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Transitioning Fitness with Your New Career

Dale Reynolds -- One thing to consider as you embark on a new career is the impact it will have on your physical activity level, and overall health.

Many new college students experience the "freshman 15" weight gain (up to 15 pounds) due to a change in eating and exercise habits. Yet some students do not gain weight because they actually become more active, walking or biking around campus. Everyone is different and needs to consider their lifestyle to decide how to stay healthy.

The same will be true as you embark on a new career. Metabolism naturally slows as we age. In order to maintain our health (and a healthy weight) it is necessary to make time for regular physical activity. It's so easy to think you're indestructible when you are young! But eventually, overeating or unhealthy eating combined with a lack of appropriate exercise will cause weight gain and raise your risk for a host of diseases. Consistent exercise will help boost your immune system, keep stress and depression at bay (a big consideration when making major life changes), and can strengthen your bones. So as you plan your future by selecting the right job in the right town and the right housing, consider your long-term health and how your new environment will support staying healthy. Don't ignore the importance of planning this area of your life!

The amount of formal exercise time you need will depend on how active you are on the job. A job that involves lots of walking and/or lifting heavy objects will burn more calories than a desk job. If you are sedentary at work you'll definitely need exercise outside of working hours. However, even with an active job you may still need extra exercise. How much extra activity you can squeeze in, and when, will naturally depend on your work schedule as well as the availability of convenient equipment and space to exercise. Think about how many hours you'll be working, and what time of day you'll be off, when planning for physical activity.

Changes In Eating Habits

It's really difficult to get enough exercise to protect you from weight gain if your food choices are consistently unhealthy. The food options and temptations available will be influenced by your career and employer choices. The company cafeteria, vending machines, and treats brought in by coworkers and clients (and goodies for sale to benefit "worthy causes") can all add temptations that you might not have had (or were too busy to notice) in college.

The culture at work also influences food choices. If everyone takes a breakfast break, you probably will too, so bring in fruit for a healthy snack. If all of your co-workers eat fast food for lunch, you might go along. You can either make smart choices, or break tradition (or form a new one!) by packing your own lunch. If treats and vending machines call your name, plan to keep a stash of healthy snacks at your desk.

Having a job also normally means more money. For many people this translates into eating out more often, and in upscale establishments, so portion control is very important. Some people will find themselves working long hours and being tempted to eat fast food or order in so smart choices are vital. Consider how your new job will affect your eating habits, and plan ahead to avoid pitfalls.

Indoor Facilities

One question to ask in an interview is, "Do you have a company gym?" Many companies now have onsite facilities, or discounted memberships to a local gym. Some health insurance plans also help defray the cost. You can save quite a bit of money compared to paying for a membership on your own.

The options available will vary widely. Some (both company gyms and outside facilities) just show you how to use the equipment, and that's it. Some will provide a few lessons with a personal trainer to develop a program for you. Some company gyms provide ongoing access to certified professionals to update your program as needed. Most outside gyms will charge for sessions after a few complimentary ones. It's also good to find out if organized classes taught by certified instructors are part of the package (and whether or not they fit into your work schedule). The availability of onsite facilities is a truly valuable benefit since many people won't have the time or inclination to find an outside facility.

If your company doesn't offer any options, and you opt for an apartment or condo over a house, look for a complex that has a nice workout room. You probably won't get a trainer with the deal, but you can always hire one for a few sessions if needed. If you buy a house, think about where you can set up equipment. You might need to choose a type of equipment that folds up for easy storage. Many home models of treadmills and resistance machines are designed for this purpose.

Climate and Location

Your choice of location will also help determine the type of activity you do. In some parts of the country you can walk, run, or bike outside all year round. In the North, this may not be an option, unless you don't mind cold and snow. So if you move to a climate with rough winters, a gym or fitness classes, or having room to exercise at home, may be more important. Of course, many winter sports such as skiing and snow-shoeing are great exercise and could help you stay active in the winter. Other outdoor sports, like tennis and golf (without the cart) can get you moving in the summer. And the variety you get from changing activities with the seasons can keep you from getting bored. It's just important to recognize the impact climate can have, and design your fitness routine around it.

The most important thing to do is make a commitment to eating healthy and staying active no matter what life throws at you. It often takes planning and creativity to stick to the commitment, but you definitely won't stay healthy if you aren't consciously committed to it.

Dale Reynolds lives in upstate New York where she works as a weight loss counselor and has recently published a book, A Slim Book On Weighty Matters. To order the book and sign up for her free newsletter from her Web site, visit: http://www.slimdale.com.

© 2004 Dale Reynolds

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