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The Inactive Man Peak Points * Re-examine your feelings about physical exertion. Adjust your attitudes.

* Find an activity you like and begin to incorporate it into your daily and week ly routine. * Look to build a more active lifestyle around the activity you enjoy most. * Start slowly, gently, with just a couple minutes of exertion. Progressively wo rk your way up to 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes or more for each exercise session.

Got two minutes? Let''s talk. Mind if we walk while we do this? You ache too much, okay? You stress out easily and run a constant risk of injuri ng yourself. Your health''s not that great you''re more prone to colds and flus an d infections than you should be. You don''t sizzle with energy. You don''t seem lithe and limber. In fact, face it, you''re really pretty physically weak. Most of the time people know better than to ask you to help them move the piano or li ft the fridge. You look like you respect yourself some, but you aren''t in very good shape. Do you mind if we ask why? What''s holding you back? What''s keeping you from seeking your peak potential, your top form, your optimu m health, your natural energy, your sharpest image? Your body, after all, is a machine. If it isn''t worked regularly and kept tuned , it rusts, malfunctions and falls apart. You know this. But thinking about exercise makes you cringe, makes you tired, re calls pain. That''s why we asked if you have two minutes. Because that''s all it takes to start exercising and completely change your outlook and prognosis. No pain, no gain? Hogwash, says Charles Swencionis, Ph.D., head of the health ps ychology program at Yeshiva University in New York City and co-author of The Laz y Person''s Guide to Fitness. If you''re hurting after exercise, then you''ve injured yourself, he says. Injur ies and their resulting pain are one of the greatest reasons people fall off the exe rcise wagon. So, Dr. Swencionis says, it''s important you avoid overdoing it, pa rticularly at first. So your first day exercising, Dr. Swencionis says, allow no more than two minute s of concentrated activity. Then add 30 seconds each day until you''re up to a r espectable 20, 30, 40 or more minutes. But we''re not going to start you off actually exercising on your first day in o ur program. You''re going to like this. Your first assignment is to watch TV. Wa tch lots of it. Watch it in the evenings. Watch it all weekend. See, we want you to do something you''re good at. There is a catch. You can watch all the TV you want as long as you''re watching ESPN or sports and workout activities on other networks or videos.

That''s the beginning of Level One. Level One Program Learn about exercise. Read about it ways to do it, benefits of it. Socialize with fit, active friends and talk about their regimens. Rent videos showing active pe ople, watch sports and games on television these are all things that will get you thinking about exercise, a good first step, says Dr. Swencionis. "Rent and watch videos of the sports that people do in your town, and find one you like," he sa ys. Complain and gripe. That''s right, bellyache about it. Carry on about why you do n''t exercise, about what happened when you did, how sore you felt. This is actu ally a positive process, says Dr. Swencionis, because it gets you thinking about exercise, your lifestyle and your needs, and, yeah, your pitifully weak excuses . Clarify your values. Do it on paper. List how you feel about exercise. Is it goo d, bad, fun, only for bodybuilders? List all the positives and negatives you can think of about exercise, generally, and about specific forms of exercise. Then, says Dr. Swencionis, examine the list item by item and ask where each idea came from and whether it''s true in your life now or is a holdover from some an cient experience. As a more experienced person now, would you change the stateme nt somehow? If so, rewrite it so it is valid now. And then, he says, rate it fro m one to ten on how important of a value it is. This process, he says, can help you find useful ways to approach exercise. Plus, he says, look at your history. Maybe once you loved to exercise, play spor ts and so on, but life changed and something had to give, and now you''re in abs olutely terrible physical condition. That''s a great reason to get moving again. If that''s you, Covert Bailey, a popular fitness writer and author of Smart Exer cise, says he''d ask you, "How come you fell out of the club, man? Look around y ou, there''s mountains to climb, roller-blading . . . . It''s hard to believe al l the new sports around now that weren''t when I was a kid." State your reasons. "Different people have different reasons for exercising," sa ys Dr. Swencionis. "Some do it to look nicer, some to feel more healthy, some to have more energy, some to lose fat, some to be stronger, some to live longer an d more vibrantly." Exercise can do all those things. "Aerobic exercise, combined with a low-fat die t, lowers high blood pressure, lowers cholesterol and controls diabetes," he say s. "Just a loss of 10 to 15 pounds can mean you can decrease or even stop taking drugs for these conditions with your doctor''s approval. Aerobic exercise incre ases your sense of well-being and lessens tendencies toward depression and anxie ty. Building muscles in the right places in the back, the abdomen and sides can heal a bad back or greatly reduce the amount of trouble it gives you." Bailey asks, "Want to die at age 70 in a wheelchair, or do you want to be having fun with the rest of us?" The choice, he says, is up to you. Find your reasons for exercising and write them down on paper, where you can ref er to them again and again over the next few months. Use your imagination. Imagine the benefits of exercise a slimmer, firmer you movin

