Welles: Shaping up post-election

Get fit with 30 minutes of cardio and strength training four to five times a week.

You can work off your angst or jump for joy over the election results on your own or at a fitness center. Either way, that should be the start of your fitness agenda.

Many federal agencies have fitness centers with trainers to help you get going. Some, such as the one at the Department of Health and Human Services, are open to all federal workers.

On the other hand, even though it worked for Oprah, you may not need a personal trainer to tell you about fitness. A new federal Web site for physical activity, HealthierFeds, lists more than 100 activities you can do on your own to get started on fitness. Stretching at your desk, climbing the stairs to your office or walking around the block are a few of them.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James launched the HealthierFeds Web site and Physical Activity Challenge, the first governmentwide effort to encourage federal employees to get moving for health.

The goal is 30 minutes of physical activity a day five days a week for six weeks. You can sign up for the free program by going to www.healthierfeds.gov. The program continues through Dec. 29.

If you need encouragement, you can get assistance from trainers at fitness centers for a reduced fee. Jacqueline Jackson Burroughs, director of the HHS Health and Wellness Center, finds that many federal employees are "tied to their desks almost like a second home."

She advises federal workers to shift priorities and "put yourself first, even if it's just [for] 30 minutes a day. It takes 30 minutes of cardio and weight training four to five times a week to see real changes in your body," she said.

Bob Caldwell, a fitness trainer at the National Institutes of Health Center, recommends the "healthy dozen," a 12-minute workout that can be done without changing clothes or showering.

"Twelve minutes is better than no minutes," he said. "If we could reach people doing nothing, we'd reach the majority of people." The workout includes stretching, lifting books for resistance and walking hallways in addition to seated and standing exercises.

But for real improvement, to better the quality of life and prevent disease, he recommends 45 minutes of cardio, stretching and strength training two to three times a week.

He and Burroughs agree that total body exercise is the way to go.

Regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, the nation's leading cause of death, and decreases the risks for stroke, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure — just a few benefits to consider when thinking about getting active. n

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

Previous Get a Life! columns

"Teleworking lingo" [Federal Computer Week, Oct. 4, 2004]

"Get heart smart" [Federal Computer Week, Sept. 27.2004]

"Don't forget to floss" [Federal Computer Week, Sept. 13.2004]

"Getting back" [Federal Computer Week, Aug. 30, 2004]

"Safety in uncertain times" [Federal Computer Week, Aug. 2, 2004]

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