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The Five Don'ts of Exercising

Be wise about the way you exercise.

Exercise advice usually comes in a list of do's rather than a list of don'ts. Yet unless we sweep away the cobwebs in our thinking, we may not reap the benefits of regular exercise.

See also: Make the most of your gym time

Here's a list of don'ts that I compiled from several sources, as well as from my own personal mistakes.

Don't make exercise one more dreaded chore on your to-do list. Find exercises you love to do. Consider your exercise time your daily treat, a mini-vacation from the stress of life. Focus on your body while you are exercising. Making the experience of feeling your body become alive and energetic its own intrinsic reward.

Don't assume you are too old, out of shape, or disabled to begin. If you're breathing, you can find an exercise routine just right for you. Talk with your doctor about your concerns and get help from a professional, such as a physical therapist or a personal trainer.

The benefits of exercise are too wonderful to ignore. And the link between lack of exercise and medical problems, potentially life-threatening ones, grows stronger daily. Not only can exercise prevent many health problems, it is also a treatment for many chronic conditions.

If we ignore our bodies, we do so at our own peril. Use these "don'ts" to figure out what to do to make your body stronger, more energetic, and more flexible.

Don't add high-calorie energy bars and energy-boosting drinks to your diet because you are exercising. Unless you are training to be an elite athlete, your standard eating schedule (for example, three meals a day) should be enough to sustain your energy. And don't make the mistake of rewarding yourself with a donut because you've exercised!

Don't assume you have to do all your exercise at one time or that exercise happens only in a gym. In fact, short exercise breaks throughout the day are good for you and may be more practical, especially for caregivers and others with demanding schedules. Take the stairs, park at the edge of the lot, and walk rather than drive to the mailbox. Purchase a videotape and work out 20 minutes at the beginning of your day.

Don't exercise when in pain. Serious pain is your body's way of telling you to slow down. If your body hurts, back off. Exercise should make you feel better, not worse.

Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARPFat to Fit online community.

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