Do You Work Out Enough?

Sure, you belong to a gym. But do you use it enough? If you’re like most women, the answer is no: Fewer than 20 percent of American women meet the government’s exercise recommendations, according to data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey that was just released by the Centers For Disease Control.

Surveyors asked 453,721 participants from a nationally-representative sample about the frequency, intensity, and duration of the aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities they’d spent the most time doing in the past week or month. The results: A measly 17.9 percent of women met the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s physical activity guidelines, which call for two strength-training sessions per week, plus 75 to 150 minutes of high- to moderate-intensity aerobic activity. The men did better—but not by much: About 23 percent of them moved enough.

The thing is, it’s not tough to meet the government’s exercise guidelines—especially because you can (and should) break them up throughout the week into sessions that can be as short as 10 minutes each. And it’s time well spent: Physical activity has been linked to benefits you can’t put a price tag on—like a longer life and lower risk of weight gain and disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.

photo: Top Photo Group/Thinkstock

Published on May 14th, 2013

How to Work Out When You Totally Don’t Want To

As awesome as a great workout can feel, it’s hard to magic up the motivation to make it happen some days. But new research suggests you should power through, even if you’re not 100 percent feeling it.

Even “forced” exercise can help protect against anxiety and stress, according to a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder. So essentially, dragging yourself to the gym is just as beneficial to your Zen levels as going voluntarily. “Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and push yourself to work out, even if you’re feeling less than inspired,” says Wendy Larkin, master trainer at Crunch San Francisco. “I have to force myself to go on a run every Sunday, but after I do, I feel better, my mood is better and I sleep better.”

Need a little help getting off the couch? These tactics can keep you strong the next time you get the urge to bail.

Schedule sessions with a trainer
If this seems like a duh, that’s because it is. Think about it: You commit a) weeks in advance to b) actual appointments where c) someone will be expecting you, so you basically have to show. Plus, you’ll still get charged if you back out. “Go in on a regular sessions with a few friends, and make it a regular thing,” suggests Larkin. “You’ll get the same workout, but you can divvy up the cost.” That, and sweating it out with your crew sounds way better than going at it solo.

Start a work-buddy system
Larkin says she sees it all the time: People plan to get their sweat on after work, but then talk themselves out of it by 5 p.m. With crazy deadlines, last-minute meetings and the like, your workplace is booby-trapped with gym-bailing temptations—so you need allies to stay strong. “Find a few people in the office with similar fitness goals, and make a pact to keep tabs on each other,” says Larkin. Tell them to make sure you leave at X time so you make your workout—and vice-versa. Then follow up to keep each other accountable.

Splurge on foxy workout gear
Like a good LBD on a night out, gym gear that plays up your assets can give your mojo a serious boost and make you want to put it to good use. “When you look and feel good, you have a little more pep in your step, and the reasons you didn’t feel like going to the gym earlier will fade,” says Larkin. Plus, paying top dollar for super flattering workout clothes definitely makes you want to get your money’s worth.

Establish a gym family
Introduce yourself to your fitness instructor before class, and take a few minutes to chat it up with people you recognize as regulars. As people get to know you, they’ll be more likely to learn your capabilities, push you if they see you slacking off, and call you out when you skip a week, Larkin says. You’ll also feel more compelled to show up at the gym if you know you’ll be expected.

Leave important things in your gym locker
If you accidentally-on-purpose forget to bring your hairdryer and make-up bag home after a gym sesh, you’ll be forced to go back the next day to get ready. “Half the challenge is getting in the door, so the more reasons you give yourself to stop by, the better,” Larkin says.

Get a vacation on the books ASAP
Beach season is so close, you can practically smell the sunscreen already. “Most people rev up their workout routines right before taking a big trip, so wherever you’re going this summer, get your reservations nailed down as soon as you can,” says Larkin. Not only will thinking of your trip give you that extra push you need to get through a tough workout, but it also gives you a deadline you can’t cheat. Nothing is more motivating than having to show off your bikini body in, oh, 35 days.

Published on May 3rd, 2013

YOUR DREAM GYM

Before signing on the dotted line and joining a gym, here are four questions worth asking:

  1. What’s the vibe inside the club?  Take a tour and pay attention to the noise level, cleanliness and smell.  If the clientele is intimidating or the gym is packed during the hours you’d normally be there, chances are you’ll skip your sessions.
  2. How important are extras?  High tech equipment, fancy shampoo and free babysitting can raise fees, but if you are more likely to visit the club, then they are worthy of additional expense.
  3. Is  a free trial option?  Managers are under pressure to bring in clientele in January, they’ll often give you a free week or even waive the sign up fees.  Ask about incentives at the end of the month too when they are scrambling to meet quotas.
  4. Do you have to sign a contract?  Your circumstances can change in an instant, so start with a month to month deal if possible.  Generally you’ll need to give 30 days’ notice to cancel your membership. 

January/February 2012 Weight Watchers Magazine