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Develop a Healthy Habit for Quality of Life

The Surgeon General has determined that lack of physical activity is detrimental to your health." This is hardly cutting-edge medicine. I remember being told as a child to get outdoors, play and get some exercise. All our lives we have heard such orders from our parents, teachers and doctors -- and lately, we've had a steady barrage of reminders from the media.

Exercise is not an option so much as it is a necessity of life. Exercise and good health are on the same side of a coin, just as lack of exercise and bad health are on the flip side. Heads you win - tails you lose.

It's common knowledge that cardiovascular exercise is the number one way to control your weight and protect yourself against the number one killer, cardiovascular disease. The newest focus, however, is on protecting yourself against the many degenerative diseases that were once thought to be a natural part of aging.

Until recently, getting older has been associated with unwelcome weight gain, loss of strength and increased susceptibility to inury. The real culprit largely responsible for theses symptoms is not actually aging, however, it is the loss of muscle tissue that occurs with age. Without a strength maintenance program the average person over 30 loses one-half pound of muscle tissue each year.

Muscle tissue even at rest burns calories. It is like an idling engine, continuously burning fuel. Less muscle tissue means fewer calories are burned. Consequently, you gain unwanted fat more easily and find it difficult to take off once you have it.

Muscle is vital for the body's movement, function and support (protection from injury). Take a look in any nursing home if you want to see the ramifications of this relationship. Many residents are mentally alert, but are frail and lack the physical ability to care for themselves. No doubt the loss of 5 pounds of muscle tissue per decade contributes to their frailty.

The good news is that you don't have to let it happen to you! With proper exercise, you can maintain your strength and vitality throughout your entire life. Add a basic strength training program to your cardiovascular regimen, and you will reap priceless health benefits! And you won't have to spend all of your free time in the gym, because you can receive the health benefits of exercise in just 30 minutes a day, six days per week, alternating between cardiovascular and strength workouts.

Being fit has a tremendous impact on your overall quality of life. Consider also the many advantages that exercise bestows on yor day-to-day quality of life: Your physical abilities improve. You have more vitality and endurance. Self-esteem and self-confidence increase. Your outlook on life tends to be much more positive, because you are fit. You feel better than you would without exercise and you look better too.

Exercise is the direct route to weight control, muscle tone and a positive self image. With so many guaranteed benefits, one would think that the vast majority of people would include a workout in their daily routine. The daily 30 minute exercise session should seem as natural as eight hours of sleep and three meals per day. However, only about 25% of us exercise as regularly as we should, leaving 75% to answer the question; "Why not??".

Some people think that exercise will not work for them. Some don't know how to get started. Other people just do not want to exercise -- and for those folks, I advise reading up on the subject as much as you can and talking to fitness enthusiasts you know.

Most people say they don't have time for a regular exercise program. Yet, we Americans have enough time to watch an average of seven hours of television every day! If we "don't have time" for sleep, our bodies suffer for it. If we "don't have time" to eat or drink, our bodies can't survive. If we lack exercise because we "don't have time" the consequences - as already noted -can be equally dire. To be fair to our bodies and ourselves we must make time. It is truely one of the best investments we can make in our overall life's journey.

Formal exercise can be defined as the planned application of stress on your body in such a way as to create a positive adaption to that stress. Performed correctly, exercise stressing your heart will strengthen your heart. The part of your body that you work is the part that adapts and is strengthened.

Done incorrectly, exercise won't produce the desired adaption -- only frustration, and the conclusion that "exercise doesn't work for me." The solution to this roadblock is the same one I recommend to those who don't know how to get started; education. When you learn how to exercise properly and what you should expect to accomplish, you will be much more likely to continue with a program.

Getting educated can be as easy as going to a specialty fitness equipment store, or joining a club and signing up with a qualified trainer. The most advanced exercise education involves indiviual sessions with an exercise trainer or physiologist, who guides you through several weeks - or months - of exercise sessiona. You learn exactly what to do and how to do it. This kind of one-on-one training gives you a rapid and torough education on results-oriented exercise.

Will you stick to your program? An couraging fact to consider is that after an initial "break-in" period of about 60 days, exercise does become a priority. You start to enjoy your workout so much that you actually look forward to it, and don't allow anything to get in its way. You start to see real changes in how you look and feel. Exercise becomes rewarding and fun. You will have developed the workout habit.

If you like the idea of exercies being a habit instead of a sacrifice, then, try this initial goal: "I will learn how to exercise correctly and stick to a workout program for 60 days." It could be the most rewarding 60 days of your life.

Bob Sullivan, President of Body Dynamics Fitness Equipment, Ltd.

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