How to fit exercise into your day

Sam sets his alarm every morning for 5:30 a.m. so he can slip into the high school swimming pool by 6:30 to work on his endurance and the efficiency of his breast stroke. Have you noticed that swimmers are almost always morning people? If you’re not a morning person, you’re probably not a swimmer.


Football and basketball, wrestling, and track and field types usually work out after school to get in shape for their sport. But you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from regular exercise-we all need to fit workouts in every week with a home fitness machine. You can readĀ Spin Bike Reviews to have more information.

Fitting in exercise, though, is a challenge in itself. Just where are those cracks and crevices in the day? If you have a daily schedule full of intellectual and social pursuits, and you participate in theater, music, or the newspaper after school, how do you fit a workout in? And, once you’ve figured out your schedule, what can you do to keep motivated and to avoid having your good intentions dry up and blow away in the wake of a heroic start?

These questions were posed to some real high school kids.

David Bikes It

David Vanderlaan is a sophomore theater buff who also is involved in his school’s choral music program. David ranks high in his class academically, has a very busy schedule, but nevertheless finds time for a daily bike ride, whether it’s the real thing or the stationary variety.

“In the summer,” David says, “I get in 20 miles almost every day. It takes me the better part of an hour. During the school year, I still go outside when the weather allows, but if not, I hop on my dad’s stationary bike and work out for a similar period of time. I usually do it after my homework, or in between assignments in the evening. But it’s an important part of my day, and I do fit it in.”

Liana Takes Time for Tai Chi

tai-chi-chuanLiana Vazquez Gits is a junior who is a soloist in her high school’s choral music program. She takes a full academic load and is an honor roll student as well. Liana practices Tai Chi Chuan, a flowing oriental dance, in the morning before school for about 40 minutes, several days a week.

“I love doing Tai Chi,” she says. “For me it’s a physical form of meditation that develops self-control in my body and my mind. It helps me in my music, my academics, and in almost everything else I do during the day. But if I didn’t find the time in the early morning hours, it wouldn’t get done. That’s the only hole in my schedule right now.”

John Plans on Fun

“How do I get exercise in? I guess I just plan fun into my schedule,” says freshman John Dotto. He is an honor roll student, active in debate, chess club, and his school newspaper, who admits to having so many girlfriends that he has a hard time keeping track of their names. But even with his wild and crazy schedule, a regular workout is part of his week.

“I play roller hockey on the weekends. I get in a game of volleyball or a set or two of tennis during the week. In the spring and summer, I make it to the golf course several times a week. I even jump up and down when I play chess,” John says. “It seems like the more fun I plan for the week, the more of a workout I get, and that’s the way I like it to be,” he adds with a smile.

Make it Fun

warming-upRegularity and longevity are the two real keys to a successful exercise program. Anything you do regularly over a significant period of time is a winner. Anything you start but quit after two or three weeks is a loser, and you may as well not start at all.

As a rule, it’s best to start small and build if and when you feel like building. The basic idea is that you can only start from where you are, not where you or someone else thinks you should be.

With a little imagination a fitness program can be exciting, even adventurous. It is for this reason that athletes choose sports-oriented workouts. But there are plenty of other ways to spice up a workout routine.

You might, for example, really enjoy a leisurely run on a forest path, communing with Nature. Or you may find joy in learning self-control with yoga or martial arts. Step aerobics might be a challenge that you enjoy on a regular basis. In any case, the main point is “make it fun.”

One of the ways to maximize the fun is to include variety in your workout. Doing the same old routine every day can get tedious, dull, and, well … routine. That’s why cross-training has become so popular.

When you plan, keep in mind that there are three basic parts to physical fitness: physical strength (achieved in activities such as calisthenics or weight lifting), endurance or cardiovascular conditioning (found in activities such as running or jumping rope), and flexibility (found in stretching). If you use these three categories as your basic menu and choose something from each, you will have planned a workout that is not only lively and fun but produces results as well.

