Whoosh! What was that?

“That” was 2015! And it went by fast. The inescapable fact is that 2016 will, too, and it will bring changes. We will either lose a few steps and gain a few pounds—or vice versa. This time next year we will either be in better physical condition or worse. The lesson of time is we do not get to stay the same.

The great news is that there is no age limit on improving physical health. At any age and at any fitness level we can build new lean muscle tissue, and that is the essential tissue that protects joints, improves posture, contributes to better balance and provides more energy. I’m not talking about posing-on-stage or (air brushed) magazine cover muscle but about practical functional daily activity muscle. At any age we can improve our cardiovascular systems, making heart attack and stroke less likely.

At any age we can, while building more lean muscle tissue, lose body fat. That combination produces an improved metabolism and body composition that becomes our positive partner instead of our main obstacle. OK, that’s “great news” but you’re not sure where to start. Walk. Every day take a brisk walk (that’s a different pace for each of us). That’s it? To start, yes, that’s it. Just a daily brisk walk has plenty of proven health benefits and also helps us build the daily self-discipline needed to take charge of our health. So we can feel better. Remember, being healthier feels better. It means living with less discomfort and with more energy.

So ideally someone reading this accepts that it’s that easy to start improving (and it is). After a month or so of this injection of daily will power, one’s body takes over and wants something else to do. I wish I could say, with confidence, find a certified personal trainer to show you how to safely move to another level. But it’s not that simple. In a recent article I read statements by a “certified” personal trainer that showed a complete and potentially dangerous misunderstanding of basic human joint physiology and pathology. I’m sure this individual has good intentions but that’s of no value if the lack of knowledge causes harm.

We have a couple of orthopedic surgeons as clients and one of them, after reading the same article, asked how someone could identify himself as a “certified” personal trainer and be so ill informed. For this reason: there are so many unregulated certifications that anyone, after just a paid-for weekend course, can say, “I am certified.” This is not a call for more regulation; it’s a call to leave the responsibility right where all matters of health are best served: with individuals who accept that and educate themselves.

I’ve been in this field for more than 20 years and I recognize only four National Certifications: ACE, ACSM, NSCA/CSCS and NASM. Is that overly cautious? Yes. But it’s overly cautious with your safety in mind. These certification exams are challenging and have a high failure rate. They are highly respected and require re-certification annually or every two years. We have to stay up to date.

For your safety, please do your homework. And then please take that next step. Safe comprehensive exercise routines produce positive benefits to our daily lives. Don’t let the term “exercise workout” intimidate you. Ask those who has made it part of their regular weekly life. Ask any of our clients if they look forward to their time with their trainer as well as appreciating the benefits. It doesn’t have to be unpleasant. You can do it and enjoy it too. Your improved health is not only good for you but also sets a great example for those you care about. I hope you find the direction within yourself to make 2016 your year of self improvement. HAPPY NEW YEAR!