many other services they provide for free to members of the community, officials at the Bella Vida Senior Center on Golden Valley Road say that they always strove to provide a wide range of services for the local seniors, especially when it comes to providing them with graduated workout classes.
“I think it’s important for anybody, especially as people age, to have some contact with their physician because everybody is different,” said Blyth Birchall, the events coordinator at the SCV Senior Center. “Everybody has different physical limitations and I think those are important to respect.”
Birchall said the free physical activity programs at the center remain busy and tight-knit among regular attendees.
“Here at the Senior Center we have a nice variety of activities that people can engage in here, (including) Zumba five days a week … for people who are feeling a bit friskier,” said Birchall. “But we also have things like chairs Pilates, which is like a Pilates class, but it’s all done from the safety of the chair.”
While some may have a harder time than others admitting that their athleticism has waned in their later years, Birchall said the general feeling of people returning to working out at the center to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions and fitness goals, despite the pandemic having heavily mitigated the Senior Center’s class capacity, brings a feeling of excitement to all those involved.
“They can do these classes with people that have a similar mindset and age group and they get the camaraderie,” said Birchall. “You can see relationships formed in these classes, and pretty soon they’re holding each other accountable when it comes to showing up — just like when they were younger.”
Accountability, especially to yourself, will be an important factor, regardless of your age group, in ensuring you don’t find yourself in the 92% who don’t uphold their New Year’s resolutions, according to Andy Leskin, director of Member Services for Henry Mayo Fitness and Health.
Leskin said that through his 30 years working in health and fitness, he has seen many of the same themes arise for people when they feel they’re falling short of their goals this time of year.
“Sit down and make sure that the goals are realistic for you, make sure your time frame is realistic,” said Leskin. “If you’ve happened to have a sedentary lifestyle for a year, you’re not going to get back in shape in two weeks.”
“Make goals small enough so that they become habit-based,” he added.
According to the Henry Mayo expert, he tells many of his clients that their goal should not be to make a dramatic change overnight — ultimately burning yourself out on the gym and adopting the “Weekend Warrior” syndrome.
Regardless of where you are at in life, he said, the key to being successful at making the transition or return to a healthy lifestyle begins with habitually brushing your teeth.
“I tell my clients that are trying to lose weight: ‘Brush your teeth after dinner,’” he said. “Because now you have the fresh breath and are less likely to eat dessert.”
Leskin also added that brushing your teeth on a firm schedule is one small step to training yourself — creating your first “confidence statement” — toward good, healthy habits, and away from those that you wished to change in the first place.
Leskin said that one of his older clients he had been working with for a year had let him know how happy she was to have successfully lifted a case of water from the grocery store, out of her cart and into her car.
“Just celebrate that and enjoy that you get to go to the gym, that you get to take that Pilates class, and not that you have to,” said Lesken. “You have to take out the trash, you have to pick up the dog poop in the backyard … and so you sort of associate working out with chores, as opposed to knowing you have the extreme privilege to work out.”
For those wondering how to get started, whether young or old, both Birchall and Lesken said it would be ideal to consult with an expert first in health and fitness. However, both emphasized their belief and experience that it’s important to find a pace and activity that works for you, and sticking to it.
“I always tell people to take everything in small steps,” said Leskin. “Don’t get overwhelmed; just make one change at a time.”
Henry Mayo Fitness and Health is located at 24525 Town Center Drive, Valencia, CA 91355. For more information about the educational opportunities and information offered by Henry Mayo Fitness and Health, visit their website at henrymayofitness.org.
The Bella Vida Senior Center is located at 27180 Golden Valley Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91351. For more information about the many different types of physical exercise at Bella Vida, visit their website at myscvcoa.org, and click on the activities tab listed on the homepage. Both in-person and online classes are available.