Sunday, January 17, 2010

Do you make your exercise a priority? Here are 5 ways to do so.....

5 Ways to make exercise a priority & a joy........

You know the magical payoffs that a little sweat can deliver, like a healthier heart, stronger bones, and a boost in energy. But knowledge doesn't always translate into action--not if your knees ache, you're too tired, or you're just plain bored with your workout. These five research-backed strategies can turn exercise from need to into want to--for life.

Pick up some weights
There's nothing like visible results to make you stick with a workout routine--and when you see what strength-training does for your body, you won't want to stop. Bones and muscles atrophy as you age, but lifting weights can slow or reverse the decline, says Miriam Nelson, PhD, director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University. Nelson's research shows that postmenopausal women who strength-trained twice a week for a year increased their bone density by up to 2%, added nearly 3 pounds of muscle, and lost about the same amount of body fat. "Biologically, they were 10 to 15 years younger than women who just went about their daily lives," says Nelson.

When women pick up dumbbells, they often get more active in the rest of their lives, too. "Once they're stronger, all activity becomes easier," Nelson says. Chains such as Curves and organizations like the YMCA make it easy to start (go to or Or check out Nelson's Web site ( for an at-home program.

Head outdoors
For New Jersey author Arline Zatz, 70, kayaking doesn't feel like exercise--it's stress relief. As water drips from her paddle, her concerns drift away. Indeed, when volunteers in one study walked either in a park or a shopping center, 71% of the outdoor group ended up less tense, while half of those who strolled in the mall said they were more anxious than when they'd started.

For a safe adventure, consider a guided tour. Adventures in Good Company organizes active vacations for women of all ages, from hikes in the Alps to gentle paddles around Minnesota's boundary waters ( Woman Tours offers guided bike trips for beginners and experts ( Or try bird watching, which Zatz calls hiking with a purpose--check your local chapter of the National Audubon Society (

Choose a joint-friendly workout
Aches and pains might seem like license to slack off, but exercise actually helps stave off osteoarthritis, says rheumatologist Patience White, MD, chief public health officer for the Arthritis Foundation. If you already have wear-and-tear arthritis, the right workout is a powerful antidote. "Exercise strengthens muscles, which stabilizes your joints," says White. "It also promotes weight loss--and losing just 15 pounds can reduce your pain by 50%."

The Arthritis Foundation runs aquatic exercise and tai chi programs around the country; both decrease pain and disability in people with arthritis ( or Other nonjarring exercises, such as qigong, swimming, walking, or bicycling, can also help.

By Christie Aschwanden

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