Always include warming-up and cooling-down exercises. In order to avoid injury, experts advise taking 3 to 5 minutes to warm up and to stretch before getting into the main activity. On the back side, a cool-down also allows you to slowly come back to a resting state.

Make Exercise a Habit

Plan for three or four workouts each week. On your off days, you could spend 5 to 10 minutes keeping an exercise diary, charting your progress, or just relaxing.

The world is made up of many different kinds of people. And everyone requires some regular physical exercise in order to function at his or her highest level. So fit some exercise into your week, make it fun, plan some variety–but most of all, make exercise a habit. You’ll not only be healthier, but you’ll be happier too.

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First World Problems?

The global importance of emotions and health.


Here’s something to smile about: researchers have known for a while that there’s a connection between emotions and health. People with positive emotions tend to report being healthier-they even live longer-and those with negative emotions report being less healthy. But a limitation of this research was that it was focused on people in the developed world, leaving one team of researchers to wonder if the connection between emotions and health was just a “First World problem.” In other words, in a part of the world where people might not have adequate food or shelter, would emotions still be strongly tied to health?

To answer that question, they surveyed more than 150,000 people in 142 different countries, asking them about recent positive feelings, negative feelings, their self-reported health, and questions about whether they felt safe and secure where they lived, as well as about food and shelter. Their conclusions? Not only was the connection between emotions and health found to hold true globally, but the connection between positive emotions and good health was actually stronger in poorer countries, as their recent article in Psychological Science reports. Sarah Pressman, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, says they wanted to know if the emotion-health connection would “matter in a place where people are in wars, where people are starving, where they’re homeless, and surprisingly enough, it not only mattered, but it mattered more, which was quite a big surprise to us.”

A poor country like Rwanda, for example, had a strong connection between positive emotions and good self-reported health, while the same connection was less strong in Peru, and even weaker in Switzerland. Strikingly, people’s reported emotions actually had twice as strong a correlation with their health than their food and shelter situation did. (To be sure, people who reported inadequate food and shelter were less likely to say they were healthy, but their emotions had a stronger relationship with their physical health.)

EmotionsThe researchers were left with a simple question: why would the connection between positive emotions and good health be stronger in the developing world? One theory, Pressman says, is that access to medicine in rich countries might mitigate the connection between emotions and health. For example, medication that lowers blood pressure can help someone who is stressed become physically healthier, while a person without access to that medication might demonstrate an uninterrupted connection between their emotions and their health.

Greg Miller, a psychology professor at Northwestern University who studies the relationship between stress and health, noted that the amount of data the researchers have collected is “impressive,” but said that one limiting factor to the study is that the information on emotions and health was self-reported by the survey participants. And whether or not there is a causal relationship between health and emotions is unclear. “It’s hard to know from these data whether it’s people’s mood that’s affecting their health, their health affecting their mood, [or] their personality that’s affecting both their health and their mood,” he says, adding that in different settings the relationship could be different. The next step, he says, is to “dig deeper.”

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Teaching children about sundials is an exercise


The other morning I took my homemade sundial out and put it on its pedestal on our back lawn. The sun hadn’t risen over the neighbour’s house yet, so it was still in shadow. I puttered around the birdfeeder, cleaning up seeds and hulls spilled over the winter and, soon enough, I noticed the sundial was bathed in brilliant morning prairie sunshine.

I went over, and the shadow of the gnomon fell slightly past the 10 numeral. I looked at my pocket watch, and it was five minutes after 10. I nodded to the sun, and said, “You’re right on time again, welcome back to the northern hemisphere.”

My sundial is an equatorial type, that is, the face where the numerals are is parallel with the earth’s equator, so the sun’s rays only shine on it after the first day of spring, and only until the first day of autumn. I made it to conform to daylight savings time, too, so I don’t put it out until the clocks are put ahead.

Sundials are so fascinating. And so simple. They have no moving parts, and yet will keep time for centuries, if the elements themselves don’t destroy them.

