Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


January 9, 2014

Taking shape: Area entities help residents shed those holiday pounds

JACKSONVILLE — You’ve just spent the past six weeks doing what you swore you wouldn’t: Eating tempting holiday dishes and treats, all the while ignoring a creeping weight gain compounded by lack of exercise.

Now, faced with the possibilities that come with a brand new year, you resolve to get motivated about living more healthily.

Congratulations – you’ve taken the first (and sometimes hardest) step in the journey.

“Exercise should be part of our healthcare and just a way to get fit,” said ETMC Olympic Center director Jeramie Hinojosa of Tyler. “Exercise is so powerful, it can prevent dozens of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”

His observation is echoed by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, established by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. The council advises that “by incorporating physical activity into your daily life – 30 minutes for adults and 60 minutes for children – as well as healthy eating, you will experience positive health benefits and be on the path for a better future.”

Its site, www.fitness.gov, points out that with a regimen of regular physical activity, one can experience long-term health benefits such as weight control, muscle

strengthening, fat reduction, promote strong bone, muscle and joint development; condition heart and lungs; and build overall strength and endurance, among other benefits, such as warding off chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and stroke – “the three leading health-related causes of death.”

While different factors play a role in one's overall health status, “by far, the largest contributor – at 40 percent – is our behavior. Outside environment or genetics, behavior plays the largest role,” Hinojosa said. “Our choice is to get up and move, that's 100 percent our decision. Exercise is medicine, it's the magic pill.”

Cherokee County residents have a variety of resources to help them achieve their goal of a healthier, more fit lifestyle, choices that range from free, low-impact classes like those offered at the Rusk Civic Center and at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, and gym memberships and national initiatives focusing on weight loss


Jacksonville resident and cancer survivor George Forry is part of the Fit Steps for Life program, created a dozen years ago by a retired Tyler oncologist who wanted to help individuals with cancer  dealing with chemo and radiation treatments build up their physical strength and general health.

Participants meet at the Jacksonville Baptist church, going three days a week to utilize treadmills and eliptical machines, as well as work with bands and stability balls.

Like others incorporating exercise in their lifestyles, “people are looking out for their health,” Forry said, then began laughing. “Right after New Years', everybody (remembers their holiday eating habits) and so they make resolutions and start coming back more than they did before.”

Because the program is a self-paced one that focuses on low-impact workout, people seem to adapt more readily to an exercise regimen.

Forry recommends to first consult your physician about starting an exercise program, then to “start slow and reach your maximum as long as you feel good,” keeping realistic expectations in mind.

“Don’t over do it because that doesn’t help you. Start out, but don’t start out with the highest speed you think you want to go for a week. Start out slow for a week, do it for a week. Think baby steps,” he advised.

Or inchstones, as Cherokee County Public Health executive director Chris Taylor recently described them: “They are the little victories, the small steps that march us forward to reaching our milestone.”

By breaking down goals into something measurable – a multi-pound annual weight loss configured as smaller, more achievable monthly goal, or incorporating healthier foods in a daily diet – these “small successes … help guide us, tell us when we need to adjust and when we might need to rethink our goal,” Taylor pointed out. “Success doesn't necessarily depend on you reaching the milestone you set, as much as starting down the path and learning something during the process.”

Forry agreed.

“You do it at your own pace. And that’s one thing that I like about this place. We don’t push anybody, we just encourage them,” he said. “To me, this is the perfect tool.”

Joining a program where a sense of community is fostered can also help someone more fully commit to pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

“We have one woman who comes and talks with me 15 to 20 minutes before she ever gets on the treadmill, then when she gets done, she comes back out and talks with me again,” Forry said. “So she's getting into the social aspect (of being part of a workout program) – sometimes, when people first come in, they're a little bit shy, but then after awhile, they'll begin talking to everyone here.”

Not only does it foster a sense of camaraderie, it can help make a workout more enjoyable, he added, describing a recent session where he and a man named Bob walked the treadmill, chatting during their workout.

“You'd be surprised at how fast the time goes,” he said.

Lisa Williams, principal at the Bullard Elementary campus, is hoping that by implementing a “5210” health plan on campus, students in the second- through fourth-grade program will draw encouragement from each other as they adopt healthier lifestyles.

5210 is a tool endorsed by Let's Go, a childhood obesity prevention program, which proposes that families adopt a daily practice of giving their kids five servings of fruits and vegetables, encouraging two hours of physical activity and one hour of screen time, while cutting consumption of sugary drinks and sodas to zero.

While the Bullard school has just started looking into the program, Williams said it's her hope that 5210 spreads throughout the district, and thus far, educators “are excited” about it.

“We're appreciative to (the Northeast Public Health District) for providing this to us – sometimes you know what to do, but you don't always have the guidance you need” to implement a successful program, she said.

Students' daily schedule includes a half hour each of physical education and recess, but by adopting the 5210 program, “their improved health will cut down on attendance issues,” she added. “Because they're healthier, there will be less days missed, and we feel that we'll see improved grades and an overall better health of our students.”

The program is “more about the education and making people conscious of making those good decisions, and we feel the kids will be receptive to it,” especially as the program includes everyone,

Williams said.

Hinojosa will lead a seminar on the benefits of exercise, noon Tuesday at the ETMC Pavilion, located at 801 Clinic Drive in Tyler.

He describes it as “an encouragement talk that you can really make a difference in your life” by implementing exercise into your life.

“One of the things we'll initially look at is the evidence based on research that exercise really is a form of medicine – we'll look at studies (that show) people who exercise longer, live longer. One of the most important things we can emphasize is that a little bit of exercise goes a long way of increasing a person's life span (because it reduces) mortality rates and improves quality of life,” Hinojosa said.

“A lot of people think you have to be a hulk in the gym or a cardio boxer,” but people should be thinking of exercise in terms of health, rather than just fitness, he pointed out. “There's a lot to be said about (healthy) blood pressure levels and improved glucose tolerance for diabetics, as well as reduced weight. We should keep things in perspective, and focus more on the health benefits of


Like the ETMC seminar, the goal of the FitCOUNTY Cherokee coalition, for which Taylor serves as chairman is to empower county citizens to make healthy choices.

“We hope that in this new year, you will feel empowered … empowered to start down the path to an improved you, and improved community and a healthier lifestyle,” Taylor said.

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