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Through a Glass, Darkly continued...

It's an important finding, says Beth A. Lewis, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University Medical School in Providence, R.I. Lewis is studying ways to help people become more active as part of a healthy lifestyle.

"I'm not sure if this research is conclusive, but I definitely think that when people are first starting out in exercise, they find it intimidating to go to the gym and find others who are in better shape all around them," Lewis tells WebMD. "A mirror just accentuates that fact. And you aren't just looking at yourself in the mirror, but at all the people around you."

Lewis says it's puzzling why women say walking is their preferred form of exercise. She now wonders whether all those mirrors at the gym might have something to do with this preference.

You Can Do It

Martin Ginis suggests that gyms and health clubs might try covering the mirrors in the room where they hold beginner classes.

"With experience, women probably won't have the same response to the mirrors," she says. "It is a matter of getting women out and getting them active and then maybe they can move back into the gym environment without getting affected by the mirrors."

It's not really necessary to join a gym anyway, Lewis says. The important thing is just to become more active.

"All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and the ability to fit in 30 minutes of daily activity: 10 minutes in morning, 10 minutes at lunch -- maybe go up and down the stairs in your building -- and another 10 minute when you get home," she says. "People think they have to get their gym bag and do what we call exercise. But just being active in general can help."

Some suggestions:

  • Make physical activity a part of your life. It doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming.
  • Make it fun. Take kids to the park, get exercise videos, get a dog.
  • Have realistic expectations. You won't start looking like a movie star. But you will stay healthy.
  • Don't plan huge life changes or daily trips to the gym. Start slow and close to home.
  • Change things around a lot. The same routine week after week gets dull.
  • Keep at it. A little activity here and there adds up.

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