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Going for health and fitness – where to begin

As a result of this column, individuals wanting to lose weight and become fit have approached me. Dan Baldwin writes:

“I have been following your program and am encouraged. There still might yet be hope for a 56-year-old who is 40-50 pounds overweight! My goal is to lose 40-50 pounds by next June.

“I do civil war re-enacting in wool uniforms, but my current state of obesity has reduced my activities. Next July is the 140th anniversary of the three-day re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. My friends are taking part. I won’t be able to survive Pennsylvania’s July heat and humidity in my present condition.



“Is losing 40 pounds in 10 months reasonable? Nine months ago, I had surgery for a rotator cuff problem. Most of my mobility and strength is back, but I need to be mindful of this limitation.

“Where do I start? How do I select a personal trainer? Could you steer me towards an inexpensive program? I am willing to join a club, but can’t afford unlimited expenses. I am retired, so time is not a consideration. Possibly my wife might be enticed into joining me in a program.”




Congratulations on your decision to begin! If you eat fewer calories and exercise more, losing 40 pounds in 10 months is “doable.”

Health and risk assessment appraisal

Because of your age, injury and the magnitude of the change, begin with a visit to your physician. In your quest, your doctor needs to be a continuing resource and partner, just as Dr. Christine Newsom so ably is for me.

In addition, I recommend a health and risk assessment at the Wellness Center. Call Debbie Wagner at 271-1491 to make an appointment. The exam and questionnaire take about 30 minutes each.

The resulting detailed report graphically highlights your personal risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc. Knowing the risks of disabling disease or death is sobering. Your decision to shape up will be reinforced. At $75, the test is a bargain.

Nevada County Health & Safety Fair Sept. 28

To augment this information, visit the free Health & Safety Fair Sept. 28 (see “You’re Invited” below). Organized by volunteers representing nonprofits in the community, the event offers free or low-cost tests and services. Start with a blood draw on Thursday (to preregister, call 273-2273). Results will be available at the fair.

After getting your blood test results, visit the “Mole Patrol” station for skin cancer screening. Get your free vision check and bone density test. Body fat analysis and fitness testing is available at the Wellness booth, along with information on classes in weight management such as “Healthy Weighs.” Talk with a nutritionist about calories and meal planning.

Health clubs will have price and program displays so compare programs and cost. You can get fit without joining a club, but it is easier to stay motivated in an environment that reinforces exercise. Some clubs waive initiation fees for 90 days or give substantial discounts to persons referred from the Wellness Center. Ask!

Interview trainers and get references. Because of your injury, find a trainer or physical therapist with the appropriate background to set up your initial exercise regimen.

Time is a valuable resource

As a retiree, you have a valuable resource – time. If you must economize dollar-wise, be extravagant in spending time. Consider fitness your job. Commit to a daily routine and total up exercise hours each week. Keep records – weight, measurements and exercise activities – so you can measure progress.

You may also want to buy “The LEARN Program for Weight Management” – an excellent reference book covering nutrition, exercise and attitudes.

Your wife’s decision to join you is beyond your control. Independent of her decision, proceed as if your life depended upon getting fit, since it just may.

While medical advice, a trainer and club fees are out-of-pocket expenses, other lifestyle changes are free. Eat smaller portions, skip desserts, and cut down on fats. Eat more fruits and fresh vegetables. Reduce sugar. Count calories, or “points,” if you decide to join Weight Watchers. Find an exercise partner or join free walking groups (see “You’re Invited”).

Getting fit means having a stewardship sense for your body. Becoming fit is not frivolous self-indulgence, Dan, but rather an obligation. You can lessen your medical costs, since many illnesses result from lifestyle choices. You can reduce the risk of dying prematurely, having to be cared for by others or being unable to participate, for example, in the Gettysburg re-enactment.

On the positive side, being fit generates a remarkable sense of well-being and optimism. Not only will you look terrific in your uniform, you’ll feel like a young man again. We’ll be cheering for you.

Carole Carson is a fitness and nutrition advocate from Nevada City. E-mail her at


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