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Become a Healthy Entrepreneur

This article was excerpted from The Entrepreneur Diet. Buy it today from EntrepreneurPress.com.

Living the life of an entrepreneur, it's easy to get lost in the cerebral side of your existence. By throwing yourself into the business, you may have lost touch with the simple joy in movement. We've come up with reality checks for the most popular excuses people have for not staying in shape.

Myth #1: I'm not athletic, so even if I wanted to become more active, I can't do it
Reality Check: There are many ways to incorporate more physical activity into your day.

Being active can take many forms and your body will burn calories with whatever type of movement you do.

Increasing activity throughout your day can include things you may not have thought of. Parking your car a few extra blocks from the office, taking the stairs in your building, standing up and pacing while on the phone, visiting your employee down the hall instead of sending an e-mail-these things take energy, and that means they eat up calories. Even when you fidget, you burn calories! In fact, in a 2005 study published in the journal Science, Mayo Clinic researchers looked at 10 lean and 10 obese individuals, and found that the obese subjects averaged two hours more of sitting per day than their slim counterparts. That resulted in 350 fewer calories burned. "Calories that people burn in their everyday activities are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined," said one of the scientists in a press release.

Household chores are another source of calorie burning--sweeping requires almost 300 calories an hour, while shoveling snow can melt nearly 500. You'll even keep burning calories after you complete an activity--generally, for every 100 calories expended while active, you'll burn about 15 calories afterward.

The bottom line is, you don't have to have a great jump shot, run a seven-minute mile, or even be coordinated to get active. You just have to get your body moving.

Myth #2: It's too late for me to exercise
Reality Check: Research shows that even those in their 90s can build new muscle and improve their speed

Maybe you haven't exercised since high school gym class or you've been away from activity since you've launched your business. You've spent too many late nights and eaten too many bacon ultimate cheeseburgers. Even if you had the time, it's too late to do anything about it now, right?

Wrong. In the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers Christian K. Roberts and R. James Barnard tackle this issue head on. "The evidence is overwhelming," they write, "that physical activity and diet can reduce the risk of developing numerous chronic diseases, including [coronary artery disease], hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several forms of cancer, and in many cases in fact reverse existing disease." And in a 1990 study conducted at the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Massachusetts, researchers looked at the effects of strength training on frail senior adults with an average age of 90. After eight weeks of high-intensity training, the participants averaged strength gains of 174 percent, increased their mid-thigh muscle by 9 percent, and improved their walking speed by 48 percent. The message: It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Myth #3: Exercise isn't enjoyable
Reality Check: It's important to find an activity that you like to do-you'll be much more likely to stick with it.

Jogging is one of the best ways to burn calories and condition your cardiovascular system, so it's worth trying to see if you like it. But it's not your only option. As we saw under Myth 1, the body burns calories with any kind of movement. Besides, if you have an aversion for an activity, how long are you going to keep at it, anyway?

The alternatives are many. You can bike outdoors or on a stationary bike; swim; walk; join a dance group; or play tennis or racquetball. Or do them all at different times in your life. Entrepreneur Susan Solovic mixes up her workouts, alternating between the treadmill and the elliptical trainer (where you stand upright and your feet move against resistance in an elliptical pattern). For even more variation, she goes walking outside or does yoga. "I believe in doing a variety of things so I don't get bored with any one routine," says Solovic, CEO and chairman of SBTV.com (Small Business Television), an internet-based television network for small businesses. "I think [boredom is] what causes people to fail."

One of the points of exercise is to enjoy the sheer act of moving your arms, your legs and your whole body-muscles, bones, joints, lungs, heart. You may remember that feeling from childhood-when it didn't matter if you were in a formal exercise program. Chances are, you just ran around and had fun. And yet you remain a physical person who can find expression in physical action. Movement lets your body revel in that very real aspect of who you are.

Myth #4: A woman will get too bulky if she lifts weights
Reality Check: Your body will change-you'll get more lean and flexible- but you won't get bulky

This myth probably has its roots in the physiques of weight lifters such as strongmen, bodybuilders, and bruising National Football League linemen. So it's not really surprising that when you walk into any health club or gym, women are scarce in the dumbbell and barbell section. But the reality is that most women just don't have enough testosterone to pack on hefty muscles. This hormone is needed to increase protein synthesis, which leads to bigger muscles. Yes, it's true, because of genetic differences, that some women will be more apt to increase muscle size than others, but this won't be at all similar to the muscle increases men show. The female bodybuilder physique is rare-these women have a genetic predisposition to build muscle and they do lots and lots of exercises. They also may take anabolic steroids and have abnormally low body fat percentages.

What a woman can expect from weight lifting is greater muscle strength- weight training makes her body better at recruiting muscle fibers to do an activity. A study from the 1970s found that weight-training women enjoyed strength gains ranging from 10 to 30 percent. At the same time, the women showed little overall increase in muscle size.

And while it's commonly thought that weight training makes you less flexible, the opposite actually is true. In another research study, ten weeks of strength training for women age 62 to 78 resulted in a 13 percent increase in their flexibility. This increased strength and flexibility, of course, means everyday life is, well, just easier. Carrying a file down the hall, hauling groceries, picking up your kids, getting out of a car-all take strength. And the stronger you are, the less stress there is on your body.

Myth #5: Exercise is dangerous
Reality Check: Working out is safe when done with proper form, a moderate progression, and your doctor's clearance.

It's clear that physical inactivity is a big risk to health. But what about the hazards of exercise-getting injured while lifting weights, getting into an accident, or suffering a medical emergency?

Of course, no activity is without its dangers. Even the proverbial crossing-of-the-street carries risks. But let's put this in perspective. While weight lifting certainly can lead to injury, this is largely avoidable-most injuries result from inexperience, improper form, or doing too much too soon. In reality, the rate of injury from training with weights and weight equipment is between 2.4 and 7.6 percent of participants in a given year.

That said, for someone with "silent atherosclerosis," or hardening of the arteries, vigorous exercise can bring on a heart attack in rare cases--so for anyone starting an exercise program, it's best to get your physician's clearance before going forward. Here's what the American Heart Association has to say on the subject: "The potential health benefits of exercise greatly outweigh the risk, although there is a very slight increased risk of death due to heart attack during vigorous exercise. Consult your doctor first if you have any concerns, have been sedentary, are overweight, are middle-aged or older, or have a medical condition."

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