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Rick's Corner

MAKE A FRESH START ON FITNESS Every January 1, sedentary Americans make ambitious plans to get fit. They buy exercise books and videos; they invest in treadmills and home gyms. They resolve to do difficult, lengthy workouts. A few weeks later, what's happened? For nine people out of ten, the books and videos are on the shelf, and the expensive equipment has turned into a coat rack. Not only are these folks sedentary again; they feel bad about themselves and discouraged about exercise.

If this sounds familiar, it's not too late to try something completely different: Make a February fitness resolution that's so easy you're bound to succeed. Here's how:

* SET REALISTIC GOALS: Sure, it would be great if you could work out for an hour each day. But is that realistic? Will you really have that much time every day, month after month? If not, what about promising yourself that you'll exercise for just 15 minutes a day? No matter how busy you are, you can find 15 minutes for fitness. That still leaves 23 hours and 45 minutes for everything else you need to do. Can a 15 minute workout really make a difference? You bet! Exercise is like money in the bank: It all adds up. New research finds that brief sessions have surprising benefits for health, including lower blood pressure and even reduced risk for breast cancer.

* DESIGN A PROGRAM THAT FITS INTO YOUR LIFE: What about a daily walk around the neighborhood? If you love to get outdoors, then walking is a great way to exercise. But if winter weather will force you to cancel frequently, find another way to be active. Should you join a gym? That depends. If the gym is convenient, and you'd have a great time there, go for it! Otherwise, you need something more realistic. A few ideas:

- Build physical activity into your daily commute by walking part of the way.
- Exercise while you're watching a favorite TV show or listening to the radio.
- Recruit a buddy and socialize while you get fit.

* KEEP TRACK OF YOUR WORKOUTS: Record your workouts in an exercise diary, or just put a check on the calendar. There's nothing more satisfying than setting a goal and seeing that you've met it. With fitness, consistency is the name of the game. Exercising every day - even if it's only for 15 minutes - will make you stronger, healthier and happier.

Here's to your success!

Rick Bradley is the author, with Sarah Wernick, of Quick Fit: The Complete 15-Minute, No-Sweat workout, (Atria, 2004). The Quick Fit program packs a full workout - aerobic activity, strengthening exercises, and stretches into a mere quarter-hour. And because it's no-sweat, you don't need to wear special clothes or to shower afterward. Quick Fit is so easy, you're bound to succeed!

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