C'mon, admit it: You're vexed by the way some people stay fit, exercising consistently while juggling work, family, volunteer work and MBA classes, all with that annoyingly cheerful demeanor and ruddy glow. How do they do it? Consumer Reports wondered, too, so the magazine surveyed 21,750 of its readers to learn why some people exercise regularly while others -- hey, get back here! -- do not.
The results, we'll wager, will motivate, not intimidate. We summarize them here; for more, see the January issue of Consumer Reports or visit its pay-per-view Web site at www.consumerreports.org.
The Moving Crew explores some facet of fitness and offer ways to overcome the excuses that keep so many of us desk- and sofa-bound. Join them, every other Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.
Thirty-eight percent of the survey respondents qualified as "successful exercisers," meaning they perform moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week, and had been doing so for a year or more.
About a third of those in the successful group were "hard core": They exercised five times a week and had kept it up for five years. (This self-selected group of responding readers is considerably more active than the U.S. population, as tracked in federal studies.)
"Bah,'' you scoff. "Out of my league." Buck up, grumpy: Many of the successes emerged after years of sedentary behavior and/or severe obesity. Here's how many of these folks pulled it off:
Stir it up Fifty-eight percent of the successful cohort participated in three or more activities per week. Walking was by far the most popular -- among all respondents, even those who work out infrequently. But the fit folks also lifted weights, cycled or played racquetball -- anything to break up the monotony of a singular pursuit.
Feel the joy More than half of the successful exercisers reported feeling "joy or exhilaration" from their workouts. It's not surprising that those who worked out more often experienced this more than the occasional movers.
Hit the bar(bell) In what Consumer Reports called "one of the most striking differences between successful and unsuccessful exercisers," 31 percent of successful folks lifted weights, compared with 3 percent of those in the equally large "unsuccessful exerciser" group. Aside from boosting strength, weight training helps prevent injury now and later by slowing the natural decline of muscle mass.
Move more Thriving exercisers were more likely than their indolent counterparts to walk or bike on daily errands. Many cycled to work, commuting up to 40 minutes each way, or walked to buy groceries. "Impossible for me," you mutter, especially if you're miles from the nearest store. But think about it: Is the nearest store really more than a mile or two away? And couldn't you find time once a week to ride or walk there, knowing you're "doubling up" by accomplishing exercise and errands in one swoop?
Schedule it Not surprisingly, more than half of those who were not successful exercisers blamed their stasis on lack of time. The successful group cited the same challenge, but said they overcome it by working out at the same time every day. Consumer Reports called this the "top strategy" for sticking with an exercise plan.
What's that you say, you really really don't have time? "At least one-fourth of respondents found time for regular exercise [even though] they had a full-time job, young children at home, or both," the report said.
The busy-but-active group's second most popular strategy, after making an "appointment"? Exercising near home or work, so a workout doesn't require a separate trip.
Have your own method for keeping yourself on a workout routine? Come share it, or just hear others' ideas, when the Moving Crew takes on strategies for success in 2005 in our online chat Thursday from 11 to noon at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/liveonline/health/movingcrew.
-- John Briley