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Study shows lack of exercise as bigger risk factor on health

Running and Fitness
Saturday, October 27, 2018

Most people are familiar with the term ‘risk factors’ when they talk about a person’s health.  Risk factors are those things that you need to be aware of, and shouldn’t do, to lead a healthy life.  At the top of the list are risk factors such as smoking, too much alcohol, and obesity. There are a few lesser risk factors like eating red meat, fat foods, too much salt, or sugar, and bacon. Okay, I may have made that last risk factor up.  

People in the fitness and health professions have always included the lack of exercise as a risk factor also. Lately the lack of exercise has made the headlines in information circles again. There were a couple of news reports that put the lack of exercise ahead of the risk factors like smoking and obesity. That is a serious claim to include the lack of exercise as being a greater risk than smoking. I am not sure how good the research is to make that claim, but somewhere there was a study of some nature that found that the results of the research that put lack of exercise right near the top of risk factors.

I have always been a big advocate on the importance of exercise and fitness. Now with the addition of the lack of exercise being a top risk factor in health, it becomes even more important to try and motivate people to exercise. The hard part of this is to get people to start exercising and be more active. Getting people to do something that is not part of their lifestyle, or on their list of priorities of life, is the biggest problem. Think of how many times you have read, heard, or personally experienced, the attempt to eliminate a risk factor. I recall the number of people I have talked to that are going to quit smoking. More often the result is the joke that these people mention about how easy it is to quit smoking, because they have done it dozens of times. How about the obese person that has tried every “sure thing” diet to lose weight and are still very much overweight?

The same can be said about starting an exercise program.  The top New Year’s Resolution every year is either starting an exercise program for the New Year, or losing weight. Studies have found that the average time a new member, signing up for a gym membership, lasts about three months. Even when the person now has a monetary investment in a program to start exercising, more often than not they fail to follow through with their initial plan.  

If you want to buy some exercise equipment to start an exercise program in the convenience of your home I have a suggestion. Go to weekend garage sales for your purchase. You can find treadmills, exercise bikes, weights, ab machines, and yoga mats at some great discounts.  I bought 300 pounds of Olympic weights, a bench press bench, weight racks, and some dumbbells for a cost of $40. These are the same people that started an exercise program a few months ago and now no longer use the equipment.

Getting people to change to a healthier lifestyle by eliminating a few risk factors that are preventing the prospect of attaining better health is a real challenge.  One problem is that too often the attempt to start an exercise program comes from the result of a serious health problem and the person tries to use exercise as a cure, rather than a preventative.  In too many cases the damage has been done and the benefits of exercise are severely limited.  

There are several methods that a person can use to motivate themselves to continue an exercise program and make it part of their lifestyle. The first thing to consider is that you are going to do this exercise program for the rest of your life and there is no reason you have to complete it in one week. If you have not exercised for many years don’t try to follow the same program you did back in high school.  Forty-yard wind sprints after football practice will not result in the same benefits now that you are 40-years old. Take a closer look at where your fitness level is now.  Try to be honest with your evaluation even though it is not the image you want it to be. There is no disgrace in starting out slow and easy until you begin to feel more comfortable with exercise.  The statement, “Learn to walk, before you try to run a marathon”, is a starting point.  

One thing that seems to prove successful is try not to suffer alone. Finding a partner to join you is a good thing to try. This can be walking with a friend, joining an exercise group at a local gym, or parks and recreation program, or hiring a motivated personal trainer. Results of studies have shown that belonging to a group, even a group of one, has a higher success ratio than trying to maintain a fitness program by yourself.  You may not feel like working out today and thinking of taking the day off when a friend from the group calls you and says, “Are you going to fitness class today?  I can come by and pick you up if you are ready.”  Chances are you will join your friend and go to your exercise class.  I remember days getting up very early and thinking how warm and comfortable the bed is for another hour of sleep.  But, I know my running partner will be waiting for me at the corner and manage crawl out of bed, put on my running shoes, head out the door to meet him.  It turns out neither one of us wanted to run that day, but the thought of a partner waiting for us got us out on the road.  

However you plan on starting your lifestyle of exercise think long term, start slow, find a partner if possible, and know that you are now eliminating one of the top risk factors of health. 

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666