Expert answers to your health and wellness questions.
Question: I have decided to join a gym for the fall and winter months. I never have been a member of a gym before. How do I go about choosing the right one?
Heidi’s answer: Great question and congrats on making the very healthy decision to join a gym. Here’s how too many people choose a gym. They call the phone numbers for local gyms from the Yellow Pages and they ask, “What does a membership cost?” When they find the cheapest gym, they go and they join. Really? Is that how you’d shop for a doctor? A lawyer? A dentist? Or even a hotel to spend the night in? Heck, you wouldn’t even buy a used car until you took it for a test drive and had a mechanic check it out — and a car is not nearly as important as your health!
Where you choose to work out is a very important decision. In general, you get what you pay for in a gym. But more importantly, do you get what YOU need?
In order to find the gym that’s right for you, go and try them out for a week or two. They should offer you a free trial. If not, they might be hiding something.
Once you begin your trial membership, make sure they offer you a free session with a trainer to get you off to a safe start in the gym. How can you try it out if you don’t know what you are doing? If the gym is not willing to help you before you write them a check, do you think they will be very helpful AFTER they already have your money? The help you get at your gym could well be the difference between success and failure.
During the trial, consider the following:
Does the gym have convenient hours and parking? Does the staff have the expertise you need? Does the gym offer reciprocal use at other clubs in case you travel? Is it fanatically clean? Do they have a cleaning and equipment maintenance log you can look at? Are you comfortable around the clientele?
Also if the gym wants you to commit to 6-12 months of dues payments to get their best rate, don’t let that bother you if they gave you a chance to try it out for free. Remember your commitment level is extremely important. Anything that helps you commit to exercise is a good thing.
Choosing a gym is a very important health decision. Take your time, ask great questions and try before you buy. You’re going to do great!
Question: As a secretary, I work inside all day and don’t see much sun, especially this time of year. Should I be supplementing with vitamin D?
Jay’s answer: Since it’s rather difficult to get enough vitamin D in regular food, you are wise to consider taking action to boost your intake. However, the best way to find out if you are low on vitamin D is to get a blood test. If your levels are less than 32 ng/ml you should seriously consider supplementation.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary to proper calcium absorption for strong bones and osteoporosis prevention. Low levels of vitamin D recently have been associated with higher incidence of some types of cancer including colon and breast cancer.
While vitamin D can be ingested through food or supplements, it also can be produced naturally by the body as a result of UVB ray exposure from sunlight or tanning beds. Christiane Northrup, MD, noted health expert and author of “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” wrote in her article for Oprah.com., “I encourage every woman to check her vitamin D level regularly and keep it in the optimal range. This is easily done by supplementing with about 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day and getting regular, safe sun exposure — you can even visit a tanning salon that offers UVB rays.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz, on his popular TV show, recently recommended 10-15 minutes of sun on the legs and arms daily or 1000 IU of D3 supplement. So, get the test and if your levels are low, discuss with your physician how much and what type of supplementation is right for you.
Note from Jay and Heidi: Always see your physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine.
Jay Bryan is an exercise physiologist and Heidi Bryan is a certified personal trainer. To ask Jay or Heidi a question, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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