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Spring Into Fitness

'I Hate Exercise' continued...

Speaking of enjoyment, spring fairly beckons us to come outside and enjoy nature's beauty. So treat yourself to a good pair of sneakers and a pedometer and hit the streets. Walking is one of the easiest forms of physical activity, and it can be done almost anywhere.

Wear the pedometer for one day to determine your typical daily step count. Once you know your average, strive to add at least 2,000 more steps to your day to help you maintain your weight. Adding a few thousand more daily steps will catapult you into weight-loss range.

If you have physical limitations, check with your doctor, and let our fitness guru, Richard Weil, give you some tips on his Exercise and Fitness message board. Keep in mind that activities done in water or on a stationary bicycle take pressure off your joints and may be a good way to get started.

Make a Commitment

One of the best strategies for making activity a habit is to commit to a program -- or to a friend. Knowing that your walking partner is on the corner waiting for you at 7 a.m. is a great motivator to get out of bed. Likewise, if you sign up for a class or buy a gym membership, you are making both a personal and financial commitment. When you know someone is counting on you, it's easier to stay motivated.

Most evenings after dinner, my husband and I take a 40-minute walk through our neighborhood. To me, it's quality time for just the two of us without distractions, and of course, we use this time to solve the problems of the world.

There are nights when I would much prefer to curl up with a good book, but I know how much my husband enjoys the physical activity, fresh air, and stress relief from his demanding job. I know he counts on me to be his walking partner. So the book waits until I get home, and afterward I am always glad I went for the walk.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Whether you are just getting off the couch more often, making it a habit to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or are in training for athletic competition, your goal should be to steadily improve upon your fitness level. By adding a few extra minutes or slightly increasing the intensity of your routine, you'll continue to become fitter, get stronger, and avoid the dreaded weight-loss plateau.

Ideally, activities that get your heart rate up -- for example, walking as if you are trying to catch a bus -- should account for 30 minutes of your daily activity. Combine this heart rate-increasing activity with 30 minutes of less strenuous activities (maybe washing the car or vacuuming), and you're exactly where you need to be for effective weight loss.

If you're not there yet, don't worry; slowly work toward achieving one hour of total physical activity every day.

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