And yet they are complex, too. They must be made for a particular longitude and latitude, and will be accurate only there. We live in the central time zone, but a time zone is so wide, the sun can only possibly be at one spot at high noon by our clocks. Our city is 10 degrees west of this meridian, so I had to factor that in when calibrating the angles.

It was an intriguing pastime, learning the intricacies of sundials, and of the many varieties there are. I even made an “analematic” sundial on our lawn, where children can stand on a certain brick, according to the month, and their shadow points to round stone markers in the ground with numbers on them, indicating the time. I offered to make one for the city, to amuse children when walking through the park, but they never responded.


Teaching children about sundials is an exercise in astrophysics, our solar system, geometry, time zones, and the phenomenon of the “equation of time.” It can also be a hands-on project to make rudimentary sundials out of everyday items, such as old bicycle rims, or bleach bottles. For youngsters, it can be kept happily simple, yet can become extraordinarily complex when delving deeper into the subject, requiring trigonometry and basic engineering skills.

When children ask “Why doesn’t it work in winter?” I show them how the equatorial plane of the Earth isn’t the same as the equatorial plane of the sun, using any spherical objects handy. I’m never sure if they grasp it, but they pay attention.

I once had an old globe. I put a screw into the spot where our city was situated, attached a string to it, and suspended it from a horizontal overhead board. Then I aligned the north and south poles with the real north and south.

That globe was then exactly like our Earth in relation to the sun; where the sun was shining on that globe, it was day, and where the border between sun and shade appeared on that globe, that was where it was either dawn or dusk in the real world. It showed why the north pole was so sunny in summer, but the south pole was mostly in shadow.

Sundials are enduring and faithful. No matter what the state of the world, the sundial pays no attention; just give it a sunny day and it does its job.

I can never work in our yard, without at least once strolling over and taking a look at the sundial silently measuring the hours. It is proof that we’re part of a much larger system.

I would encourage anyone, with or without a family: if you’re looking for something to give your mental faculties a little extra-curricular exercise, take up a study of sundials.

Your children will love it, believe me. You will, too.

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Going Back to School to Exercise And Chat

exercise-machineHOW much does it cost to work out on state-of-the-art exercise machines and to be professionally supervised while doing so? For those who live in the boroughs of Allendale or neighboring Upper Saddle River, it’s free.

Northern Highlands Regional High School here, which serves both communities, opens its fitness center Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 P.M. for use by local residents. And more and more people are taking advantage of it.

On a recent evening, most of the 15 Nautilus aerobic machines and several of the free weight stations were in use. Ruth Auer of Allendale was working out a leg-strengthening device. Since she has been coming to the center, she said, she could notice her thighs getting slimmer and stronger.

Mrs. Auer said part of her enjoyment of the center came not only from the fact that it is free but also that ”the teachers are terrific.”

Carl Mortensen, supervisor of health and physical education at the school, and his wife, Sue, a gym teacher there, are on hand to take the medical history of each participant and to measure flexibility and strength. Then they devise a personal training program and turn participants loose on the equipment while watching discreetly but vigilantly in the background. The Mortensens volunteer their time at no cost to the school. A standard signed medical release form absolves the school from any extra liability, said the school’s business administrator, John Kowalsky. He said the school’s general liability policy covers any injuries that might arise from the workouts. ‘We Saw an Opportunity’

Most of the equipment was acquired when a local fitness center, the Classic Gym in Mahway, was updating and put its machinery up for auction in late fall of 1988. ”We saw an opportunity and we went for it,” Mr. Mortensen said.

By last December, Northern Highlands’ old-style gym had been revamped as one of the finest fitness centers in the area. Because of the center’s reputation, Mr. Mortensen said, school administrators from Mahwah, Fort Lee and Montvale, among others, have visited to see how the center is operated.


Northern Highlands managed to get the Nautilus circuit for $24,000. The price might have been double, Mr. Mortensen said, had the school not paid cash up front and enlisted the aid of the football team to move and set it up in the 30-by-50-foot room.

