They're riding their bikes to work, walking at lunch and hoofing it on errands instead of taking the car. Some lug bags of canned goods to help build muscles. Others lift their body weight by taking the stairs. And sometimes they're struggling to meet their goals and forgetting to reward themselves for their success.
Welcome to Week Eight -- the final installment -- of the Fit for Fun Lean Plate Club Challenge. This program has gradually added daily physical activity, a little muscle strengthening, desk-side stretches and a few healthy eating tips to help Lean Plate Club members get in shape for summer fun. (It's never too late to take the challenge: Weekly forms, goals and ideas for rewards are archived at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub. More tips are available in the free weekly Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. Sign up at www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?node=admin/email&nav=globebot.)
Easing into activities is a smart idea, according to Miriam Nelson, director of Tufts University's John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition in Boston. Studies suggest that sedentary people who suddenly shift into high gear for physical activity are more likely to injure themselves, Nelson said. "And that will really set you back."
Those who have stayed up to speed on the challenge are now walking a minimum of 30 minutes per day, lifting weights (including themselves) three times a week, gazing at their food before eating to really notice how much they are about to consume and stretching at their desks. Here are some of the highlights from the Fit for Fun Challenge and examples of how Lean Plate Club members put them into action. Or not.
Find twofers. Instead of taking the car, walk the dog to pick up the dry cleaning. You'll get two things done at once. Researchers report that people who learn how to incorporate lifestyle activities into their daily routines not only reap fitness rewards but also are more apt to stay at a healthy weight. LPC member Susan Keller, a medical librarian at Children's National Medical Center, put that idea into practice by riding her bike to work one day last week.
Stroll at lunch. The 30 minutes of daily activity recommended by experts can sound daunting, so the challenge began with a 10-minute lunchtime walk in Week One and built to 15 minutes at Week Eight, plus five-minute walks at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Greg Flood, who works at the National Theater, used his lunch walk to roam farther each day in search of healthy takeout fare. In Fresno, Calif., IRS worker Joy Maciel began walking the four-fifths of a mile around her building during her morning and afternoon breaks. She now does two laps twice a day. "It's become a habit, " said Maciel. "I don't feel as stuffed after lunch, and I have energy in the afternoon."
Find new activities. In Virginia, Margaret Scheirer is using her community recreation center for weight training. She's also printing out each week's goals and finding new ways to improve her eating habits, including adding more fruit and vegetables to her daily fare.
Do desk sets. Regular stretches were part of the goals for Week Five because research suggests stretching helps counteract the muscle shortening that occurs with long hours spent sitting. Maciel discovered that desk sets reduced her headaches.
Reward yourself. Experts say setting a reward is a great way to help keep motivation high as habits are changed. Even so, giving themselves a pat on the back is still something that Lean Plate Club members said they often forget to do. "Reward?" said Roz, a member from New York who preferred not to use her full name. "No, I don't do that." Her fear: that she'll reward herself with food and undermine her success at losing three pounds during the last eight weeks.
-- Sally Squires
Share Your Tips or ask questions about healthy nutrition and activity when Sally Squires hosts the Lean Plate Club online chat, from 1 to 2 p.m. today, on www.washingtonpost.com. New To The Club? The Lean Plate Club is devoted to healthy eating and boosting activity. To learn more, and subscribe to our free e-newsletter, visit www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.