We talked with Ben Watson, MS, ACE-CMES, Weight Management Coordinator at Munson Medical Center’s Healthy Weight Center in Traverse City. He and his teammates take a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to help clients reach and maintain their fitness goals.

What is your best exercise advice?

Simplicity and consistency. Start simple with a plan and be consistent. You can always expand, add extra days or work out harder later. But first build confidence, build a habit and learn what works for you.

What’s a great starter plan?

When I build programs, I aim for: upper body push, upper body pull, hip dominate exercise, knee dominate exercise, core strength and cardio. This typically creates a well-balanced routine for most people.

How hard is hard enough?

I encourage people to be uncomfortable with exercise. Breathe harder than normal and work to feel a slight burning of the muscles. Focus on frequency to start with: one to three times a week consistently, starting with 5–10 minutes a day and progress slowly. People feel they need to exercise for 60 minutes or it’s not worth it, when in reality anything is better than nothing.

Is walking enough?

Walking is underrated! When all else fails, try to get more steps than normal. Find your baseline step count using a pedometer or your phone’s built-in step counter. Work on adding 500-1000 more steps each month.

What is the best way to lose weight?

Plain and simple: hard work, plus time. Individuals who succeed are able to do so because they change behaviors, change the environment around them and make healthy decisions 80% of the time. Using food tracking apps, trying new group classes and health coaches all add a layer of accountability.

What is the latest in the exercise industry?

Instead of focusing on the scale, professionally we are now more interested in the individual parts: muscle, bone, fat tissue and hydration status. To answer these questions, we acquired an InBody Body Composition machine. Now we can measure body fat percentage, estimate metabolic rate and provide realistic end-goal weights for each person. This information drives the exercise program and nutrition strategies because it can be very specific for each person, which brings better results.