As a professor I feel that I should set a good example for my students. That is one reason I exercise every day and encourage you to do the same. Scale Back Alabama is the largest public health initiative in Alabama, assisting those who desire to improve their health. Alabama is ranked as one of the four least active states in the U.S. That is why I strongly encourage you to be active and take care of your health.
At AUM I started the exercise science major and developed the Human Performance Lab. In the lab we researched many different fitness related variables and conducted research measuring cardiovascular fitness, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body composition. I worked with Dr. Jack Mahurin, MD, and many talented graduate students evaluating body composition as it related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inactivity, and longevity. The science in this area shows that those with good body composition (fat vs. lean) live longer and have less disease risk. Unfortunately, I have seen individuals who we tested in the lab with low fitness experience decreased life expectancy. Average life span in Alabama is only about 75 years. In states where individuals are more active average life span is over 80 years.
There is no doubt that an exercise program or becoming more physically active can be beneficial in improving or maintaining good health. Keeping our bodies in shape requires dedication, self-control, and motivation. It is not easy, and there are good and bad days.
Before you start your program set realistic goals and be patient. It takes time. No one has ever been successful without support from others. Find a good support team and seek out those that are positive and can help. I met my friend Louis Thornton every morning at AUM for over 25 years for a morning run/walk. I received 25,000 miles of friendship support and encouragement. What more could I ask for?
- Exercise with a friend.
- Walk your pet.
- Do a form of exercise you enjoy (bike, swim, walk, jog, yoga, Zumba, spin, etc.).
- Listen to music.
- Keep a log.
- Buy some new workout clothes.
- Have a regular schedule.
- Get to a park.
- Join the running or cycling club (they want to help).
- Set goals to participate in a run/walk.
- Play or exercise with family and/or friends.
- Realize that no matter how you look or what you do, you are way ahead of those that do not exercise.
- Do not be hard on yourself, exercise is like brushing your teeth, something you need to do to stay healthy.
- No matter who you are or what you do, you can benefit from proper exercise.
One thing I learned while participating in and assisting with the Senior Olympics is that many of the most fit and dedicated seniors (ages 50 to over 100) did not start an exercise program until they were 55 years old or older. No matter what your age fitness is out there for you.
Let me know if I can help. I will be glad to speak to your group or assist you with questions. An excellent resource is the Alabama Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Hank Williford, Ed.D., FACSM, C-EP
Professor Emeritus, Auburn University Montgomery
Dr. Hank Williford is a Professor Emeritus at Auburn University Montgomery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified exercise physiologist. He was awarded the Ida Belle Young Professorship at AUM. His academic credentials consist of degrees in Physical Education, Exercise Science, Kinesiology, and Biology from Auburn University, UAB, and The University of Alabama. He founded the Human Performance Lab at AUM and has presented research in over 15 different countries including Europe and South America. He has published over 100 manuscripts and has over 200 presentations at scientific conferences. A number of the publications are related to body composition and energy cost of exercise. He is on the Alabama Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports. He currently works with firefighter fitness for the City of Montgomery, Mobile, and the Fire College in Tuscaloosa. He has completed over 65 triathlons and several hundred runs from 5K’s to marathon. As a high school biology teacher at Pinson Valley, Alabama he coached wrestling, and his teams won three consecutive state championships. He has been active with the Alabama Obesity Task Force and is currently assisting with the Alabama Physical Activity and Nutrition Plans.