- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2001

Bethesda internist Pamela Peeke, author of "Fight Fat After Forty," says a common reason people shrink from exercise is that they think they need to reach a certain level of athletic performance. Wrong, she says.

"In the American population, roughly 20 percent have true athletic interests," she says. "The rest don´t. So to go to the gym and strive to wear a thong one day is irrelevant to most people."

Instead, Dr. Peeke suggests, "Integrate exercise into your life so you have sort of a slow drip sort of like an IV. You´re going to turn off every person in America if you turn this into a science project. Just get off your and move."

Fitness counselors also emphasize that "moving" does not have to entail a lengthy time investment.

"It´s obviously important that you work it into your life, but it doesn´t have to come in large chunks," agrees exercise physiologist Richard Cotton, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, based in San Diego.

"It also can come in the form of a physically active lifestyle working it in here and there," he says.

Doing something is better than nothing, he points out, "and doing something on a regular basis can lead to more once you begin to carve out the time."

For the time-challenged exerciser, Mr. Cotton recommends 10-minute spurts of aerobic activity that might include walking outside the office building or up and down flights of stairs.

For strengthening, he suggests practicing some form of a push-up, crunches for the abdominals, and squats and lunges for the legs, perhaps using an office chair.

A busy mom, he says, can slip in a quick upper-back and biceps workout by performing a set of pull-ups on the monkey bars while her children are occupied on the playground.

In addition, says Mr. Cotton, a complete stretching routine can be done in about five minutes.

"Stretching helps maintain flexibility, decreases risk of injury and is a great way to relax. Stretching done properly is really a form of meditation, like yoga."

The American Heart Association suggests several other moderate-level, longer-duration activities for people who can´t or don´t want to exercise vigorously. Those include dancing, tennis, racquetball, soccer, basketball and touch football.

No matter what the choice of movement, getting the exercise habit to stick can be a challenge, says John Nissel, associate executive director of National Capital YMCA in Northwest Washington.

"We live in a McDonald´s society, so people want instant results," he explains. "We know it takes 12 weeks to break an addiction, and it also takes 12 weeks to form an addiction. So when you get into an exercise program, you´ve got to give yourself 12 weeks. And those weeks are tough."


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