g lithely with flexible, pain-free joints. This helps psyche you up, says Dr. Sw encionis. Your imagination can do even more, he says. Once you learn an exercise, if you w ill visualize yourself doing it perfectly, second by second, inch by inch, you'' ll discover an amazing physical benefit. "Visualization rehearses the motor path ways so the actual movement, when tried, is easier," he says. Take notes. Any time you see someone enjoying an activity that looks like it mig ht be fun, write it down so you don''t forget. Then, when you get bored, you hav e another activity to explore. Just Do It Everybody needs a little motivation to exercise at times. Here are some proven h elpers. Tell everybody. If you talk about your exercise program with your friends and fa mily, you''ll make it more a part of your life. It shows you''re adopting a new image of which you are proud. And you can expect friends to rib you if you fall off the exercise wagon after talking it up. That kind of peer pressure can reall y help, says Charles Swencionis, Ph.D., head of the health psychology program at Yeshiva University in New York City and co-author of The Lazy Person''s Guide t o Fitness. Find friends to exercise with. Research suggests that people who exercise togeth er may be more likely to stick with it than are Lone Rangers, says Jonathan Robi son, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist, nutritionist and executive co-director of the Michigan Center for Preventive Medicine in Lansing. Besides, Dr. Robison says, "Studies show that people who feel connected with oth er people and with groups are healthier than those who do not feel connected. So if you find a physical activity that is enjoyable and that you can do socially with other people you enjoy being with, what more could you want? When talking h ealth and wellness, those two things are really, really important." Join a gym you can''t miss. Is it on the way to or from work? Is it close enough to the office that you can drop in at lunchtime or walk to it after leaving the office? Making it convenient, and making it obvious that is, you see it every day , want to or not encourages you to make use of it, says Dr. Swencionis. Keep a log. People who record their daily exercise tend to stick with the progra m more religiously than those who do not. Get outdoors. "Studies show that feeling a connection with nature has physiologi cal as well as psychological benefits," says Dr. Robison. We feel better, he say s, when we see the sky, the ground, wild animals and the scenery rolling by than when, for example, we''re pumping away on a stationary cycle in the basement. M ost people, he says, would prefer to save the indoor equipment for days when it' 's raining or has snowed three feet.

Level Two Program We''re actually going to take the plunge. We''re going to force ourselves to mov e. As Bailey says, "Get out and go. Find something fun and do it. Make sure it'' s fun because, if it isn''t fun, you won''t do it very long."

Run, says Bailey. If you can''t run, walk. If you can''t walk, crawl. If you can ''t crawl, roll. The idea, he says, is to get moving. "The proper exercise for starting out is whichever exercise you''ll enjoy and do ," says Dr. Swencionis. "It''s more beneficial than the perfect exercise that yo u won''t do." He adds, "There must be some kind of physical movement that you enjoy. Swimming? Walking? Shuffleboard? Softball? Roller-skating? Bicycling?" "When you find one you like or several you like, start out slowly. First, get your heart rate up some by running in place." You want it beating faster than normal , but not so fast that you can''t comfortably carry on a conversation, he says. Once the heartbeat is up and blood is flowing through your muscles, do some stre tching, says Dr. Swencionis. "Stretching before exercise improves performance," he says. "Stretching after exercise decreases the pain and soreness some people experience." Once you feel limbered up, he says, exercise for just a few minutes your first d ay. Start slowly. Very slowly. Very gently. A big mistake many people make is to sta rt enthusiastically and overdo it get exhausted, get hurt, get great new reasons a nd evidence why exercise is not for them. And starting slowly and gently doesn'' t just apply to the first time you start exercising, but to every time you start something new, every time you add weight or a new move to your routine, accordi ng to Dr. Swencionis. Start gently. Give yourself plenty of time to stretch and build new muscle. Just give it 30 seconds. That''s right. Start your exercise program with a two-m inute workout, then add 30 seconds a day until you''re up to 20 minutes, a halfhour or hour, wherever you want to be. One minute may seem, well, minute, but it ''s a start, says Dr. Swencionis. And if you add 30 seconds a day, you''ll be en joying the benefits of an impressive 15-minute conditioning routine before a mon th is up. That''s real progress. If you miss exercise for more than three days a t any point, subtract 30 seconds for each day missed and start over from there, he says. Come on, you say. I''m all pumped up about this. What do you mean "give it 30 se conds"? Listen to Dr. Swencionis: "Most people jump in too fast. They start by d oing a half-hour or hour even of high- to moderate-intensity exercise and then i njure themselves, or have pain from muscle and joint soreness even if they aren' 't actually injured. They feel sore and give it up. We have to avoid that. Start with no more than a couple minutes and then increase by 30 seconds a day." Go for the gusto, but not for the burn. You don''t have to hurt yourself to get fit. Really, says Dr. Swencionis. All you have to do is add a little effort to y our routine each time, and you will build muscle, increase metabolism, burn fat, get stronger. You must repeat the routine at least every three days or else you r body begins to lose conditioning, he says. Pick a time. Morning, noon, evening, midnight, whenever you can work out regular ly, says Dr. Swencionis. For some people, certain times of the day feel better t han others for exercise. Find your time during Level Two and mentally and physic ally mark it off on your calendar as your exercise time. Believe in your ability to change. Monitor the stories you''re telling yourself about your exercise program and commitment, says Dr. Swencionis. Are you telling yourself you can change? Are you telling yourself that maybe you can change? Ar

