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."
Exercise Myths Continued
Myth #6: It takes too much time to eat right and exercise
Reality Check: It doesn't take as much time as you may think
One of the biggest misconceptions about physical activity is that it has to come all at once--the reality is that you can accumulate activity with short bouts throughout the day. In 2001, researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition that either two bouts of 15 minutes or three bouts of 10 minutes result in similar aerobic benefits to 30 minutes of continuous activity. Also, another 2001 study, published in the journal Health Psychology, concluded that exercising for just 10 minutes improved mood, boosted vigor, and decreased fatigue.
And keep in mind that you don't have to make changes overnight--in fact, it's better if you make small incremental changes that will last. That means if you're sedentary now, you don't have to be jogging 30 minutes a day next week. Actually, you shouldn't be doing this. By approaching exercise in small chunks in the beginning, you can start stacking up successful workouts--building your confidence along the way and making it more likely that you'll stick with your new habit.
As for good nutrition, eating a healthy diet often just takes the split second required to make better food choices at the supermarket or a restaurant. For example, it takes no more time to pick up a few apples and oranges rather than grab a carton of cookie dough ice cream. It's no more trouble to throw a box of whole-grain cereal into your shopping cart instead of a box of Froot Loops.® The same goes for ordering the low-fat vinaigrette dressing at lunch rather than the full-fat blue cheese. Little choices like these throughout the week don't take any time but make big differences in the amount of calories you end up eating.
You don't even have to give up going to fast-food restaurants altogether. They shouldn't be a habit, but as with the grocery store and restaurants, it just takes making better choices--don't super size; instead of soda, drink nonfat milk; go for salads with light dressing and grilled chicken instead of the burger with cheese and bacon.
Myth #7: I won't be able to enjoy my favorite foods
Reality Check: As long as you have a generally healthy diet, occasional indulgences are OK, and there are ways to make your favorite dishes healthier and just as tasty.
If you believe this myth, you're not alone. In a national survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association in 1999, not wanting to forego favorite foods was the most frequent reason given by people who said they weren't doing anything more now than they were two years ago to eat a healthy diet. That's too bad, because this "all or nothing" attitude toward nutrition is self-defeating. You are not a machine, immune from the temptations of the chocolate mousse as the waiter wheels the dessert cart to your table.
But as long as you eat an overall healthy diet, there's nothing wrong with indulging occasionally. "There's no reason you have to give up hot fudge sundaes or French fries," registered dietitian Diane Quagliani said in a press release when announcing the American Dietetic Association survey results. "All foods can be a part of a healthful eating plan--it's all a matter of minding how often and how much you eat of some foods."
It's also possible that eliminating all those enticing foods from your menu will make them all the more alluring, and you just may end up gorging if you can't stand it anymore. But by allowing yourself periodic "cheat" foods, you'll satisfy a craving in a controlled way. Aside from treating yourself on occasion, there also are ways to make your favorite foods healthier-without sacrificing flavor.
Myth #8: No pain, no gain
Reality Check: While exercising may cause soreness, pain doesn't have to be part of your fitness routine.
With exercise, especially if you're new to it, there is some normal level of discomfort. After all, you're jolting your body from its resting state, making it jump into action, and causing changes all the way down to the cellular level. That's how your body gets stronger.
But just how intense and uncomfortable does exercise have to be? Activities that are intense or long in duration--such as running for a distance--can give health benefits beyond less-strenuous exercise. But the pace of a brisk walk is sufficient to boost the heart rate to a level benefiting overall health, according to researcher Kyle McInnis at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. When he asked obese men and women to maintain a "brisk but comfortable" pace while walking, the subjects all reached recommended exercise intensity levels.
"You really can get your heart rate up to the level that your doctor would recommend, and you don't have to jog or run to do it," McInnis said in 2003. "A large segment of the population still believes exercise must be vigorous, demanding, or involve more complicated activities than walking to adequately raise their heart rate. This perception of 'no pain, no gain' can discourage people from starting to exercise at all."
That's not to say that you won't feel some soreness after a workout. But be aware of pain caused by injury. "Good" soreness tends to be symmetrical--you'll feel it in both legs, say, from doing the squat exercise. "Bad" pain is typically on one side-your left knee, for example, after doing those squats. Also, there's a difference between joint pain (not good) and muscle pain (usually OK). Joint pain tends to be very specific, and you'll know the exact spot that hurts-which usually is on or near the joint. Muscular pain is more diffuse.
Myth #9: It's inevitable that I'll gain weight as I age, so it's not worth fighting it
Reality Check: Exercise can counteract the natural tendency to gain weight with age
It's true we tend to put on pounds the older we get-at least in our middle years. Researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine followed more than 5,000 Americans for 20 years starting in 1971, and found that people put on weight until middle age, stabilized, and then started to lose weight around the age of 60. The causes may include hormonal changes (for example, women undergo shifting levels of estrogen) and a genetic predisposition.
So if it can't be helped, why worry about it? Because other causes of age-related weight gain are under your control--one of the most important being strength training. From our mid-20s to our mid-50s, every year on average we lose one-half pound of muscle and add a pound of fat. Not good, when you consider that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, and so our metabolism slows down by 5 percent every year.
But through resistance training, you can counteract that muscle atrophy and actually put on muscle. Add in other lifestyle changes--like aerobic exercise and eating wisely--and you'll defeat the middle-age spread.
Myth #10: I have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment to get in shape
Reality Check: You can exercise just about anywhere, anytime, and with minimal equipment
Late-night infomercials want you to believe that fitness can be found in a contraption you can buy with three easy payments of $19.99. But exercise doesn't require complicated machines-you even can do some challenging exercises using just your body weight. Take Stephen Gatlin, founder and CEO of Gatlin Education Services. He's a regular runner, but he also adds push-ups to his fitness routine on a regular basis-"50 good, solid push-ups in a row," he says. "It doesn't do a whole lot of good to cheat yourself."
True, joining a gym can give you access to a personal trainer and plenty of weights and machines, and being around other people exercising can be a good source of motivation. But working out at a health club isn't necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle. Stash a pair of dumbbells and a medicine ball under your office desk or in the garage, and you have a miniworkout facility at work or home.
Now that these health and fitness fictions have been uncovered, it's time to get started on the path to exercise and good nutrition. And the best place to begin is with a quick assessment of your current level of fitness.
This article was excerpted from The Entrepreneur Diet. Buy it today from EntrepreneurPress.com.