Exercise: 10 Easy Ways to Make Exercise a Habit (cont.)

If Wanda Stevens thinks she is too tired to get up and exercise, Roy shows her no sympathy. "She gets mad, but then she feels better afterwards," he says.

7. Log your activity. Write down the things that are important to you. It could be how much time you exercise each day, how many steps you walked, how far you ran or cycled, what you weighed, etc.

Some people make a game of it. You may have heard of runners calculating the miles it would take to run from their homes to Boston (home of the famous marathon), figuring how far they run in an average week and setting a target date for "arriving" in Boston.

8. Be aware of all the indicators of progress. It's great when your clothes fit better and you can lift heavier weights or work out longer without getting exhausted.

But there are a slew of other progress indicators, such as:

  • Getting a good night's sleep.
  • Thinking more clearly.
  • Having more energy.
  • Realizing your muscles aren't screaming after you've helped a friend move furniture.
  • Seeing your resting heart rate drop over time.
  • Hearing your doctor congratulate you on improved cholesterol, blood pressure, bone density, triglycerides, and blood sugars.

9. Walk -- with a pedometer (or a dog). "If you enjoy walking and haven't exercised for awhile, 10 minutes three times a day will give you 30 minutes," says Klein.

Use a pedometer, and work up to at least 10,000 steps a day. "Nobody starts out with 10,000 steps," Klein says. Find out what your daily average is, and, the next week, strive to walk 300 extra steps each day. Increase your steps each week.

"Better yet, walk the dog," Klein says. That's how she motivated her sister to exercise. "Twice a day she walks her dog, which is good for them both and provides companionship."

Wanda Stevens also enjoys walking her border collie and finds there's another benefit: "It relieves the guilt I felt over not giving her enough attention now that we have kids."

10. Reward yourself. Are you telling yourself that you don't deserve a reward for something you should be doing anyway -- or that once you can zip your jeans without lying on the bed, that will be reward enough? Well, honestly, how inspiring is that?

Experts say that making behavior changes is hard, and rewards motivate. So decide on a goal and a reward, and work toward it. You might buy yourself a video you've wanted after you stick to your fitness plan for one month, or buy new walking shoes when you achieve 5,000 steps a day. Do whatever works for you.

Originally published December 28, 2004.
Medically updated December 21, 2006.


SOURCES: American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal, March 2004. Diane Klein, PhD, assistant professor of exercise, sports and leisure studies; director, gerontology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Roy and Wanda Stevens, Austin, Texas. WebMD Weight Loss Clinic feature, "Conquer Your Fitness Fears."

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.



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