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Friday, October 12, 2012
Seven Steps to an Exercise Commitment
by Robert Hopper 

"While visions of improved health and fitness can get most of us started on an exercise program, they're notoriously weak motivators over the long haul. Fun is what really keeps us motivated. The more pleasure we get from a physical activity, the more likely we are to stick to it," says Robert Hopper, Ph.D., a former swimming champion and exercise physiologist who has helped hundreds of adults reach their fitness goals.

In the his book, Stick With Exercise for a Lifetime: How to Enjoy Every Minute of It (paperback, 2012) Hopper offers seven steps to enjoying exercise for life-and reaping the health benefits that flow from it. "Health and fitness are not the overt goals of this program, rather they are the natural byproducts of it," he says.


• Step # 1: Have fun! Hopper guides you to summon your passions in choosing lifetime activities. Revel in a hundred different recreation and leisure options, ranging from kayaking to ballroom dancing to archery to bicycle riding to bocce ball to backpacking, in addition to the tried-and-true standbys of swimming, tennis and golf. Forget the drudgery and get on your dancing shoes!

• Step #2: Get a coach. Think only the Michael Phelps's of the world have coaches? Think again. Your most valuable asset, a coach is any teacher, instructor or class leader who guides the development of your lifelong exercise program. Hopper reveals what to look for in a coach, what questions to ask, and how to get the most out of your coaching sessions.

• Step #3: Get on a team...even if they don't call themselves one. Working with a formal team or league, joining a class, or getting involved with a group of people who exercise together offers companionship, support, and an opportunity to socialize. All of these help to make exercising what it should!

• Step #4: Take time. Making exercise a priority means making time for it. Hopper offers a three-phase plan for gradually integrating exercise into your day-to-day life. He also offers lots of handy tips and tricks for protecting your exercise time.

• Step #5: Supplement your "main dish" activity with a "side dish" fitness program. When you reach the intermediate skill level, you may well develop a desire for greater strength and stamina. Hopper shows how this new motivation for fitness such as weight training or Pilates can give you the physical boost to become a better surfer, skier, dancer, tennis player, etc.

• Step #6: Lose yourself in the zone of Continuous Improvement. Athletes know of the addictive power of improvement, how it keeps them growing and getting better. Hopper explains the nature of this healthy passion with the "Getting Better Cycle," a loop that keeps you enticed and involved in exercising for a lifetime.

• Step #7: Use the psych-up and the self-con. Win at championship moments. We all know the feeling. You've been doing so well and suddenly you're hit with the temptation to start slacking off on your routine. This is what Hopper calls the "Championship Moment," a term coined when he was coaching college athletes. He offers four essential strategies for giving your healthy self the edge over that little voice that urges you to hit the couch with a bag of chips. These include the psych-up, the self-con, mental toughness, and visualization.


• Understand the difference between health and fitness. The two are often used interchangeably, but they are not synonymous. Lower blood pressure, reduced stress, a dip in cholesterol, and a reduced risk of serious illness are health benefits that accrue from exercise. You can get them from low-impact, leisurely activities like bocce ball or even gardening. Fitness benefits such as muscle toning, flexibility, and greater endurance can be gained from more rigorous activities. If you don't want to climb mountains or run marathons, don't worry! There's still plenty that you can do to reap the health benefits of regular activity-while having fun.

• You don't need to be a great athlete to learn from one. Stick with Exercise is peppered with examples of how great athletes like Michael Phelps and Dara Torres stick to their training regimens. Few of us will compete in the Olympics, but the mental and physical strategies of Olympians can help us stay on track. Hopper distills the secrets of great athletes and makes them applicable to the rest of us.

Robert Hopper, Ph.D., has assisted thousands of adults in realizing their exercise goals. The author and wellness speaker's previous books include the bestselling textbook The HSA Strategy (2006) and Healthcare Happily Ever After (2007). Hopper attended The Ohio State University, where he won an NCAA swimming championship and set the American record for the 200 individual medley in 1965. He earned his Ph.D. in exercise physiology in 1977 at the University of Southern California. A professor at Occidental College, he taught the health benefits of exercise and served as head coach of the men's swimming and water polo teams. He went on to found a health-management company, creating corporate wellness programs, and in 1996 opened a small-town insurance agency. In 2007, Hopper was honored with membership in the Occidental College Aquatics Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was inducted into The Ohio State University's Varsity "O" Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of such athletic stars as Jesse Owens and Jack Nicklaus. He lives with his wife in Santa Barbara, California. His lifetime sports include golf, bicycle riding, walking, and skiing.

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