Costs for this equipment and for even more newly acquired apparatus have been paid mostly from an equipment account in the $8 million school budget. In addition, the school sponsors ”benchathons”, in which students are paid by donors to curl their biceps at so much a curl. The Home and School Association and other class projects donate as well. More Than Just Exercise

Greeting one another enthusiastically one recent evening, residents could be seen using the center for more than just trimming and tightening. They were enjoying the camaraderie, too.

William Pratt, a retired Pan Am pilot from Upper Saddle River, and Sherrie Emerson, of Allendale, a teacher, were comparing their back problems and agreeing that certain machines strengthened their weak vertebrae.

Alfred and Clarissa Bruno, a father and daughter from Upper Saddle River, were using the neck apparatus over in the corner.

”Dad talked me into coming here, and now I love it,” Ms. Bruno said. The Brunos usually make it a family affair, said Mr. Bruno, a real-estate agent.

Edward FitzPatrick, Allendale’s former Mayor, dropped by to say hello. He said he was out for his ”nightly constitutional,” but wanted to stop at this midway point for a chat.

During the day the fitness center belongs to the students. Mr. Mortensen that since the expansion of the center, 50 percent of the 720 students scored at the 70th percentile on the Presidential Challenge Physical Fitness Test, in such areas as pull-ups, arm hangs, curl-ups and the mile run.

Beryl Silver, a senior taking Advanced Marketing II, has enlisted the center’s aid in coordinating her assignment, a 40-page research paper on how to counteract high cholesterol levels. The center will help her by overseeing a medically supervised cholesterol check next spring on about 200 students.

”Every day, our cafeteria serves lots of grease and fats, like pizza and french fries,” Miss Silver said. ”It’s time kids started worrying about the fat saturation of the food content they’re putting in their bodies. You can’t start too early.”

Mrs. Emerson said that even though she was ”a klutz who walks into walls and trips on sidewalks,” when she leaves the center she is ”ready to tackle the world.”

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Step into fitness

When it comes to fitness, taking walks is a great way to exercise. The health benefits really stack up if you follow a regular walking program. Amanda Mandel, a New York City freshman in high school, discovered some of the perks when she started walking at age 13. “I lost weight,” says Amanda, who is now 30 pounds lighter. “I feel more fit, I am more confident about myself, and have strong calf muscles. I can play sports better now too.”

Amanda walks about two miles, four times a week, around her neighborhood. She also speed walks every few blocks. Hikes, however, have become her favorite way to walk. “I love the challenge of climbing [hills] and doing hiking trails,” she says. “I like it best when it gets challenging, and then I feel good when I finish.”


Walk Off Stress!

The feel-good aspect of walking is one of its biggest pluses. Research shows that walking can help improve people’s moods. A recent study released by the American College of Sports Medicine reported that brisk walking reduces feelings of tension and anxiety, whether you take one 30-minute walk or three 10-minute walks a day. “It helps clear my head from school,” notes Amanda. “After I walk, I really wake up and I’m able to focus on my homework.”

Walking gives us positive energy, says Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, Amanda’s mother and author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul. “When we exercise,” says Mandel, “we boost our energy levels and clarify our thinking by bringing oxygen to the brain.”

Walk for Aerobic Fitness

Although walking is not as intense as jogging or running, it can improve aerobic, or cardiovascular, fitness. The key is to maintain a steady brisk pace, about 15 minutes per mile. You must walk fast enough to keep your heart rate in your target zone, but not so fast that you cannot carry on a conversation. To learn how to figure out your target-zone range, see “In the Target Zone” on this page.

You should check your pulse while you walk to make sure your heart rate stays within your target-zone range.

Walk to Avoid Disease

Walking increases your cardiovascular endurance as well as lowers blood pressure and reduces blood cholesterol. These are all important factors in preventing problems such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. “The faster and harder you walk, the greater the benefit for your heart,” says Andrew Flach, co-author of Walk the Weight Away!

