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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Getting and Staying in the Exercise Habit

Mar 06, 2011 03:53PM ● By Kim Childs

The numerous benefits of exercise are powerful reasons to make it a regular habit. But many who start an exercise plan that’s too aggressive or ill-suited to their bodies often give up, says Newton personal trainer and life coach, Debra Bennett. “People often have a perfectionist approach to exercise,” she says. “It’s all or nothing—they’re ‘good’ or they’re ‘bad,’ and they’re going full pace and exhausting themselves or they’re doing nothing.”

Bennett encourages her clients to adopt what she calls a yogic approach to fitness. This means starting where they are, heeding their body’s messages and building upon their own successes, instead of competing or comparing. “So maybe someone’s a couch potato today, but if they walk for 15 minutes tomorrow, that’s a big change,” she says. “From there, they can keep building.”

The first step is to get moving, says Bennett, who recommends starting with a plan of cardiovascular exercise (e.g., walking, swimming or bicycling) three times a week and strength training (via Pilates, weight-bearing exercises, free weights or machines) once a week.

Building basic core and upper body strength is important, as is regularly stretching the lower back and hamstrings. “You want to get a bit of fitness in those key areas before you start doing lunges, heavy lifting or even complicated yoga,” says Bennett, who also likes her clients to use a heart monitor when exercising.

Stay accountable by committing to a walking or workout partner, joining a gym or fitness program at work, taking a weekly class or booking regular sessions with a trainer or coach. Other tips include securing childcare, getting some home exercise equipment and DVDs and keeping an iPod loaded with favorite songs. Consistency keeps a body in motion, says Bennett, and fitness professionals can help clients to identify and overcome obstacles, correct alignment and adjust goals over time.

Bennett has helped clients to overcome insomnia and migraines with plans that include cardiovascular exercise, yoga, conscious breathing, nutrition and lifestyle changes that reduce stress. Others have similarly lowered their blood pressure and established healthy cholesterol levels. Another big benefit, she adds, is more fun. “I consistently hear feedback that exercise is now pleasurable, because they’re not overworking; they’re choosing activities that are fun and they’re starting to see results.”

For more information and to sign up for Debra Bennett’s monthly e-newsletter, call 617-794-7123 or visit