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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Don't Give Up On Fitness Resolutions For New Year

Don't Give Up On Fitness Resolutions For New Year

Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Sat, Jan. 08, 2005

By Karen Burt MD, Marybeth Ruiz Ph.D. and Karen Lloyd OTR/L

MANY OF US make New Year's resolutions to exercise more because we know that regular exercise is good for us. Despite this, most people never get around to exercising or find reasons to stop. But exercise can help all parts of your life, so there are few good excuses not to exercise.

Take Georgia, a 46-year-old woman who gradually gained 60 pounds, developed diabetes and grew depressed. She thought she was too far gone for exercise to make a difference. But for Georgia, as well as most others, starting small was a good way to begin. She began by setting realistic goals, walking only five minutes two days a week.

Soon, Georgia noticed her walking became easier, and, after a few weeks, she had enough energy, strength and endurance to walk 10 minutes. Each step increased her confidence and her ability to take on larger goals.

Georgia didn't have to start a major exercise program with the intent of becoming a marathon runner to feel the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. In fact, just walking a few minutes a day helped her lose 40 pounds, and her blood sugar dropped to normal.

Some avoid exercising because they think they need to join a club or buy equipment. The truth is, it just takes a little creativity. Walking is free, and so are exercise programs on television. Your local library also has videos you can borrow. You can buy weights, but you can also lift bags of dried beans, soup cans or pots and pans.

Many people insist they simply don't have the time to exercise. But everyone can find 10 minutes a day to get started. Most of us watch hours of TV every day. Try giving up 10 minutes of those television hours. It may be hard to believe, but just 10 minutes a day can make a difference and can lead to greater and greater amounts of time devoted to exercise. Many find getting started is the hardest part.

Look for something to motivate you? If you have low energy, exercise to increase your energy. If you feel down, exercise to improve your mood or decrease your anxiety. Do it because your doctor recommends it to improve the quality or longevity of your life or because you might look better. There is usually some internal need you can find that will give you the incentive or drive to get going.

Once you have gained the motivation and overcome the obstacles, there are different types of exercise to choose from.

  • Aerobic exercise such as walking and dancing strengthen your heart, improve your breathing and increase your muscle strength and endurance.
  • Weight training builds strength and endurance.
  • Stretching exercises, like yoga, improve flexibility. Tai chi and other meditative exercises improve balance and posture.
  • Martial arts and dance classes can improve strength, flexibility and endurance.
  • Biking and swimming allow those with painful knees to exercise.

The important thing is to pick an activity that you will enjoy because if you don't enjoy it, you won't do it.

So this year, when you think about starting an exercise program, incorporate these simple tips, and get yourself started. The rewards will be worth it.

Dr. Burt practices family medicine at the Brentwood Health Center. Ms. Lloyd is supervisor of Occupational Therapy at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. Dr. Ruiz is a licensed psychologist with the Contra Costa Health Services Dept. She specializes in Clinical and Health Psychology.

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