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Make fitness part of your routine

By Sally Anderson, Times Correspondent
SCOTT KEELER | Times Cindy Matthews of St. Pete Beach demonstrates Mountain Climbers. LifeTimes.

Have you tried exercising many, many times, only to find it difficult to stick with the program? You just canít seem to get the motivation to make it a routine habit? Well, youíre not alone. Research has found that about 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will drop out within the first six months. Usually excuses are tossed around, from "Iím too busy" to "Iím too tired."

So what is it that keeps longtime exercisers committed? I asked some of my class members who have been exercising for at least five years what motivates them to keep exercise in their lives. You might be surprised by the answers. There was no mention of awesome abs, or even losing weight. The four main reasons they gave: maintaining or improving bone density, having more energy, just feeling good and feeling younger. Whatever your reason to make exercise a regular part of your life, it must offer a combination of fun and fitness. And remember: The body was designed to move!

Commit to being fit

For starters, select an activity that you feel both you and your body would be happy with. If you are dealing with arthritic joints, you might want to head to the water to try swimming or water aerobics. You may want to work with a certified trainer who has experience in the pool.

Select days and a time of day that will work with your schedule and will help you stay on track. Make appointments for yourself on your calendar and check them off.

A few other tips

Ignore fitness myths: The old myth "no pain, no gainíí would discourage some people from even giving exercise a try. Tune in next month to read about the many confusing myths and misunderstandings about exercise.

Fight off the "Iím too tired" excuse: Exercise can energize you. Thatís just one of its many delights.

Shorten your workouts: Studies have shown that people starting an exercise program remained more committed when they worked out for 10 minutes a day, rather than 30 or 40 minutes.

Try working outside the box: You might enjoy fitting a workout in anywhere, anytime, without equipment. Keep walking shoes in your car, for a "just in case" moment. If you enjoy walking and want to take things up a notch, add a few good body weight exercises for a strength workout on days you are not walking. For a little more cardio action, pretend you are jumping rope.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but canít respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]