Tips for Getting More Exercise

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • Like a lot of people, I hate to work out. Going to the gym seems like a chore and I’m great at coming up with excuses not to go, such as “It’s too far” or “I’m hungry. I’ll just make dinner first, and I have SO MANY other things to do.” My personal philosophy on exercise is that it should only be performed when disguised by nature or fun. So I have listed here a few ways that I have found to incorporate more exercise into my life.

    1. Disguise walking with nature or a favorite other activity like window shopping.
    I found a park near me with a walking and biking path that circles a pretty lake. I walk there on weekends to get out in the sun, enjoy the people watching and to disguise the workout by admiring the beautiful scenery.
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    Check out your city or county department of recreation, nature preserve, state park or bird sanctuary for planned nature walks and bird watching.

    2. Buy or rent exercise videos.
    Exercise videos do tend to get boring when watched repeatedly. But they are a good thing to have on rainy days when the park isn’t an option or there aren’t larger blocks of time in the day to devote to the gym. I have three that I rotate, one is a yoga and Pilates mix, one is an exercise ball targeted toning video and one is an aerobic dance video. I rotate them for variety, and when I get tired of listening to them, I mute the video and put on some activity-appropriate music instead. The only other investment to make might be items used in the videos, like a yoga mat or other flat mat, exercise ball or weights. I am a big fan of the large exercise ball. I’ve had mine for about 6 years. It’s good for balance, doing crunches, isometric leg strengthening and arm strengthening.

    I recently discovered that my online movie rental provider also has exercise videos. This is a great way to try out new activities without having to invest a lot of money in the videos and a great way to vary the routine.

    3. Try tai chi, Pilates or yoga.
    Most gyms as well as colleges, universities and departments of recreation offer classes in at least one of these three activities. I have taken classes in all and even though I have physical limitations, there is almost always a way to modify the positions for these activities. For example, I have permanent contractures in both elbows, meaning I can’t straighten my arms out all the way or lock my elbows. I also have weak hands and some loss of flexion in my wrists. Some of the Pilates and yoga moves require supporting yourself on your hands, like push-ups. For these exercises, I hold the positions as best I can for a few seconds and then take a rest- the goal is to build up strength and hold the position longer each time. Or sometimes I support myself on my whole forearm instead of my hands, letting my shoulders do the work.

    4. Take a ballroom dancing class.
    I love to dance and ballroom dancing can really work up a sweat after a while, especially when learning faster dances, like the jive. Ballroom dancing lessons can be expensive, but often the local college, university or local department of recreation will offer classes for beginners. It’s also a relaxing and fun way to meet new people.

  • 5. Find a gym that’s close to home or work.
    I really don’t like going to the gym, so I find it difficult to force myself to go when there isn’t a gym really close by or when the memberships are pricey. Look for a gym near where you work or live. Most YMCAs have gym facilities with rates that are competitive with the bigger national fitness chains. I belong to the gym at my office building, because it means I have fewer excuses to avoid working out.

    Some fitness centers really aren’t set up to accommodate people with physical limitations. Often the physical trainers and staff don’t have experience helping people with arthritis. Look for a gym that has staff and trainers with this experience. It’s ok to ask how many people with functional difficulties have memberships there. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio I had a membership at Victory Fitness Center for women. The great thing about it was that there was a good mix of women members. Many were young, active college students and competitive weightlifters, but there were also many older women with physical limitations, some using walkers. The staff was helpful and experienced. The gym also had a small heated pool for water aerobics, a class that always filled up quickly.
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    If you have limited choice of fitness centers, and there aren’t many activities or pieces of equipment that you feel you can safely use, try to negotiate for a limited membership to use just the equipment and services that you can use. Fitness centers always want new members, and they will often try to accommodate.

    6. Play the TV exercise game.
    When I was a child, I hated doing my exercises. They were boring, they hurt and every night became a battle between my parents making me do them and me crying. So they learned to distract me by having me do them during my evening TV shows. If I wanted to lay on the floor to watch the Muppets, I had to be doing my exercises. My parents even hung a pulley from the exposed beams in the living room and tied up a gallon milk jug full of water for me to lift.

    It just tales a little willpower to get a few exercises in while watching your favorite shows. These days, I keep my weights, ball and TheraBand in a basket right next to my TV. Each character in my favorite shows has a different associated exercise like crunches, leg lifts, etc. When that person comes on the screen, I do 1-2 sets of that exercise.

    It’s also good to keep hand strengthening putty or exercisers on the coffee table. There’s no excuse for not squeezing the ball or putty while laughing to your favorite sitcom.

    7. Make household items and activities into strengthening tools.
    Before there were thousands of brands of free weights and exercise equipment, there was good old soup cans and plastic milk jugs. If you don’t have weights or don’t want to invest in them, then lift large soup cans while you watch TV.

    Vacuuming, cleaning and other household chores all burn at least a few calories and get you moving. If one of your favorite activities is cooking, don’t let soreness in your hands stop you. Baking bread is also a good activity. Kneading the dough may be difficult at times, but it does help strengthen the hands.

  • 8. Vary your routine.
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    This is self-explanatory. If I go to the gym twice during the week, I try to hit the park or do some other activity on the weekend. Renting new videos helps too.

    9. Find a friend or two to exercise with you.
    This isn’t always easy, especially if you’re new to an area or don’t have friends with similar schedules and level of commitment. Try looking for a local club for your favorite activity like walking or biking. There are also websites geared toward helping people find others to exercise together such as

    10. Take up gardening.
    Even if you live in an apartment like I do, gardening is a relaxing way to get some extra activity. Potting the plants helps keep the hands active and doing yardwork requires strength, bending and stretching.

    11. Spend time playing with your pet.
    …or a friend’s pet. Pets need to stay active too, especially dogs. If you have a dog, make some extended time for a nice long walk or a long game of chase in the backyard. I don’t have a dog, but playing with my friend’s black lab is always a workout. Pets can also be important for emotional well-being. They are an ever constant source of love and joy.

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Published On: April 26, 2006