The New Year is a harbinger for personal change. It is a tradition to consider aspects in our lives that need improvement and after celebrating an end to the old we look forward to what will be new. Why this time was chosen for such reflection may be obvious. To me it can be a bit challenging to make major changes as winter increases its grip on us. Still, the expression "there's no time like the present" is most compelling when addressing the need for making positive improvements in our lives.

Probably the most common resolutions made are to lose weight and begin healthy habits. This may be something parents caring for a child with Duchenne may want to consider. Caring for a loved one who has a chronic disorder is difficult in itself. Being fatigued or stressed adds to the burden. So, it makes sense for parents to take up healthy activities that may help improve their ability to care for their sons and just feel better about themselves. As you might guess, in my opinion, taking up regular walking or running fits these goals, well. Let me tell you why I believe this and then how to begin.

Increasing physical activity helps burn calories, improves strength, and can help us better manage stress. Carrying extra pounds increases the risk of injury, particularly when lifting or repositioning a disabled child. Additionally, appropriate exercise provides time alone to think and an opportunity to unwind. as well as. a sense of accomplishment in doing something good for one's self. We all can use regular breaks and walking or running offers an opportunity to put this all together.

Before undertaking any changes in activity, please consult your physician to rule out concerns. The next steps are to let others know of your plans which helps increase your chances of success; then look for a partner or group to join who can lend support and encouragement. Keeping a log helps in tracking accomplishments and seeing progress. There is no need to spend large sums on fancy equipment or clothing, yet good shoes are a key to comfort and preventing injuries. I strongly encourage visiting a running specialty store, especially one with a good reputation, with trained people who look at gait and understand the use for the shoes.

The first time out is the hardest. Simply being comfortable in shorts and running shoes may take time. The key is to stick to it. Our sons push themselves every time they get out of bed, so this also should provide some additional motivation. When I first started, I alternated running and walking, choosing to run the length between telephone poles and resting the next length. If walking interests you more, each time you go out consider going a bit further or a bit quicker than the last time.

Another way to stay motivated is to set goals. Being realistic is important. For running, it might be planning to complete a first 5K in three months while concentrating on weekly mileage to prepare for this effort. Eventually you may find you enjoy participating in races because of the enthusiasm of other runners, a sense of accomplishment, and a desire to improve performance. All this helps to keep interest in the activity and keeps you on track. There are some basic Coach to 5K plans available on running sites, for example: http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml. Again, finding others who share your interest, either running or walking may help. Several mothers I know locally walk six miles three or four days each week in a group of three to six. Talking while walking a fast pace helps them to pass the time.

The last piece to this “self-improvement” topic is our diet. When thinking of what we eat we should also ask why we are consuming what we do. In simplest terms food is fuel. The reason we gain weight is the imbalance of activity to consumption. If we want to lose weigh how much we eat must fit our activity level. I never recommend people try specific diets. Instead I suggest they look at what they eat and how it fits their lifestyle. Too often we are in a hurry, so we choose convenience food. The more food is processed, the less healthy it becomes. Carbohydrates are the best fuel for active people. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, and potatoes break down into glucose more slowly and produce a steadier source of energy. Many simple carbohydrates also work well, such as fruits which are great for weight loss as they often contain much water and fiber which help us feel full without empty calories. The simple carbohydrates to avoid are processed sugars that rapidly increase glucose, leading to quick digestion and the feeling of hunger soon after. We all need lean protein and healthy fats to balance our diets, but the key is spreading our meals throughout the day rather than having a few small meals early and one large evening dinner. Beginning with breakfast and at regular intervals we need to ensure we have the right amount of fuel onboard to make it through the day. Combining healthy eating with increased exercise makes all the difference. To learn more start here: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-304-310-7771-0,00...

This New Year might be the time for you to make that resolution. I hope you do and I wish you success. Taking care of ourselves is essential for good health.

Brian Denger

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Brian - maybe you can come to Philly for a couple months and keep me on track...

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