e you saying, "I can''t" or "I probably won''t stick with this"? Whatever you ar e telling yourself short of "I can" needs to be adjusted up at least one notch, says Dr. Swencionis. Correct that self-talk. If you''re saying, "I can''t," chan ge it to "Maybe I can." If you''re saying "maybe," change it to "I can." Because , says Dr. Swencionis, if you believe you can, you can. You''re in control of th is one. Get it out. Don''t hide your exercise equipment in the closet or in a crowded co rner of the basement. Set it up in the open where it is convenient and easy to u se maybe in front of the TV. Seeing it can prompt you to use it. Ten Fun Activities You Might Try Not sure how to get moving again? Here are some great first activities recommend ed by our experts to put you back on the road to fitness. * Pre-breakfast bike ride * Post-dinner neighborhood walk * Lunchtime stair-walking (up and down) at work * Morning calisthenics * Living-room stretching routine * Driveway basketball shooting * Solo tennis against garage door or wall * Roller-blading around the block with the kids * Early evening nature walk * Wiffle golf-ball hitting in the backyard

Level Three Program As you begin to enjoy the benefits of stretching and aerobic exercise, you may f ind yourself wanting to build muscle. That''s a good time to turn to the Core Ro utine on page 121 and consider adding resistance training to your program. "Resistance exercise increases stamina, strength, endurance and power," says exe rcise physiologist John Amberge, director of corporate programs for the Sports T raining Institute in New York City. You''re on a roll when you hit Level Three. Exercise is becoming a habit. It act ually becomes something you look forward to much of the time. It''s a break, a s tress-buster, a time to play. At Level Three your big challenge is to keep rolling. Stay vigilant. "It''s important for health," says Jonathan Robison, Ph.D., an exercise physiolo gist, nutritionist and executive co-director of the Michigan Center for Preventi ve Medicine in Lansing, "that you accumulate about 30 minutes of moderate-intens ity physical activity daily. I don''t believe that working out on stair-climbers

and bikes and treadmills is what most people are going to do. You can do other things and be healthy. You can garden. You can walk the dog. You can park the ca r two blocks away from your appointment and walk. It all counts. It''s the total amount of activity in a week that matters, as far as health is concerned." Keep that in mind should you find yourself resisting or falling away from a part icular exercise routine. We all do fall away at times. You can be a world-class exerciser and then get sick, or go on vacation, or get injured or pack up and move and, suddenly, you''re not exercising anymore. You m ay not even be thinking about exercising any more. You may be telling yourself t hat you don''t want to exercise, says Dr. Swencionis. That''s okay. Everybody falls off the treadmill at times, says Dr. Swencionis. T he key is to realize that. Understand that getting back on is part of the proces s, and try to limit the downtime, he says. Use every bit of motivation that got you to exercise in the first place and get going again at an easy pace so you don''t injure yourself, he says. You can''t e njoy the benefits without doing the work, and just because you stopped for a whi le doesn''t mean you must stop forever. Actively start thinking your way back into exercising; picture yourself exercisi ng and enjoying it. And then, doggone it, do it. Force yourself. But restart gen tly. You''ll be surprised that suddenly you find yourself enjoying it, wondering what the big deal was.