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The Simple Dollar

By Trent Hamm

10 Tips to Change Yourself From a Dedicated Couch-Potato to a Gym Enthusiast

Written by Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project.

10 exercise tips
Photo by kajo55

Exercise helps keep you happy and vital. Studies show that folks who exercise are healthier, cheerier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. What’s more, they get relief from anxiety and mild depression—comparable to medication and therapy.

But of course, no one really disputes the benefit of exercise. The trick is actually DOING IT.

My own favorite activity is reading in bed—preferably, while snacking. It took me a while, but I’ve managed to get myself into the habit of exercising regularly.

These ten strategies helped me stick to my routine:

1. Always exercise on Monday. Starting the week on the right foot makes it easier to stick to your plan.

2. Never skip exercising for two days in a row. You can skip a day, but the next day, you must exercise no matter how inconvenient. This rule dramatically increased the number of times I exercise over the course of a month.

3. Remember, exercise GIVES energy. If you feel too tired to exercise, remember that exercise boosts energy. It took me a long time to notice that I’d drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

4. Any work-out “counts.” Give yourself credit for the least effort. My father, a runner, always said that all he had to do was put on his running shoes and close the door behind him. Why does this work? Because if I know I can quit after five minutes, I get started—and once I start, I usually follow through with my usual routine. Getting out the door is by FAR the toughest part.

5. You don’t have to shower. One problem—mostly for women—is that taking a shower can take too much time. Look for exercise like strength-training, yoga, or walking, that don’t make you sweaty.

6. Throw money at the problem. Spend more to go to a more convenient gym, or to get an iPod, or to work with a trainer. Exercise pays off BIG in your quality of life, so this is a place to splurge.

7. Don’t set the bar too high. I have a friend who thinks it’s not worth exercising unless she’s training for a marathon – and so she never exercises. She’d be better off going for a one-mile run five times a week.

8. Don’t kid yourself. Belonging to a gym doesn’t mean that you go to the gym. Having been in good shape in college doesn’t mean you’re in good shape today. Be honest about what your habits really are now.

9. You have time. Just take a twenty-minute walk. If you can’t do more, do that! Just a twenty-minute walk will really pay off.

10. Exercise for SANITY not VANITY. I find it more motivating to think about the fact that exercise is going to make me feel happier, calmer, and more energetic, right now, rather than to think about vaguer long-term benefits, like strengthened immunity or longer life. It’s not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss, so don’t be give up when the pounds don’t fall off. It’s worth doing for so many other reasons.

If you’d like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen’s daily blog, The Happiness Project, and join the Happiness Project group on Facebook to swap ideas.

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Are you insane?

"It’s not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss."

Are you insane? It couldn't be clearer that weight loss is a direct result of calories consumed minus calories burned. Exercise increases the calories burned so as long as you don't increase the calories consumed you'll lose weight. Period.

Of course, if you consider sitting in the lotus position in front of the Eiffel Tower to be exercise, that's a whole different story.

I keep hearing this

I keep hearing this "exercise gives energy". Not for me.
I'd get up in the morning, get the kids ready for and off to school, then go the gym. I'd do weight training and/or walk on the treadmill. I'd start to doze off on the treadmill just about every time. Then I'd go home and nap.

I can relate

I exercise pretty regularly (strength training and cardio 4-6 times a week), but almost never feel more energetic afterwards. Maybe that's because my baseline energy level is pretty high anyway, but the only times I feel energized after exercising is if I've had a boring or frustrating day and then go for a good climb at the rock wall. That seems to be mental, though, not physical.

In that case, consider that

In that case, consider that you may have sleep apnea. It's more common than anyone is currently aware.

Do you eat first?

When you wake up your body desperately needs energy and that energy is supplied by food. First thing you should do when you wake up is eat.

Good Article

Yeah I liked the whole thing too until...

"It’s not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss"

Otherwise, good article.

It's True...

Exercise builds mass. That increased mass, which exists in the form of muscle, as opposed to fat, requires calories to thrive/exist. Therefore, it's the muscle that consumes more calories, subsequently causing weight loss. This is true when you're consuming a healthy, reasonable amount of calories per day. Starving yourself and burning more calories through exercise can cause weight loss, but that's not really a healthy way to go.

In terms of fat loss, it's true. After the first 20 minutes or so of cardio or intense exercise, the body begins to burn more and more fat relative to carbs, proteins. That being said, exercise does cause the metabolizing of fats that you would not necessarily burn had you not exercised.

To prove the point, this is why many people GAIN weight in the early stages of exercise, weight lifing in particular. Then you tend to transition into a weightloss phase that exists as leaner, more efficient muscle is created and fat is depleted.

very well said

I always have believed in exercises

I understand what they are

I understand what they are saying. For me to lose weight I have to reduce calories. Running and weights make me fitter and stronger but on its own I don't shift pounds.

3 lessons to add - and they work for life too!

Great tips - especially #2.

I have three lessons to add:

1: If you’re making a face, you’re probably working too hard.

2: Into every lift, a little sweat must fall

3: Know your yes-buts

And they work for life, too, as I've blogged in http://www.happinessstrategies.com/blog/2007/10/05/life-lessons-from-wei...


strength training and sweat

For me, light strength training, not designed for bulking up, doesn't result in much sweating. When I do strength excercises (which is admittedly not often), I use very light weights, and I do repetitions at comfortable pace, not too fast, not too slow. Endurance athletes I have known (all of them distance runners) seem to sweat much more than us more sedentary folk, and that may well play a factor in whether or not strength training causes you to sweat enough to feel the need for a shower. My husband who is a runner sweats much sooner than I do, for instance. My "girly" strength training is mostly for basic health, not for building big muscles or athletic conditioning for a sporting event, and I am sure that also makes a significant difference.

Just to clear this up -

Just to clear this up - lifting heavy weights doesnt make women "bulk up". We just don't have the testosterone in our system for it. Go look at some olympic female weightlifters (not bodybuilders, an awful lot of female ones use steroids) and tell me how bulky they look.

Pick up something heavier!

Muscle weighs more than fat...

...so if one exercises and INCREASES caloric intake to compensate for that lost during exercise, one will gain a little weight (fat turning into muscle). One would look slimmer. One of the most fit, slimmest people I know is obese according to the BMI charts because she doesn't have much fat (her exercise consists of martial arts and cross-country running).

I find that exercising decreases my appetite.


Sorry, but fat cannot turn into muscle. They are two different things, and one does not turn into the other through exercise. Muscle can replace fat, and the other way around, but the physiological difference is they are not the same tissue.

you are so right!

As a person who exercise around 4-5 times a week you are so so right!!
sometimes, when you don't have power, you say - I'll run for 20 minutes and that's it.. and then you start and you say to yourself: "I already start, why not finishing it well?" and I run the all distance. :)

and by the way, about ppl who look for exercise which don't make you sweat - you'll have to shower in one point of the day, so why not doing the exercise before the shower??

great article and I realize while reading that they all work for me, although I never thought of it :)

Have a good training.
- E.

I thought this was

Very good and I enjoyed it and got a few pointers. I already work out and train a lot because I am a martial artist. The only thing I didn't agree with was that strength training, when done properly, DOES make you sweat.

But overall, I thought the article was quite good :]

Strength training doesn't

Strength training doesn't make you sweat? Since when?


wow i am gonna give ita try but the office routine reallys ucks

You had me nodding my head

You had me nodding my head the whole time until I got to this line...
"It’s not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss"

I understand the message you are attempting to send but don't give fat people an easy-out, "Oh yeah, I exercise all the time, but you know what they say, 'It’s not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss'."

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