A walking program can help protect your bones from osteoporosis, a disease that causes a loss in bone density. Walking helps make bones stronger because it forces them to support your body’s weight, Flach explains.

Walk to Lose Weight

An average-size person burns approximately 90 to 100 calories for every mile walked. Says Flach: “Walking improves muscle tone, especially around the buttocks and hips.” Best of all, it’s great for weight loss, because you can do it for free, anytime, anywhere, with anyone.”

“As my mother says, just put on your sneakers and walk out the door,” says Amanda. “Start off slowly and every week go a little farther and faster. Eventually, you will be surprised by how much you have accomplished. That worked for me.”

Pace Yourself

walkingBefore you start your own walking program, consider the answer to these questions:

  1. What is my goal? If your walks have a purpose, whether it’s weight loss, stress reduction, or general fitness, you will be more motivated to stick with it.
  2. How much time can I spare? Aim to walk for 30 minutes, three times a week. You can walk longer or faster as you progress.
  3. Will I walk alone? A walking partner can encourage you to stick to the program and will make it more enjoyable.
  4. Where will I walk? Choose a safe path with a pleasant environment. For variety, try to find different terrain (hills, flat pavement, loose gravel, etc.). Indoor walking at a mall is another good alternative especially if the weather is bad. Take the stairs for a greater challenge.
  5. How will I walk? Start out slowly as a warm-up before building up to your full walking speed. Afterward, perform full-body stretches to cool down and loosen your muscles.

In the Target Zone

Your target-zone heart rate is 60 to 85 percent of your maximal heart rate (the fastest your heart can beat). To calculate your maximal heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example:

A 15-year-old has a maximal heart rate of 205 beats per minute (bpm):

[220 – 15 = 205].

60 percent of 205 is 123 bpm:

(205 x .60 = 123).

85 percent of 205 is 174 bpm:

(205 x .85 = 174).

The target zone, therefore, is 123 to 174 beats per minute.


Students will be able to identify resources that will enable them to set goals and structure a plan to help them meet their goals.



  • Describe some of the health benefits of walking for exercise regularly. (Walking can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. Setting goals and challenges for your walking can contribute to a feeling that you can take charge and be successful. Walking can also help a person manage stress, feel more awake and alert, and focus on the tasks they must accomplish. It can contribute to aerobic and cardiovascular fitness. Walking can also increase cardiovascular endurance, lower blood pressure, and increase HDL levels, or the so-called good cholesterol.)
  • In order to contribute to aerobic and cardiovascular fitness, your walking should be maintained at a brisk pace. Describe briefly how a person can judge what a brisk pace is. (If you are walking at a brisk pace, your heart should be in your target zone, without being so fast that you cannot carry on a conversation.)


Assign students to locate Web resources that will enable them to set goals and deveop a plan to help them meet their goals. Each student should locate a Web site that they feel will help them to fill these needs and print the home page of the site. They should attach a paragraph in which they describe the reasons that they feel this particular site is a valid resource and that it would be helpful. Then have them use Reproduction Master 2, “My Exercise Plan,” to identify goals and meet them. NOTE: When you accept a site from a student, mark the date, time, and the student’s name and class on it.


PE Central is an educational and fun Web site that can help you create activities that are engaging and sure to help you to get students involved and motivated. It can be found at This site has information about resources and activities related to walking. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute also offers many resources targeted to increasing exercise, with the result of helping people become more fit. It can be found at

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How competitive are you?


The thumping of a basketball resounds off the driveway from late afternoon until 10 every night as Alex gets ready for the Friday basketball game. He thrives on the competition and takes his practicing seriously.

His sister wheels her bike out of the garage every afternoon for a 10-mile ride along the nearby bike path. Alex watches her put her helmet on. “What kind of athlete are you?” he asks.

“I’m interested in fitness, not competition,” she retorts.

“I’m fitter than you’ll ever be,” Alex calls to his sister’s back.

