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A little means a lot

Dr. Steven Keteyian (The Detroit News) -- Which type of exercise is best? The one that you enjoy and holds your interest over time.

Thanks to cars, computers and other technology, getting enough physical activity is more difficult today than ever. In fact, only one-quarter of the U.S. population regularly gets the recommended dose of activity: 30 minutes four to six days per week.

If you are sedentary or don't have the time to exercise, advance your health and well-being by simply being more active during the day: park your car farther away at work or when you go shopping, walk the golf course instead of using a cart, rake the yard, wash the car, or simply take a 15 minute stroll at lunch. For many, sticking with these types of changes will improve stamina and decrease breathlessness in as little as three weeks.

The next step to being more fit would be to regularly incorporate aerobic activities such as brisk walking, cycling, in-line skating, swimming or dance. If you currently do this but have a difficult time finding the time to continue, try cutting back to two 20-minute sessions a week. This minimal level of activity will maintain your fitness level for several weeks, until time for leisure activities gets a bit more abundant. Don't allow yourself to think that it has to be regular exercise vs. nothing at all.

If you exercise regularly and decide you want more, add moderate-level resistance training two times a week. Weight training improves muscle strength and endurance, but it should be considered an additional feature and not the main part of an exercise program. Weight training alone doesn't sufficiently stimulate the heart and lungs to a level that lowers future risk for health problems.

Don't worry about how hard you exercise. This is a difficult concept for many to grasp in a nation where more is usually considered better. Your first goal should be to find activities you enjoy and emphasize time of participation rather than pace or intensity. You can introduce more speed as your stamina improves.

Finally, if you have a health problem that limits your ability to be active, check with your doctor to be sure that exercise is right for you. Although many of the common health problems in today's society benefit from regular exercise, it's always a good plan to talk to your doctor to be sure what you're doing is safe.

A little action now will keep you active and healthy in the future.

(c) 2001 The Detroit News

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