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Group Fitness Makes Good Habits “Stick”

Sustainable Lifestyle Changes Start with a Comprehensive Fitness Program

Every person is beautifully unique. We may share values, social norms and ethics. Our children may attend the same schools, and as a community we collectively look out for another. One commonality I think about often is that we all want to be healthy. But when it comes to fitness our physical abilities differ, our behaviors, our mindsets, our goals. How do we accomplish our goal becoming fit and healthy while making it work for us as individuals as well?

It comes down to starting comprehensive approach of making sustainable lifestyle changes to your fitness regimen as a foundation and gradually adding nutrition and other lifestyle choices to set yourself up for success. Research has shown that people are 75% more likely to maintain new behaviors if changes are incorporated incrementally.

There’s a formula to success:

Incremental Changes in Diet + Exercise + Time = Sustainable Lifestyle Changes (SLC)

What a Sustainable Lifestyle Change means specifically is a better quality of life, healthier relationships, improved sleep quality, confidence, ability to handle stress, and the list is endless. The challenge is that most people are unsuccessful taking on too many aspects at once and can’t understand why their good health habits and progress they’ve made just doesn’t “stick”.  If they can’t adhere to a strict program they feel they’ve failed and can become frustrated, doubting their ability to succeed. Even their self-esteem can erode. It becomes a self-fulfilling downward cycle.

Step One:

Make one change at a time and start with stepping up your fitness. I usually suggest that people allow themselves to become acclimated to a new routine and the good feeling they get from being consistent and feeling their body change. Fitness programs have as many shapes as there are shapes of people. It can be as simple as daily walking, joining groups, gyms or recreational teams. I recently was introduced to Bob Anderson, founder of Runners World Magazine and was inspired to sponsor his San Jose Double Race Festival. I started a walking/jogging/running team called TEAM TONI and offered a free training program for our local community three days a week to prepare. Our team of close to 60 people of all age ranges (15-71) just completed our first 5k or 15k.  It was a great way to come together as a community and inspire and encourage each other. Small group fitness programs also work well because the routine can be customized to each individual. For people of all activity levels, be certain to incorporate balance and stability training which is needed at any age, and especially important as we approach our golden years.

I have been teaching my {revive} personalized group fitness program for nearly nine years. It cultivates mutual accountability, nurtures peer support, and instills confidence. A variety of different workouts, including balance and stability, core training, upper body strength conditioning and switching up the workout prevents stagnation and plateauing.

“A single behavioral change becomes habit, habit evolves into a healthy lifestyle, which eventually will be come your preference.”

Step Two:

Once a fitness program is underway, it’s time to turn to making incremental nutrition changes. From an emotional standpoint, it’s more inspiring to consider eating well because people don’t want to “undo” or undermine all the efforts they put forth during their fitness regimen. They have a reason and purpose to start eating better quality foods. Modify the portion control and target a daily deficit of 500 calories (this will result in a one pound weight loss each week), jumpstarting momentum toward weight loss goals, toning, improving body composition and overall feelings of strength and accomplishment. The idea is to lose fat and build muscle, which in turn builds metabolism.

Build metabolism through building muscle. For every pound of muscle on your frame, you’ll burn between 30-50 calories per day. Each pound of fat only burns only two calories, so you can see that building muscle works to your benefit.

Scale weight isn’t nearly as important as body composition. Most people of average weight can be around 30% body fat or more. The ideal is between 20-24% to be considered fit. This is very different from BMI which is based on height and weight only, and does not take body composition, or the amount of lean muscle into consideration.

“It’s fascinating to watch people hit their stride; getting their nutrition dialed in and the empowerment they feel after just a few months.”

Here are three ways you can make incremental lifestyle changes so you are set up for success:

  1. At the Office: Ask your employer if they offer internal lifestyle, nutrition and fitness programs for the employees. Many companies have cafeterias, or at a minimum a break room or micro-kitchen. If they provide food services, voice your preferences for healthy food options and reducing the amount of low quality snack foods and sugary beverages. If it’s not there to tempt you, you’ll be more successful at improving your food quality and reducing unnecessary calories.

If you are eating to maintain your weight, but you fall victim to an extra daily snack—even something as seemingly innocuous as a plain bagel—that alone will provide a surplus of 300 calories every day, and can result in nearly 15 pounds of added weight gain in only six months.

If fitness programs aren’t offered, start your own walking group. Thanks to a plethora of apps, you can download one that tracks your steps as long as you have your phone with you.

  1. Home Hacks:

Build your meals to build your metabolism. Always start with a lean protein and combine complex carbohydrates and healthy fats into each meal. This combination will keep you fuller, longer and can aid in weight loss. Protein is critical for your immune system and we all need about 50% more after age 65.

Keep your portions small and balanced. To learn portion control weigh and measure you food for about a week so you get a good sense to ballpark later. Check out BITE ME! Change Your Life One Bite at Time to learn how to design your meals to build metabolism.

  1. Eating Out and About:

In general people are less successful in their attempts to eat healthy in social situations, and the more people, the more challenging it is. According to the National Institutes of Health, compared with eating alone, individuals eat 35% more when eating with another person, 75% more with three other persons, and 96% more with a group of seven or more. Environments with harsh lighting, hard seats and fast-paced music affect our behaviors by eating more quickly.

Being mindful of this scenario will make you more effective if you plan ahead. Bring a healthful side dish or snack to social gatherings so you are sure to have something you can eat without guilt.

Plan on bringing “emergency food” with you such as high-protein muffins (found in the BITE ME! book) so you don’t have to make nutritional compromises if you’re caught hungry without good options.

Lifestyle changes that start with a supportive fitness program and gradually incorporate incremental nutrition changes over time will provide lasting, sustainable results!

Toni Julian is a corporate lifestyle and nutrition advisor, fitness expert and author of BITE ME! Change Your Life One Bite at a Time. She is the owner of {revive} fitness programs for women and the creator of Toni’s OatMEAL, a completely balanced, high-protein meal solution. Visit

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