The real magic bullet: consistency

Have you been as busy as I have lately? Sometimes it seems that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. You know you should exercise and you want to, yet it just never seems to get done. If you are like many of the people I know, you will exercise “when I can.” Lack of time is the biggest excuse people have for not exercising. While any exercise is better than nothing, consistent exercise will yield far greater results. I propose that you completely drop the idea of exercising “when I can” and start scheduling time for exercise. It may sound strange, but there’s infinitely more value in the phrase, “I’ll do that after my workout” rather than, “I’ll exercise if I have enough time.”

First off, let’s get over the common obstacle that we all have: time. At least 90 percent of my clients have told me that the biggest reason they did not get results on their own was a lack of time. Whoever said exercise needed to take a long time? If you believe that you do not have enough time to work out, you are probably really saying, “I don’t have two hours to go to the gym and do something that I don’t like.” That’s OK. Start off with a workout that lasts about 10 minutes. That’s it, just 10 minutes. If you stop thinking that exercise has to take a long time, then you will see that the time obstacle no longer exists!

We all exercise for different reasons. Some people want to lose fat, others want to get stronger and lots of people just want to be able to keep up with their kids. No matter what your goals are, they will be far better served by exercising consistently and often than by exercising every now and then. When I consult with new clients, I explain that how often they exercise will have a much larger impact on their results than how hard they work.

I have developed a very basic formula to help my clients understand how often they should exercise. If you exercise once per week, you will probably stay where you are and won’t see much improvement. Two exercise sessions each week will increase your fitness level, but slower than most people would want. Three times per week is ideal for most people. You can make improvements at a good pace, but you are not spending your life exercising.

If you are exercising for health reasons, then working out often is even more important. Studies have shown that frequent exercise can effectively prevent and even reverse Type II diabetes. This is because exercise increases your body’s ability to utilize insulin, preventing the disease from progressing. There are many other conditions that can be improved through exercise, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and even clinical depression.

While improving a medical condition is certainly a reason to exercise, it’s important to note that effects are only seen in frequent exercisers. To see an improvement, you need to exercise at least four times per week. That may seem like a lot of time to invest, but how much money are you spending every month on medications? If your condition continues to progress as you age, what types of complications could develop? If you could pay $10,000 to avoid these situations, I’m sure you would. The good news is that you do not need to spend any money: Simply invest some of your time.

Exercise may seem like a chore to you right now, but that’s OK. If you can just stick with it, you will soon develop the habit. Remember, you do not need to exercise very long for it to be beneficial. About 30 minutes at a time is good — even 10 will move you in the right direction. The key to getting the results you want is consistency. If you don’t do it, then you can’t reap the rewards. Compare exercise to your job: If you always show up late, waste time and go home early, will you get the big promotion you wanted? Of course not! Losing weight or being able to stop taking blood-pressure medication is like getting promoted at work. So stop making excuses. Find 10 minutes today and start by just going for a walk!

Jared Carter, CSCS, owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training, 1616 Walnut St., Suite 1508, can be reached at or at [email protected].

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