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No More Excuses

Keys To Motivation For Exercise

Obstacles to regular activity do get in the way, but you can fight back. Do any of the following excuses sound familiar? If so, here's what to say to yourself to disarm the excuse that threatens to keep you from being active.

  • "I'm too busy." Of course, you're busy. You lead a harried, stressful life. That's why you need exercise — to build the stamina, strength, flexibility, confidence, and self-esteem to cope with all the demands you face.
  • "I hate exercise." Don't do any activity you dislike, or you'll come to despise exercise. Ask yourself which kinds of physical activities you like, and simply do them more often. You don't have to run, do sit-ups, or use a stair-climbing machine. Bicycling, gardening, folk dancing, bowling, roller-skating, and ping-pong can be great exercise. If you can't think of physical activities you enjoy, recall the ones you liked years ago. Chances are you'll still enjoy them.
  • "I've never been active. I'm too old to start now." You're never too old to start exercising. Recently researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland divided 49 residents of a nearby home for older adults into two groups. One group engaged in reminiscence sessions twice a week. The other spent the time doing low-intensity exercise. After seven months, the exercisers stood up faster, moved more easily, had greater grip strength, and suffered less depression.
Maria Fiatarone, M.D., an instructor of medicine, came to the same conclusion while working with frail elderly residents of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged in Boston. She recruited 10 men and women, ages 85 to 96, into a weight-lifting program. After eight weeks, their strength, muscle mass, and walking ability all showed significant improvement. "The physical deterioration we have traditionally associated with growing old has nothing to do with chronological age," Fiatarone says, "and everything to do with lack of exercise." No matter how long you've been out of shape, you can get back into shape. Just start now.

"I don't have big blocks of time to exercise." "You don't need them," says James Rippe, M.D. "Sporadic exercise adds up. If you take just three 10-minute walks a day during breaks, you're exercising 30 minutes."

What kind of physical activities do you already engage in? Shopping, housework, cooking, child care? Just walk a little more briskly while shopping. Stretch, bend, and lift a little more during housework and cooking. And play more physically with your children.

"I feel self-conscious. I hate looking ridiculous." You don't look ridiculous. You look like a person who's taking positive steps toward better health. You look good. Soon, you'll look even better.

"I never seem to improve." Chances are you just don't notice. Keep track of your progress. Make a chart showing how many flights of stairs you can climb before you feel winded, or how long it takes you to walk around the block — anything that's measurable. Plot your progress weekly, and pretty soon you'll be looking back at how far you've come.

"I can't afford to join a gym or turn my home into one." You don't have to. Housework is also good exercise — just do it a little more vigorously. Or take a walk. Walking is great exercise outdoors or around the local mall, alone or with friends. And fitness props, even a few pieces of equipment for your home, cost less than you may think.

"I never stick with it." Maybe — but then again, maybe not. Half of those who start an exercise program do quit within six months. To keep from being a quitter:
  • Be realistic. For every year you've been out of shape, it takes about a month to get back in shape. It takes about eight weeks to start feeling the physical and emotional benefits of exercise, and three or four months of consistent exercise to notice weight loss. But if you stick with it, you'll lose weight.
  • Start slowly, and don't overdo it. You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If you become breathless, you're overdoing it.
  • Only do things that feel fun. If something isn't fun, switch to something else.
  • Find a buddy, and exercise together. Support each other.
  • Vary your activities. Don't let yourself get bored.
  • If you increase your workout at all during your first six months, do it slowly. Don't add more than an extra five minutes a month, and don't add extra intensity that boosts your heart rate above your target range.
"I read that before I start exercising, I should check with my physician. That's a hassle." Most people don't have to visit doctors before starting modest exercise programs. But if your body mass index is higher than 30, if you're pregnant, age 50 or up, if you smoke, or if you have a personal or family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, varicose veins, or any other chronic medical condition, seeing your doctor first is wise.

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