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Fighting Your Inner Sloth: Getting Into a Daily Exercise Routine

 The process of adding exercise to your busy life can be difficult, but it can be done. Even lifelong exercisers had to start somewhere. The first step is realizing that you need to start, and then deciding you are ready to start.

After you commit to adding exercise into your life, you need to decide whether you need to join a gym. In a study of 235 men and women aged 35-65, researchers compared two types of 2-year interventions to persuade people to become more active. During the first 6 months, one group was asked to work out at a gym at least 3 times a week for 20 or 30 minutes, working up to a traditional 5 day per week workout goal. The nontraditional group attended weekly discussion sessions and learned how to overcome obstacles to exercise. This group could work out at a gym or on their own. Preliminary results from the study suggest that both groups improved their fitness, although the gym-based group had better results. Members of both groups had equal improvements in blood pressure and total cholesterol reduction, proving the nontraditional approach shows promise.

An organized program is often important for novices. A study of 128 women, published in the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, found that organized exercise programs work best to treat overweight women. However, as soon as the participants were excused from the schedule, their exercise habits disintegrated.

Finding the motivation to exercise is different for every person. While one person may enjoy exercising with a spinning class, another may like being one with nature during a trail run in the woods.

Some people turn to the sports that they enjoy watching for inspiration. You may want to join a pickup basketball game in your neighborhood, or a local softball or bowling league. These are great ways to make a time commitment to regular exercise in addition to making new friends. This may be especially true for someone moving to a new area.

Once people become regular exercisers, they share certain characteristics, such as:


American Council on Exercise

American Heart Association


Public Health Agency of Canada

Canada Safety Council


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Dunn AL, Marcus BH, et al. Comparison of lifestyle and structured interventions to increase physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness: A randomized trial. JAMA. 1999;281(4):327-334.

No time for exercise? Try our top 10 tips to get more! American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated January 13, 2015. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Physical activity. American Stroke Association website. Available at: Updated May 29, 2014. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Wadden T, Vogt R, Andersen R, et al. Exercise in the treatment of obesity: Effects of four interventions on body composition, resting energy expenditure, appetite, and mood. J Consult Clin Psych. 1997;65(2):269-277.

Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 1/14/2015