Beat the Lazy Season
Stay on Track
And if You Backslide ...
Sometimes there is no getting around the environmental barriers
that hinder exercise, and you may have to settle for less. "If you're going
to slip, try to at least do aerobic exercise three times a week," says
Cotton. "If you think about exercising on one of the weekdays, say,
Wednesday, then on both days over the weekend, that's really not too
And studies show that decreasing the number of days you
exercise doesn't hurt if you maintain the same intensity and time. For
instance, in the early 1980s, researchers at the University of Illinois at
Chicago had 12 exercisers run and cycle for 40 minutes a day, six days a week,
at a moderately high intensity. After 10 weeks, their regimens were reduced to
either two or four days, though they maintained the same pace and total
duration. When tested 15 weeks later, all of the exercisers maintained the same
aerobic capacity as when they were exercising six days.
If you weight train, you may be able to cut back with little
repercussion, too. In a study published in the December 1992 issue of
Spine, researchers at the University of Florida in Gainsville showed
that subjects who had been lifting weights one to three times a week and cut
back to once every two or even four weeks (without changing the amount of
exercise per session), showed no significant decrease in strength for at least
Like a lot of workout fiends, Chandler was surprised -- and
relieved -- to learn that backsliding doesn't have to spell the end of
hard-earned exercise accomplishments. "When I slack off, I assume that
getting back into it is going to be painful," she says. "That attitude
makes me put off the inevitable even longer -- at which point I probably do
lose fitness." Still, this year she plans to try harder to stay on track.
"I've already started hiking twice a week with a friend and we've made a
commitment not to cancel on each other," says Chandler, "At the very
least, I know I'll keep that up."
Daryn Eller is a freelance writer in Venice, Calif. Her work
has appeared in Health, Fitness, and many other publications.