We now also know that it reduces the type of inflammation that triggers heart disease, and dramatically improves the function of the lining of the blood vessels so that blood flows more easily to the heart." Exercise is also a potent weapon in fighting type 2 diabetes, which is becoming epidemic in the United States.According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy diet and exercise program can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.You want to not just lose weight but also avoid regaining it.This is a given, but I wanted to list it as a reason anyway.People who maintain their weight loss work out regularly.If you really, really want to have a thinner, healthier body, there is no way around being physically active.You want to look better.That said, there is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best.You feel grumpy, constantly annoyed, and sapped of energy.Sometimes the mood boost can last a whole twenty-four hours.People constantly tell me, "I just want to feel better." If you exercise regularly, you will.It is a well-known fact that exercise helps lower depression, sometimes as effectively as antidepressant medications.Many psychologists even use it as part of the treatment for depression.You take too many sick days.Regular exercisers are 50 percent less likely to call in sick.You have muscle and joint pain.The right kind of exercise can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by strengthening the muscles around damaged joints.You have a bad back.Once upon a time, people with bad backs were urged to avoid physical activity altogether.But that practice went out the window a long time ago.In most cases, the best thing you can do for a bad back is move.Recognize your limits, of course, and work with your doctor and/or physical therapist to get moving again.Even though exercise is energizing, it also wears you out.You want to slow the effects of aging.Exercise is one of--if not the --most effective ways to fight aging.

Loss of muscle and bone, two of the hallmarks of aging, are drastically reduced by exercise, and regular workouts also improve circulation, helping to prevent lines and wrinkles in the skin.Most important, exercise helps reduce inflammation and causes other biochemical changes in the body that help stave off age-related diseases.Physical activity seems to have a protective effect against dementia, and helps improve memory and other cognitive functions.When triggered by some kind of injury or infection, inflammation helps the body heal by promoting more immune activity in the affected area.But chronic, low-grade inflammation actually worsens unhealthful conditions, doing more harm than good.Cardiovascular experts now believe that inflammation may play a significant role in heart disease.Certain factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, unfavorable blood lipids, and infections, can cause a release of chemicals that initiate the inflammatory process.That can contribute to the formation of plaque on the artery walls as well as the formation of blood clots.There is also some evidence to suggest that chronic inflammation--which can be a side effect of obesity, among other things--can lead to DNA mutations and, ultimately, the development of cancer.One reason that exercise may have so many disease-fighting benefits is because it reduces the levels of proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as levels of another inflammatory protein, C-reactive protein.Exercise also seems to increase levels of an anti -inflammatory form of cytokines.In a roundabout way, it may also help by decreasing body fat and building muscle: Body fat actually produces pro -inflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation.Think about that next time you work out.You have asthma.Physically active people with asthma also have fewer emergency room visits.You care about your kids.When you care about yourself--and exercising is a sign that you do care about yourself--you are doing your kids a favor by setting a good example.You may already have a good sense of how resistant you are to exercise and how agreeable you are to change.If not, a great way to assess your readiness, resistance, and willingness is to interview yourself using a technique called the motivational interview.I have no time.It makes me hungry.There are a million and one excuses, and yet hoards of people--even people with crazy, busy schedules and people who live with chronic pain--manage to exercise.Excuses allow you to continue living the way you are now without making any tough choices or doing any hard work.In order to move forward, you have to institute a zero-tolerance policy on excuses.Sometimes getting beyond the things that you typically make excuses for just takes creative problem solving.

Sometimes it involves asserting yourself with family members or bosses to get the "me" time you deserve.What it always takes is an open mind and honesty.Making excuses is tantamount to lying to yourself.While I appreciate your honesty about exercise, I still see it as an excuse.You need to take the same approach to exercise and do it because you need to; being physically active is a proactive strategy.Take a few minutes to think about this: Is there any form of movement that you enjoy or can tolerate?There are so many different ways to move your body, from the simplest--walking--to the more complex, such as dance.There are so many different ways to move your body; keep looking until you find the one that fits.Others use their workout time as meditation, a time to get away from it all and quiet their minds.Have you ever noticed that, before they reach the age where they become mesmerized by PlayStations and computer games, most kids move nonstop?But even if we did, I think I would have opted to be doing something active.I loved any kind of physical activity--especially outdoor activity.My parents always had to hunt me down when dinnertime rolled around because I was out somewhere riding a bike or kicking a ball, trying to wring out every last minute of daylight before I had to go in for the night.Because I naturally gravitated toward exercise, I easily made the transition into more structured forms of activity like organized sports and phys ed class.In that way, I was lucky.She kept at it, though, and soon she was up to the second level, then to the third and the fourth.It gave her a great feeling of accomplishment, and she wanted to keep that feeling going.In my view, simply getting to the gym regularly or consistently taking brisk walks and lifting a few weights are great achievements.They should make you feel proud, and when you feel proud, it makes exercising all that much easier to bear.When you accomplish something that you never thought you could achieve, it makes you look at the world differently.Suddenly, other obstacles in your life look less daunting, too.Changing your mind about exercise and getting past the discomfort is all a process.The rest of this chapter is designed to help you navigate your way through that process.If your attitudes toward exercise color the whole picture, excuses fill in the details.You really can fit exercise into your life.

Earlier I mentioned that exercising can actually motivate you to improve other behaviors--in particular, your eating habits.But before exercise can motivate you, you have to be motivated to exercise, and that, of course, is the crux of the issue.There are many reasons why you should be physically active.Not with your significant other, not with your best friend, not with the magazine you subscribe to, not even with your doctor.It has to be something that inspires you and only you.But there is also good research--including a series of studies from Portugal--that shows the value of developing an individualized rationale for exercising.One of the studies divided overweight women into two groups.Both received standard advice on diet and exercise, but only one group was encouraged to go deeper and do some emotional work.After a year, the group that incorporated the psychological and emotional components lost an average of twelve pounds of body fat, compared to just three pounds for the other volunteers.The women who developed personal motivations averaged 138 more minutes of exercise per week and 2,049 more steps per day (measured by a pedometer) than the other group.Three years later, they were still getting 86 more minutes of physical activity per week than the group that did no emotional work.What I find particularly interesting about this research is that it showed that inner motivation is something you can acquire."Our study shows that people can develop a sense of ownership over their behavior, so their desire to exercise stems from within," says Pedro J.Teixeira, PhD, one of the study researchers and a professor in the Department of Exercise and Health at Technical University of Lisbon.Choose one step and use the goal-setting worksheet for a realistic, doable plan to achieve your goal.Or, if you can swing it, work on two at a time.But it is a good starting point for just about everyone.As the successful maintainers whose stories dot this book illustrate, it is possible to overhaul your diet.Sure, we get stuck in a groove, but we all have the power to get out of it.We were meant to move.Beyond that, though, researchers are continually finding new ways that physical activity protects our health.We now know, for instance, that exercise strengthens the immune system in ways that can help the body fight everything from small infections to cancer.In another way, by keeping the body leaner, exercise also helps guard against cancers that are associated with body fat, including cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon, kidney, and breast.Lowering body fat is one way that physical activity protects against heart disease and diabetes, too.The number one reason is that many people simply hate exercise.