Get Off the Couch!

Get Off the Couch!

Motivating yourself to put aside the excuses and exercise
by Edel Jarboe

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We know that exercise is good for us. From reducing the risk of heart disease, weight management, controlling cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure levels to boosting energy levels and managing stress, study after study have shown that exercise can not only save our lives in the long-term but improve its quality as well.

Moreover, according to the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, higher levels of regular physical activity are associated with lower mortality rates for both older and young adults. Even those who are moderately active on a regular basis have lower rates of mortality than those who are least active.

Knowing all this, why are less than 50% of Americans leading a moderately active lifestyle?

In a study which appeared in the May/June 1998 issue of the Archives of Family Medicine, 16,890 women and 12,272 men at least 18 years old were asked abut their leisure-time physical activities. Only 38% met the Surgeon General's Guideline of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most, if not all, days of the week.

Most alarmingly, however, is that women, ethnic minorities, adults with lower educational attainment, and older adults were least active. And according to the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, about 25% of adults report no physical at all in their leisure time.

The same old exercise excuses

Too busy to exercise? Incorporate it into your day. You've probably heard them all. Park farther away from the entrance of your office or shopping mall. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Engage in play with your kids or the dog.

Not enough time in your day to exercise? Is time really the enemy or is it our modern habits? What are most Americans doing for most of the day? Whether it is watching television, working at our desks, or driving hither and yon, we are sitting down. A life of convenience may actually shorten your life--not the kind of time you want to save.

Too tired to exercise? Get out of the habit of rushing everywhere and take time to take care of your body. If the store is a few blocks away and you only need 1 or 2 items, walk instead of driving. Instead of going to the movies on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, go to the zoo, stroll through an art gallery, or go for a hike. Rushing everywhere puts unnecessary stress on our minds and our bodies. Get your heart pumping for another reason. Be interactive instead of inactive.

Get off your "BUT"

There are dozens of ways to make exercise a part of your everyday life. Here are just a few:

Make time for exercise. Get up a half-hour earlier, walk during lunch, or turn off the television in the evening. Find a convenient time and place for your exercise. Schedule this time and honor it.

If you are unable to for some reason, MAKE IT UP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. This is the biggest reason why we backslide. We miss one, then two workouts, and before you know it, it's been two weeks, and who wants to start over?

Make it fun. Choose activities that you enjoy. Gardening and walking are the two most popular forms of exercise among adults. Make sure you have a variety of activities to choose from so that you don't get bored and drop your exercise program.

Be creative. Instead of calling a friend, arrange to get together for a walk-and-talk once or twice a week.

Involve your family. Take the kids along for walks and bike rides. Spend quality time with your partner while enjoying an outdoor activity. Rates of obesity and inactivity in children are skyrocketing. Be a good example; if you can't do it for yourself, remember that your kids are watching and learning from you.

Set fitness goals. Commit to walking or running a certain distance in one month, three months, or six months. Work on increasing the number of laps you swim each day. Give yourself a reward for your fitness accomplishments.

Train for an event. A walk-a-thon, bike-a-thon, or triathlon. If you need support, get a friend to join you.

Slow and steady wins the race

Start slowly and work up to exercising 3-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes.
The more often you work out, the less time you have to set aside for it. For example, working out 3 times a week for 60 minutes requires a bigger time commitment than working out 5 times a week for 30 minutes. If you are really pressed for time, break the 30 minute session into two 15 minute segments or three 10 minute segments.

Once you have made regular exercise part of your lifestyle, don't just stop there. Greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of a more vigorous intensity or of longer duration. Moreover, recent recommendations from experts also suggest that endurance activity should be supplemented with strength-developing exercises at least twice per week for adults.

Edel Jarboe is the founder and editor of Simpler Living, an online magazine helping women balance work, family and life. Here you can find timely articles on health, fitness, diet, personal growth, relationships, parenting, spirituality, work, money, time management, and more. Edel also publishes a free weekly email newsletter, which features the advice column "Balancing Act," an inspirational quote, happiness and time saving tips, and resources for living a simpler life. Subscribe at

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