Jump-start your exercise plan

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WASHINGTON (CNS) - Although the benefits of exercise are endless, many people simply do not find or make the time to keep fit.

Health reports and doctors' advice can't seem to stress enough how regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, back pain and osteoporosis along with improving mood and regulating stress.

But obtaining these benefits obviously requires some activity. For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week.

At the very least, experts advise 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day five times a week.

That may sound doable to some, but certainly not to others which explains why only 35 percent of U.S. adults exercise regularly according to a 2009 study by the Center for Disease Control.

Employees at the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minn., likely have heard all the excuses for not exercising since their website lists popular barriers to exercising along with ways to overcome them. Some of the main obstacles listed included: no time, too tired, too lazy and lack of success in previous exercise attempts.

To the No. 1 excuse - no time - the website suggests taking creative ways to squeeze exercise into a hectic day such as taking short walks throughout the day, getting up a half hour earlier to exercise and parking in a far-away spot from one's destination.

The too-tired group is urged to recognize that exercise actually will provide more energy and to be prepared to exercise at different times of the day such as a walk at noon, or an evening exercise workout.

Those with the too-lazy excuse are advised to start slowly and set realistic expectations such as a walk around the block, which gradually becomes longer. They are also urged to block off times for physical activity and get support from friends and family.

For the group who feels they've tried to exercise in the past and failed, the main advice is "don't throw in the towel." As with the other categories of excuses, this group is urged to pace themselves and stick with realistic goals such as exercising 20 minutes a day, three days a week for the first month.

Exercise doesn't mean expensive gym memberships either, according to the Mayo Clinic, since strengthening exercises can be done anywhere with exercise DVDs, lifting weights, walking in groups, taking the stairs instead of using the elevator and taking advantage of community center exercise programs.

There also are plenty of options for those who want to combine physical and spiritual exercise. Many parishes offer some sort of exercise program which provides the opportunity to get together with other parishioners. There are also a variety of programs such as the rosary workout, rosaryworkout.com, which combines prayer with an exercise routine or activprayer.org which combines physical fitness with spiritual formation.

Luke Burgis, the founder of ActivPrayer who is currently a seminarian in the Las Vegas Diocese, said the program looks at exercise as part a whole process.

"As Christians, we believe that anything that we do with love can be an offering to God. ActivPrayer members view workouts not as something to 'get through' but as a sanctifying experience that can help us grow both physically and spiritually."

How effective any physical or spiritual exercise program is depends on the participants' first step which in some cases may literally be a leap of faith.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970