Curb the New Year’s Enthusiasm Spasm

I don’t usually use this blog to talk about what’s in the news or re-post items from other blogs, but this article is too important to pass up, especially during the first week of New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve been talking a lot about the benefits of moderation. Psychologically, it helps reduce the feeling of obligation, whether to diet, exercise, or engage in any other healthy behavior because you “really should.” Despite whatever  may get you started on the new regimen (and new year’s resolutions are prime examples) the steam soon runs out and the feeling of being forced takes over. Then the rebellion kicks in.

That’s why I couldn’t pass up this blog post in the New York Times this week that summarizes the past year of research about the benefits of moderate exercise and the hazards of trying to be too “good” about it. Not only is moderate exercise beneficial, more than that can be hazardous. Even without knowing that, it’s important to realize that almost all of the benefit of exercise is obtained by doing small things that you would do anyway, but doing them a little more actively. Working out longer and harder offers only a marginal benefit which, as the research points out,  is outweighed by the risks of injury.

Taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator, walking to a more distant subway or bus stop, and parking on the far side of the lot at the mall are all common examples of how to be more physically active without pain and with gain. A brisk walk, with or without a dog, or a leisurely jog with walking breaks when it starts to feel not-so-leisurely are all perfectly good and enjoyable ways to get the exercise you need to stay healthy and live longer.

What about exercising to lose weight? Here’s another article from the Times that summarizes the research on that. To boil it down  even more: it’s overrated. The best way to lose weight is to eat normally; eat what you like and only how much you need to feel satisfied (hunger and desire); don’t diet but don’t overeat.

Instead of resolving to be the exerciser you never were, and don’t really want to be,  resolve instead to be more active and less sedentary. And don’t give in to the enthusiasm spasm.

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