Reminder Assistant Editor
Across the nation, millions of people are making resolutions to say sayonara to their body's extra baggage.
Western Massachusetts is no exception to the annual trend and already, as the lines at the malls get shorter, lines in local gyms are just getting longer.
Fitness as an industry booms in January and local health club owners agree that there is nothing like the ushering of a New Year to push people off of their couches and into the gym.
But why now? And why doesn't it last? Reminder Publications polled area fitness clubs to ask.
Best Fitness of Springfield is gearing up for what will be their busiest month of the entire year, said General Manager Chris Brodeur.
"It's a hit or miss, some people stick with it and others just until the sun starts shining again," Brodeur said about the 20 - 30 percent of people that he estimates will actually stick with a work-out resolution for more than a few months. "People who look at it as a lifestyle change are definitely more successful."
In lieu of jumping into a program that promises to shed unwanted pounds in a matter of days, Brodeur suggests joining a health club to work out four - five times per week and to evaluate your diet to include eating small portions throughout the day.
"It's a good thing for everyone to lower body fat." Brodeur said. "What is negative is having it be a resolution because that means it is a short term fix rather than a lifestyle change."
Nearby, at the 16 Acres health club Curves, owner Linda Scott is greeting new members daily.
"You have to start to succeed so I am all in favor of New Year's resolutions as far as that goes," Scott said.
Her club's program has gained success for it's simplicity as a 30-minute circuit training workout. A simple workout combined with a comfortable atmosphere, she said, is what helps members to create a lifestyle change that they will continue with forever.
That, combined with healthy eating, those are the keys to weight loss success, Scott explained.
Todd Whitwer, owner of Century Fitness in East Longmeadow, has a theory of many roads to wellness, all paved with personal preference.
"There is a lot of ways to get fit and you have to do what works for you," Whitwer said.
Something he highly recommends to beginners is personal training, available at his and many health clubs. A newer trend in the fitness industry that Century Fitness has adopted is 30-minute circuit training workouts which are also very beginner friendly, he said.
"They shouldn't go into it thinking that they are going to lose all of the weight in a few weeks, or make the mistake of thinking they are going to come in six times per week," Whitwer warned. "Even two - three times per week can get you to your goal."
Scantic Valley YMCA Fitness Director Bill Proulx said that resolving to exercise works, for just about 20 percent of January joiners. Once the sun starts shining in May, he said, many stop hitting the gym.
"I think sometimes people make it out to be more work than it has to be," Proulx said about fitness. "Part of the challenge is to somehow make it interesting so you do stick with it.
He suggests activities such as swimming, dancing, bicycling, hiking, sports and other programs to make an active lifestyle more of an adventure and less of an agony.
"Avoid dieting at all," Proulx added. "The problem with dieting is that it is not a permanent lifestyle change, you only do it until you lose the weight or until you get sick of it, which ever comes first."
Instead, his suggestion for success is smaller portions and more exercise when done in slight changes over a long period of time.
Michele Billingsley of the Better Life Whole Food store, describes New Year's weight loss resolutions as a mixed bag.
"A good New Year's resolution would be to eat right and be healthy rather than lose weight," Billingsley said.
She emphasized that dieters should avoid stressful weight-loss regimans and unrealistic goals like losing 10 pounds in two weeks.
"It is all about eating healthy, and getting some exercise into your life," Billingsly said. "If you do those those two things, it's all going to come around."
Over at Health Trax of East Longmeadow, Assistant Center Manager Geoffrey Sullivan said that in his opinion, one in three people resolving to work out regularly will actually stick with it.
"You see the first decline in about six weeks because people don't put enough thought beyond it," Sullivan said.
To avoid that, he suggested preparing for a fitness goal by establishing how many days per week you will likely work out with your personal schedule. Then, clearly identifying why your getting into the program, putting it on paper and setting timelines with smaller goals within scheme to the large one.
"The biggest one that I can ring home is to make sure people step back and use a professional to determine what is an appropriate timeline for their goal," Sullivan said. "If you are not active at all, consult a physician first, then start with what is comfortable or familiar."
A 2005 survey of obesity trends among adults posted on the National Center for Disease Control web site found that 20-25 percent of Massachusetts adults were considered obese. However, there are no studies showing how many of these will or have attempted at taking a New Year's plunge into fitness.
Sometimes the lines in front of the treadmills speak for themselves.
While making a resolution is easy, changing a lifestyle is not. So before joining a gym, starting a diet or buying a shiny piece of "miracle" equipment, resolve to do some research, resolve to make a plan and above all, resolve to be realistic.