For twenty-five years the American Heart Association identified smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol as the risk factors for heart disease. In 1994 they added "not exercising". Dean Ornish, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, presented data demonstrating that a low-fat diet, stress management, and exercise form a non-surgical, exercise approach to combatting heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. According to Ornish, it's easier to get a person to eat low-fat, exercise, and do stress management than to diet and exercise sporadically. His results showed that people who submerged themselves into an eating, exercise, and stress management program realized significant short term results, motivating them to continue for the long haul.

Exercise is no panacea, but it can help. Exercise diffuses aggression and increases socialization. Most are well aware of the benefits of exercise; they just have no intention of getting off the couch. A survey of over one-thousand inactive people who said they wanted to exercise but didn't have the time found that eighty-four percent watched an average of three hours of TV daily. Dr. Dishman concluded that people who use time as an excuse are no busier than exercisers. They choose not to make time to work out. Dr. Kevin Patrick of the United States Department of Health and Human Services reported that sedentary living greatly increases the chances of obesity, heart attack, stroke, cancer and bone demineralization. Beginning exercisers are surprised at how much better they feel doing chores and activities they enjoy. Gardening burns 300 calories per hour! Paradoxically, the less conditioned they are, the more they benefit from even the simplest activities. Dr. Rod Dishman's research demonstrated that people who exercised enjoyed enhanced self-image and health, psychological benefits, and a feeling of achievement.

Exercise improves cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, concentration, and coordination. Choose activities you enjoy: Try Aquajogging. Make eating and exercise commitments and feel empowered by your choices. Turn each training session into a positive experience. Forget about hard-to-please coaches. Pick sports that fit your lifestyle. You can walk, roller-blade, or ride bikes. Take multi-vitamins, laugh a lot, sleep well, and choose programs that give you a lift.

According to the November, 1994 issue of Muscle & Fitness, the most popular exercise activities include fitness walking, swimming, cycling, bowling, basketball, billiards, and aerobics.And there are hundreds of others from table tennis to bocce: Upper body (e.g. rowing, swimming), lower body (e.g. in-line skating, stair climbing), strength (e.g. weight training, calisthenics), endurance (e.g. fitness walking, jumping rope), rhythmic (e.g. bicycling, hiking), skill (e.g. racket sports, basketball), pounding movements (e.g. jogging, aerobic dance) gliding (e.g. sliding, stairmaster). Exercise is fun. Psychologist Dr. William Menninger explained that good mental health depends on a person's ability to play. An individual should budget some time for play and take it seriously. Mental health is directly related to physical health. Have you ever been really sick?

Exercisers don't take their health for granted. They awake and give thanks for another day to exercise. Exercise makes you smarter. Alan Hartley, Ph.D., from Scripps College in Claremont, California, studied three hundred adults aged fifty-five to eighty-eight years old. Those who exercised had better memories, reasoning abilities, and problem-solving skills. Dennis Lobstein, Ph.D., a wellness director at New Mexico Highlands University, claimed that eighty percent of the population suffers from exercise deficiency syndrome. When we don't exercise, we get stressed out. We get sick and depressed. If we exercise, chemicals are released in our brain that make us feel better. Create a balanced approach to fitness. Unlike a professional tennis player's Popeye-like forearm or a computer wizard's overused left brain, perform activities which require a combination of strength, endurance, skill, and concentration. The best athletes achieve fitness with a variety of activities and techniques.

Exercise allows a person to become who they were meant to be. They trade a wasted afternoon of TV, beer, and chips, for a productive hour of exercise, fruit, and a turkey sandwich. Or, quit smoking and go for a walk. Exercise does not have to be grunting and sweating. The action can be as simple as raking leaves or walking the dog. A walk around the block can be combined with climbing a flight of stairs. Break your exercise into mini-sessions performed throughout the day.