published Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Doing away with exercise excuses

Experts say exercise barriers can be overcome.

Exercise is important. That's not news. But for some, the gap between knowing the value of exercise and actually doing it seems too large to cross. Getting beyond those mental barriers is possible, experts say. In other words, there's no excuse not to exercise.

Excuse No. 1: "I don't have time to exercise."

Response: It's a familiar refrain: There's work, family, cooking, cleaning, paying bills... who has time to work out?

"People have jobs and lives and families. There's always some kind of time conflict," said Jody Smith, a personal trainer at Fitness Together on Manufacturers Road.

In order to overcome the issue of not enough hours in the day, Smith suggests actively budgeting time for exercise. Evaluating one's schedule and planning a specific time each day for working out could be effective, he said.

"I realize you're busy and swamped with work, but at the same time, the quality of your work will be better if you make time to do this."

Exercise, Smith said, will improve energy to make one be able to use time more efficiently.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense cardiovascular activity five times a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week, plus 8-12 repetitions each of 8-10 strength training exercises twice a week, to maintain health and reduce risk of chronic illness.

But even if only 15 minutes can be spared, Smith said, "something is better than nothing."

Excuse No. 2: The gym is scary.

Response: For someone who is just getting started, the gym can seem like an unfriendly place. Ripped dudes with bulging biceps and gym twinkies (toned and tanned ladies in tight clothing) are more intimidating than motivating to the new exerciser who might feel slovenly and out of shape by comparison.

There are a few solutions. The first, of course, is to avoid the gym. Find some other way to get exercise: Take up running, play a sport, do a workout video at home.

Another solution, said Britt Watson, wellness director at the downtown YMCA, is to consider hiring a certified personal trainer who can provide a support system. Look for someone who has expertise in exercise, and whose job it is to not let you get lazy or skip a workout.

"It's almost like you have someone in there protecting you from all the fit people," he said, "and not only that, it's almost like you're buying a friend."

Excuse No. 3: Exercise hurts.

Response: There's no denying that exercise can cause pain: That burning in your lungs, pressure on your knees, the stitch in your side, the soreness the next morning that can turn drinking a cup of coffee into a trial.

But soreness doesn't have to be a deal killer.

The key, experts say, is to start slowly. Forget about the "push it" mentality and ease into exercise.

Jamison Daniels, exercise physiologist at the Lifestyle Center at Erlanger Health Systems, said the pain and soreness associated with exercise is usually caused by overdoing a workout.

"Most people go the first time and try to do too much, and it hurts them, and then they don't do it any more," he said.

Carolyn Batten, personal training manager at Sports Barn East said any clients who experience pain beyond simply adjusting to exercise will be referred a physician. But a simple workout burn can be overcome with gentle modifications, she said.

"Too many people think you have to immediately start lifting weights and running," Daniels said, and that is not the case. Pushing too hard at first will be an obvious deterrent that will discourage one from wanting to continue with exercise.

In addition, he noted, be sure to be well-hydrated before and during a workout. People who are dehydrated are more likely to experience feelings of fatigue and cramping as well as post-exercise soreness.

Excuse No. 4: I hate working out.

Response: Exercise is essential, sure, but for some it's just a chore.

Allan Lewis, director of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Memorial Hospital, said for those who do not appreciate the atmosphere of a gym, a healthy lifestyle can start anywhere.

In other words, if you hate the treadmill, forget about it. Find a fun way to stay active. Play soccer. Take a dance class. Go swimming.

For some, Lewis said, stress management is a necessary precursor to a fitness routine.

"Maybe it's about taking a class like yoga or tai chi that seems to be a much lower level that helps you to calm down and help lower your stress," he said.

Excuse No. 5: I can't afford it.

Response: It's easy to work out for little or nothing, but for those who require the discipline of a gym, Watson said to do a cost-benefit analysis.

"Do you want to spend money on something that can actually give you a healthier lifestyle or do you want to spend that money on the medication, doctor visits and whatever type of therapy you're going to need for not living that healthy lifestyle?"

He suggests taking a close look at spending and seeing if there is anywhere funds can be reassigned toward personal health.

"How could that money be better spent?" he said.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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callison said...

These aren't myths. How are these myths?

September 15, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.
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