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Tips to get fit that anyone can do, fit into their schedule

Columnist Harvey Mackay's philosophy is exercise doesn't take time; it makes time.

Harvey Mackay column sig

Two of the most popular New Year's resolutions are to exercise more and to lose weight. New year, new you -- right? However, by February -- or even earlier -- those purchased exercise machines are collecting dust and people are canceling gym memberships in droves.

Unfortunately, the only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, running down others, side-stepping responsibility and pushing their luck. Don't be like the person who thinks that tossing and turning at night should be considered exercise, or like the guy who spends his time at the gym doing diddly squats.

Starting to exercise is easier than you think. Start small and give your body time to adjust. Even 10 minutes a day should fit into most schedules. Before long, 10 minutes won't be enough.

It's hard to change habits, but this habit is worth the effort.

Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, especially as we age. I've gained a lot by staying active.

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A lot of people think they need to be athletic to exercise. Not true. There are many ways to stay active: ride a bike, dance, hike, do yoga, clean house and work in the garden. Listen to music or podcasts while you move. Just do something!

Consider the many free and simple ways to incorporate activity into your daily routine. If you are a golfer, walk the course instead of using a cart. Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Park farther away from your destination and walk the extra distance.

I used to run three to five miles a day, but as years go by, I walk more instead. Walking is one of the easiest and most convenient activities you can do. Walking helps my fitness and clears my thinking.

This isn't a new idea. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician considered the father of Western medicine, wrote about the dangers of too little physical activity. Is it any wonder that the Olympic Games originated in Greece?

A zillion studies have documented the health benefits of an active lifestyle and exercise, such as fending off heart attacks, improving balance and reducing risk of falls, improving sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, controlling blood pressure and preventing diseases like arthritis, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

I've been exercising 60 to 90 minutes a day most of my life. It just makes me feel better, gives me energy to work more productively and, I hope, live longer. My philosophy is exercise doesn't take time; it makes time.

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Create a routine that works for you. For example, I've been told by countless trainers that exercising in the morning is best. I struggle to find time for that, but exercising at night while watching the news or a sporting event on TV works well for my schedule.

The only bad workout is the one that didn't happen. Good things come to those who sweat.

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Fitness is not about being better than someone else. It's about being better than you used to be. And stretching is an important part of fitness. Did you know that stretching goes back to the ancient Greeks, who encouraged their soldiers and athletes to stretch?

I constantly preach this lesson: Practice makes perfect -- not true. You have to add one word. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice something time and time again and, if you don't know what you are doing, all you are really doing is perfecting an error. You have put a ceiling on how good you can become.

I'm a big believer in having coaches for various activities. My marathon coach helped me complete 10 marathons. I have a stretching coach named Aaron Taylor who has added years to my life. I am motivated by the statement "Sore today, strong tomorrow."

Aaron has a book, "Stretching Your Way to a Pain-Free Life," to help you learn the right stretching concepts. I'm such a believer, I wrote the foreword for his book.

I don't know of any sport that you play where you don't warm up first, and stretching should be part of the preparation. Just like exercise, a good stretch clears up your mind and body.

Aaron has given me an extra 10-15 yards on my golf drives thanks to superior stretching. That's big for me because I play golf for $1 million in pride every week with my buddies, and I'll take every advantage I can get.

Mackay's Moral: Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live in.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at www.harveymackay.com , by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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