Weight and Obesity
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Get Physical in Your Daily Life

Some tips to get you started

To achieve your goal of permanent weight loss, you have to do more than change your way of eating. You also have to be physically active. But "exercise" doesn't mean sweating buckets doing things you hate. That attitude keeps couch potatoes in Spudville.

"Half of those who start exercise programs stop within a few months," explains Joan Price, a fitness instructor and author, "and half of those who stop do so before the end of their first session. They give up in advance because they try to force themselves to do things they don't enjoy."

To find something you like, Price suggests recalling the activities you enjoyed when you were younger — bowling, ping-pong, tap-dancing, whatever. Take one up again, or try something close. Price's girlhood love of dancing led her to aerobics. "But find what works for you. Two great activities that don't feel like exercise are walking and gardening." The point is that if you'd rather not "exercise," don't. Just put a little more oomph in the things you do anyway every day. Some tips to get you started:
  • Take a walk. Walking is wonderful exercise for people who want to lose weight.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you're out of shape, start by walking down. When you feel ready, walk up part way, and work up to climbing all the way. When climbing stairs no longer leaves you winded, climb a little faster.
  • Park a few blocks farther away. Walk the extra distance to work, the mall, the movies, church, or friends' homes. As you gain stamina, park even farther away or walk more briskly.
  • Take a walk before lunch. In addition to getting exercise, you may find you eat less for lunch and suffer fewer midafternoon blahs.
  • Stash a pair of walking shoes at work. Slip them on for walks at lunch and on breaks.
  • Buy a backpack. Instead of driving to all your errands, walk as much as possible, and use your backpack for purchases.
  • Cancel "food dates". Instead of meeting friends for lunch, coffee, or dessert, make dates to take walks, go dancing, or go for bike rides. Or make a date to visit a health club. Most clubs allow free one-time visits to check out the facility. Try several clubs.
  • Walk your dog. If you don't have one, consider getting one. Dogs are great exercise companions.
  • Make breaks count. During breaks at work or during television commercials, get up and stretch or walk around. Get your co-workers and housemates to join you.
  • Don't automatically use the phone or intercom. Walk to neighbors' homes or co-workers' desks.
  • Make the most of phone time. Don't sit while talking on the phone, pace. Invest in a longer handset cord so you can walk farther, or get a cordless phone. If you must stand in one spot, march in place, raising your knees up high. Or rise up on your toes. Do this five times, then do five deep knee bends. When you feel ready, do 10.
Or keep a small three-pound weight or a canned food item, and do some weight-training curls and presses.
  • Curls: With your arm straight, hold the weight down by your hip. Then bend your elbow and bring the weight up to your shoulder.
  • Presses: With your arm in the curled position, straighten it over your head. Do five of each. When you feel ready, do 10.
Make the most of microwave minutes. Don't just stand there watching the clock tick away the seconds. Pace, stretch, or do some weight lifting.

Put more energy into housework. Washing floors, taking out the trash, vigorous sweeping and vacuuming, and other chores provide more exercise than most people think. If you step up the pace a bit, you'll get finished faster and you'll get more exercise as well.

Make the most of unpacking groceries. Curl and press cans a few times. When you feel ready, try it with six-packs.

Don't automatically reach for the food processor. When time permits, cut, chop, and dice vegetables by hand.

Wash and iron your own clothes. Take the money you save on laundering, and spend it on something active, like bowling or a dance class.

Clean out your attic, basement, or garage. They probably need it, and all that lifting and carrying is good exercise.

Mow the lawn. Pushing a power mower provides surprisingly good exercise. For a somewhat more strenuous workout, retire your power mower and invest in a push model.

Tend a garden. Gardening is also good exercise. Digging, weeding, raking, cutting, and hauling build strength, flexibility, and stamina.

Sweep some snow. Unless you're in reasonably good shape, don't shovel snow — stick to small accumulations of dry, powdery snow, the kind that can be swept with a broom. Snow shoveling can be very strenuous, and every winter people suffer heart attacks from overexertion. If you're out of shape, significantly overweight, or have heart disease or significant risk factors for heart disease (a family history, smoking, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, or cholesterol) don't shovel heavy wet snow.

Especially for parents & grandparents

Walk the baby Infants love motion. Put the little one in a backpack or stroller and take a walk. Weight-train with the baby Press the youngster over your head once or twice. When you feel ready, increase the number of lifts. Push the swing Kids love swings and merry-go-rounds. Pushing them provides you with great arm exercise. Join in older children's games Play tag. Go roller-skating. Jump rope. Climb a play structure. Take a swim, or a bike ride, or a rowboat outing on a lake. You'll have so much fun, you won't even notice you're exercising.

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