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Get fit in '06
For a healthier new year

people jogging "Get fit" is among the most popular New Year's resolutions in the U.S., and for many good reasons.

Exercise is a major health (and mood) booster. It helps the heart by raising the “good” HDL cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, reducing body fat, and strengthening the entire cardiovascular system. And research shows that even sporadic exercisers with low coronary risk (i.e., those who didn’t smoke and had normal weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels) are less likely to die from any cause than those who didn’t exercise at all during a 10-year study.

Exercise can also reduce the risk of developing dementia in people over 65, energize people who have diseases, and reduce the symptoms and changes brought on by menopause. And early birds who exercise in the morning have less trouble sleeping at night.

Short workouts are better than none, so you don’t need to do a triathlon to gain an advantage. Try to do moderate aerobics, about 30 to 60 minutes, four to five times a week.

Here are some simple steps you can take to work out safely--and enjoyably--at this time of year.


Coping with the cold

Layer for warmth. In winter, exercise clothes should keep you warm and allow sweat to escape, and layers allow you to shed or add as needed. For underwear and socks, fabrics that whisk moisture away from the skin are best. Follow that with a middle layer of wool or synthetic fleece, and top it off with a nylon or breathable synthetic (such as Gore-Tex) wind- and water-resistant jacket. Cotton clothing retains moisture--an unwelcome companion.

Drink up. It's not just your thirst you'll satisfy. Water helps your body regulate temperature better, a vital thing when moving from warm indoor temperatures to cold outside.

Start slow. Jog or walk a few minutes, or slowly work your body through the movements you'll be making more strenuously later, gradually building your intensity. Walk around slowly afterward until your heart is near its resting rate.

See and be seen. If you work out before sunrise or after sunset, wear white or bright outer layers or a reflective vest, or even tack one of those blinking red lights onto yourself or your bike. (See our Ratings of bikes, available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers.)


Indoor options

Try toys. Dumbbells, resistance bands, stability balls and more are available to keep your workout humming, not humdrum.

Use a machine. If your wallet allows, a workout machine can help keep workouts interesting. For aerobic training, try a treadmill, bike, ski machine, or elliptical machine. For strength training, try a home gym. (See our Ratings of ellipticals, treadmills, and exercise bikes, available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers.)

Workout videos. The idea isn't new, but there's a lot of new content. You can choose from hundreds of available titles, and you can some from the video store or library before you buy.

Join a gym or sports league. Meet like-minded exercisers or play a sport you like in a structured, and more motivating, setting.

Take the stairs. Clean the house. Go for a walk. These basics can increase your heart rate and up your daily exercise quota.



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