Too often, exercise programs begin with
an intense commitment to a stringent workout and end when our
muscles scream in protest and the scales don't move. We all say we
want to be healthier, but what most of us mean is, "I want to lose
weight and look good." When the results take longer than we'd like,
we get discouraged and quit.
That's because vanity is a poor motive
for exercise, according to Susan Kundrat, a visiting dietitian at
the University of Illinois. It seldom leads to long-term success in
maintaining an exercise regimen.
"Weight loss can be one reason you
exercise, but it shouldn't be your primary reason," said Kundrat.
"It's much easier, year after year, to keep exercising if you're
concentrating on the overall health benefits."
And what are some of those benefits?
"Generally, people who make exercise a
lifestyle don't get sick as often," said Kundrat. "They're more
flexible, they don't have as many joint problems, and they don't get
injured as easily. And of course, they enjoy greater cardiovascular
health and overall strength."
Still, many of us ignore the benefits
and refuse to exercise. Jennifer Hess, a fitness specialist at the U
of I, quotes some alarming statistics.
"Nearly half of American youth aren't
vigorously active on a regular basis," said Hess.
"More than 60 percent of U.S. adults
don't engage in the recommended amount of physical activity, and 25
percent aren't active at all."
If you'd like to do your part to change
those statistics, Hess recommends that you begin by answering the
questions on a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, a PAR-Q.
"Your answers to the questions on a
PAR-Q will help determine if you need to consult a doctor before you
begin an exercise program," said Hess.
From that point, Kundrat offers some
basic guidelines for getting started and staying motivated in a
long-term exercise regimen.
--Start slowly and build. "Take a
five-minute walk in the morning," said Kundrat. "Work that up to 10
minutes, then 15. Eventually, to get some cardiovascular benefit,
exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day, three days a week. Then add two
days of strength training."
--Choose activities that you enjoy. If
it's not fun, you won't stick with it.
--Establish a schedule. Kundrat prefers
to exercise in the morning but has friends who use their lunch hour
as their workout time. "The important thing is to be consistent."
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--Be accountable to someone. "Find an
exercise buddy. Most people realize they have to have support."
--Acknowledge the small changes. "Even
if the scales don't change, your clothes fit better," said Kundrat.
--Vary your activity so you don't get
bored. Exercise should be something you look forward to.
--Look for groups that can get you
involved in your community. Kundrat suggests walking clubs, group
golf or national organizations such as the United States Tennis
Finally, said Kundrat, do your kids a
favor and be active as a family. "When kids learn how good it feels
to exercise, they'll grow into adults who will really miss it if
they're not exercising."
Surf your way to
College of Sports Medicine: The American College of Sports
Medicine is a national fitness organization "devoted to public
awareness and education about the positive aspects of physical
activity for people of all ages, from all walks of life."
American Council on Exercise: The American Council on Exercise
is a nonprofit fitness certification and education provider. The
council certifies fitness professionals and can aid you in finding a
qualified personal trainer in your area.
America on the Move:
This site is designed to help prevent weight gain. It sells step
counters (pedometers) at a reasonable price and offers tips to
reduce your calorie intake and increase your activity level.
IDEA supports health and fitness professionals with credible
information, education, career development and leadership. This
website also has a personal trainer locator.
National Weight Control Registry: This link on the Lifespan
homepage is an inspirational site which tracks the progress of more
than 4,000 people who have lost an average of 67 pounds and kept the
weight off for six years. Guidelines for joining the NWCR are
Readiness Questionnaire: This PDF file enables you to print a
PAR-Q, which you can fill out on your own or with the help of a
personal trainer. [To download the Adobe Acrobat
reader for the questionnaire, click here.]
[University of Illinois news release]