Festive activity

  • Health
  • Sunday, 05 Jan 2003


WHY not give yourself one more holiday gift this year? It's free and may be the most important present you can give yourself and your family: a commitment to your health and theirs.  

For the most part, the only thing separating us from better health is a litany of excuses. Here are some of the most common ones, followed by action-oriented solutions and the reasons why it's so important to stick to your fitness commitments – for yourself and for your family.  

Excuse: I don't have time.  

Solution: Granted, the holidays present a challenge to staying in shape, but if you streamline things just a little, you can free up the time you need. And the fact is, you simply must make the time to exercise; your life depends on it.  

Make a list of ways you can save time (limit TV viewing, work out at home, engage in simpler sports) – and do them.  

Reason to stick with it: Staying active through the holidays should not be viewed as another burden, but rather a great way to get more done, maintain your sanity and help you enjoy holiday meals more.  

Excuse: I just ate half a holiday fruitcake that has now congealed into a small bowling ball in my stomach. I cannot move.  

Solution: It's always better to exercise before a big meal because moderate exercise will regulate your appetite. On the other hand, trying to exercise after eating is often too uncomfortable.  

Reason to stick with it: You will live longer and better. According to the Journal of American Medicine, as little as 40 minutes of exercise four days per week can add years to your life. That means you can enjoy more fruitcake on more holidays for years to come.  

Excuse: Exercise hurts.  

Solution: Exercise is what you make it. It doesn't have to hurt, and in fact, it shouldn't hurt. By using a heart-rate monitor and keeping your heart rate lower during workouts, you'll gain cardiovascular benefit without feeling undue pain.  

Reason to stick with it: According to the United States National Centre for Health Statistics, heart disease is the top killer in America, claiming more than 710,000 lives each year. Studies show that regular exercise and a monitored heart rate can cut the risk of developing and/or dying from heart disease by almost 80%.  

Excuse: I'm fat. Exercise doesn't help.  

Solution: We tend to obsess with our body fat and subsequently view exercise solely as a means to burn it off. If you focus less on how much weight you're losing and more on how good exercise makes you feel, you'll work out more often. Remember, the benefits of exercise extend well beyond weight management.  

Reason to stick with it: Being a couch potato is more life-threatening than being overweight or obese, according to a recent report in the Annals of Epidemiology. And you needn't train for a triathlon to extend your life. The study found that even small amounts of physical exercise offer significant life-saving protection, while moderate and intense physical exercise provide only slightly more protection.  

Excuse: I have a painful carbuncle on my foot.  

Solution: I'm a little hazy on what a carbuncle is, but I do know that injuries and pain can derail an exercise programme. Address the root cause of your pain or injury. In other words, if your foot hurts, don't just rub it or apply ice. Make an appointment with your physician, and take care of the problem once and for all.  

Reason to stick with it: You're not living fully when you're injured or in constant pain. Any pain or injuries you have now can worsen over time and may even become debilitating. Resolve them now, or suffer even more later.  

Excuse: I don't have an exercise plan; I feel lost.  

Solution: Make a plan and write it down. Here's how: Pick four days a week to exercise, and three days off. Do one “long aerobic/cardio” session at a moderate intensity (i.e., a one-hour run or step machine); one higher-intensity session (a track workout or challenging aerobics class); and two 30- to 50-minute strength sessions.  

Reason to stick with it: Without a programme in place, you'll wander aimlessly through the tundra of physical inactivity. To enjoy long-term fitness success, you must have an exercise road map.  

Excuse: I'm too tired.  

Solution: We all know that once we begin exercising, we feel better and more energetic. It's the “getting-started” part that's the toughest. Circumvent your pre-workout mental debate by clearing your head and getting out the door – just for 10 minutes. Then, if you're still tired, turn around and head home.  

Reason to stick with it: Moderate physical activity will energise you, and if you can increase your energy levels by just 10%, imagine how much more you can get done, and with greater ease.  

Excuse: We have family staying with us over the holidays.  

Solution: Rather than fight a battle with your mother-in-law (that you'll invariably lose) over time you need for your regular workout, focus on the positive: Organise family walks, hikes or bike rides. Getting fresh air outdoors keeps things in perspective and improves everyone's health.  

Reason to stick with it: Trivial differences aside, time with loved ones is precious. Staying fit and healthy means you'll be able to enjoy that time more, and for many years to come. Have a healthy, happy and safe holiday. – LAT-WP 

Eric Harr is a professional triathlete, author and television host.  

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