This year, slide into exercise


This year, try evolution instead of revolution as you make your shape-up plans. Far too often, people rush into exercise with a vengeance, do too much too soon, end up exhausted, sore and overwhelmed, then drop out until January of next year.

It's better to set more reasonable goals, and actually achieve them.

Try exercising 10 minutes every other day for a few weeks. You could walk or jog, use an exercise video, or crank up that dusty exercise equipment hiding in the basement. Then increase to 15 minutes a day. In two or three weeks add five minutes more a day. Keep increasing gradually until you're exercising 30 to 45 minutes every other day. Then start adding a little bit on the alternate days.

Walking is an easy and convenient way for most people to begin. But consider these other ways to have fun, improve your social life, and get fit at the same time: Aerobic dancing. Archery. Badminton. Ballroom dancing. Basketball. Circuit training. Hill climbing. Country line dancing. Cricket. Cross-country skiing. Cycling or stationary cycling. Dog walking. Downhill skiing. Field hockey. Floor exercises. Fly fishing. Football. Gardening. Golf (hold the cart). Handball. Hiking. Horse grooming. Jogging. Lacrosse. Racquetball. Running. Rowing. Snowshoeing. Soccer. Square dancing. Stair climbing. Stair machine. Step aerobics. Squash. Swimming. Tai Chi. Table tennis. Tennis. Treadmill walking or running. Volleyball. Water exercise. Weightlifting. Yoga.

And remember the 10 benefits of regular physical exercise. This is what we know for sure, not guesses, determined by reliable research and assembled for in the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health.

We know regular physical activity:

10. Is as good as quitting smoking for reducing your risks for heart disease.

L 9. Reduces your risk of dying, for any reason, at every age.

8. Prevents or delays high blood pressure, and reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension.

7. Decreases your risk of colon cancer.

6. Decreases risk of developing insulin-dependent diabetes.

5. Maintains joint structure and joint function, does not damage joints, and is helpful to people with arthritis.

4. Is essential for normal skeleton development in children and adolescents, and for maintaining high bone density in young adults. It may reduce the accelerated bone loss of menopause, even in the absence of estrogen replacement therapy.

3. Helps older adults maintain balance and coordination, which prevents falling, broken bones and other injuries.

2. Improves quality of life, relieves depression and anxiety, enhances psychological well-being, and improves your immune system so you get sick less often.

1. Most of all, it increases muscle mass and maintains your metabolic rate, so you get to eat more without getting fat.

When you're allowed more calories, you have a better chance of eating enough food to get all the calcium you need for strong bones, and the iron you need for energy.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 12/31/96

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