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Three months later...

Professionals tout the message and The Forum's Get Fit participants proved it: Small lifestyle changes can improve your health. For 12 weeks, Lida Deutsch, Randy Johnson and Summer Sandness worked with personal trainers and a dietitian to tweak t...

Dan and Lida Deutsch grill

Professionals tout the message and The Forum's Get Fit participants proved it: Small lifestyle changes can improve your health.

For 12 weeks, Lida Deutsch, Randy Johnson and Summer Sandness worked with personal trainers and a dietitian to tweak their exercise and eating habits.

The results? None dropped a lot of weight - the most was 5 pounds. But all three gained muscle, which weighs more than body fat, and significantly improved their fitness levels.

"I surprised even myself," says Deutsch.

Over three months, the Get Fit participants bettered what might be the best measure of fitness - their cardiovascular or aerobic fitness: the ability of the heart, lungs and circulatory system to supply oxygen and nutrients to working muscles.


In addition, Deutsch improved her blood pressure, strength, flexibility and body composition.

Johnson tightened his waist and lowered his body mass index (one measurement of body fat) while increasing his strength and flexibility.

Sandness enhanced her strength and flexibility and dropped a pants size.

All now have tools to get them through not only the next few months, but the rest of their lives.

"I feel like I've just stepped out of the kiddie pool and now I'm going to jump into the big pool," Sandness says. "It's up to me whether I sink or swim."

Indeed, three months is long enough for a lifestyle change to become routine, says Rory Beil of MeritCare Sports Medicine. It could take another three months for changes like eating more vegetables and exercising to become daily habits.

To continue on their journey to fitness, Beil recommends they set goals and look for ways to fight boredom.

The participants know what they need to do, now the challenge is fitting it into a normal life, says Jennifer Goetz, a dietician at MeritCare. Exercising regularly and cooking healthy meals at home aren't always as easy as they sound.


"A lot of us are just overwhelmed with daily life," Goetz says.

The Get Fit participants say the changes they've made so far are easier than they expected.

Deutsch, who was not physically active before the challenge started in February, is exercising four days a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. She recently walked up several flights of stairs without getting winded. She eats more fresh produce.

"If you go on a diet, you can get off a diet," Deutsch says. "This is about the rest of my life."

Johnson, who wants to get fit by the time he turns 45 in August, says he has found the secret to wellness. That secret is not making dramatic changes. His changes have been as small as passing on desserts and splitting meals with co-workers.

"These were not huge changes for me, but I've been happy with the results," he says.

Baby steps are key to long-term success, Sandness says. She challenges herself to try a new vegetable each week and recommends rewarding oneself when goals are reached.

"Everybody has the ability to do this," Sandness says. "You just need to make it a priority."


Get Fit participants make major strides

Our Get Fit participants didn't drop enough mass to qualify for a wardrobe makeover. But they have shown impressive signs of becoming more fit, stronger and healthier. Here's a list of each participant's measurables with the improvements in each category.

Lida Deutsch

Age: 54

Height: 5 feet 4 inches

Weight: 160 pounds to 155

Cardiovascular health (Max VO2): 9.5 to 27.4


Push-ups: 20 to 25

Leg press: 185 pounds

to 225 pounds

Body composition (lean body mass): 61.7 percent to 63.1 percent

Randy Johnson

Age: 44

Height: 6 feet


Weight: 210 pounds to 215

Cardiovascular health (Max VO2): 35.2 to 38.8

Push-ups: 25 to 40

Leg press: 291 pounds to 357 pounds

Body composition (lean body mass): 68 percent to 73.5 percent

Summer Sandness

Age: 33


Height: 5 foot 9 inches

Weight: 297 pounds to 299 pounds

Cardiovascular health (Max VO2): 29.6 to 30.4

Push-ups: 8 to 15

Leg press: 291 pounds

to 396 pounds

Body composition (lean body mass): 43.8 percent (167 pounds) to 43.8 percent

(168 pounds)

Tips for maintaining a fitness program

For 12 weeks, experts at MeritCare have provided tips for to improve your eating and exercise habits. Here are a few more from Rory Beil of Sports Medicine and Jennifer Goetz of Nutrition Services to help maintain a fitness program:

- Keep a journal or log of your daily exercise and movement.

- Develop a social network of people who will support your goals.

- Find creative ways to move.

- Keep a record of the food you eat for one day each month. Compare months.

- Cook at home.

- Don't beat yourself up if you have a bad day or week. Do better next time.

- Find the lifestyle changes you're willing to make. If you don't like broccoli, find another vegetable to eat. If you don't like to swim, find a different exercise.

- Erin Froslie

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

Dan and Lida Deutsch grill

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