Are Only Competitive Athletes Fit?

footballCompetition can be defined as a situation in which two people vie for a prize, honor, or advantage-or a win. You can easily see how this applies to traditional competitive sports such as football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. A competitive person loves this rivalry and works hard to get the win.

You can expand this definition of competition and say that competition can mean one person trying for a prize. Now the definition can apply to sports-such as weight training, in-line skating, swimming, and jogging-that can be considered noncompetitive as well as competitive. However, in these sports you can compete with yourself by lifting more, swimming farther, or jogging faster; or you can just get out for an hour of exercise.

By these definitions, Alex and his sister are both right. A person can be fit whether that person is competitive or not.

Fitness Benefits of Competitive Sports

Competitive-SportsCompetitive athletes stay fit with a variety of activities that keep them in shape for their sport. Football players don’t just throw passes, and baseball players don’t just bat the ball. Scott Fushi, who teaches weight training, triathlon, and jump-roping at a recreation center, says: “Kids in competitive sports know that the cross-training they get will make them better in every sport. Football players swim and do weight training. Baseball players run sprints. The training they do for their sport helps their bodies to function better every day.”

While one of the goals of competitive sports is to win, winning should not become your only objective. The Youth Sports Institute at Michigan State University asked 26,000 children ages 10 to 18 why they participated in sports. The number one answer was “for fun.” Number two was “to improve skills.” Number three was “to stay fit.” And number l0 was “to win.” Many teen athletes say they would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning team.

Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers, is often misquoted. He didn’t say, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” What he actually said was, “Winning isn’t everything, but the effort to win is.” When you make your goal an individual one of striving to improve your performance, you’ll get the fitness benefits and the fun of participating on a team.

Fitness Benefits of Noncompetitive Sports

CyclingNot everyone who wants to be fit enjoys team sports. Fushi has seen a change in the kinds of sports teens participate in. “I’d say about 30 percent to 40 percent of teens want to keep fit by doing something noncompetitive,” he says.

Training in noncompetitive sports can help you do better in other activities. For instance, a weight-training workout can help you have a stronger back. With a stronger back, you’ll be able to hike to the top of a mountain or lift things.

One advantage of noncompetitive sports is that these are often activities that you can do throughout the year and continue to do throughout your lifetime. (There aren’t many 40-year-olds playing football.)

Choosing noncompetitive sports instead of competitive sports doesn’t mean you don’t need to put forth an effort or you don’t have the fun of winning. Fushi tells his students, “Winners finish and finishers win.” Everyone who participates in his triathlons gets an award. Athletes in noncompetitive sports compare their performances today with what they did last week. Winning is not necessarily one of their goals.

One disadvantage of noncompetitive sports is that you don’t have the motivation of regularly scheduled practices and games. You don’t have to go for that jog today, so you may not. To get yourself moving, sign up for a class or set a regular time to go biking with a friend.

What’s the best sport for you? The best sport, says Fushi, is the one you like to do.

CHECK OUT theĀ Competition

Pick the statement that most closely describes your attitude, and then find out how competitive you are and what activities you might enjoy.

  1. When my team loses, I feel bad for a while, but then I think of the next game and what I can do to help the team do better.
  2. It’s great when we win, but I’m more interested in doing better than I did in the last game.
  3. I love to exercise, but I don’t want to have to spend all that time getting ready for a game.
  4. I like to do things my own way.

If your answer is:

  • You’re highly competitive. You will probably enjoy the practices and excitement of being on varsity sports teams. If you don’t make the top team on the first try, keep working with a coach to acquire the skills you lack.
  • Competition inspires you, but you don’t spend every waking hour practicing.
  • You work just as hard as your friends on teams, but you prefer to put your energy into biking, jogging, or gymnastics. Your main competition is yourself, but you may also occasionally compete in a race or a meet.
  • You may need some motivation to get fit. Try signing up for a recreation center or YMCA class. You can choose an activity you’ll enjoy from a variety offered. You may want to pick something different, such as aerobics, dancing, or rock climbing.
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