(NaturalNews) Tens of millions of Americans are obese, and while figures have stabilized in recent years according to government findings, the numbers are still staggering.
Poor dietary choices rank high as a cause of obesity, but another factor -- and in my view, one that gets far less attention -- is Americans' increasing lack of physical activity.
In fact, a new study found that the average obese woman only gets one hour of vigorous exercise per year, while men don't get much more -- less than four per year.
The findings, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, stem from the tracking of participants' movements over the course of a year. Researchers collected data regarding the amount of exercise participants engaged in and at what intensity level(s).
Researchers defined vigorous exercise as jogging or other high-cardio-related, fat-burning exercises. For those who were considered extremely overweight, walking may be considered vigorous.
For women especially, researchers cited extremely busy lives as a major reason why they exercised so little. Between work, caring for children and sleep, they noted, women did not have much time in the day to devote to fitness.
"They're living their lives from one chair to another," Edward Archer, a research fellow with the Nutrition Obesity Research Center, told HealthDay. "We didn't realize we were that sedentary. There are some people who are vigorously active, but it's offset by the huge number of individuals who are inactive."
Granted, finding the time to work in a fitness program is difficult in today's busy world. But almost everyone has time for some sort of activity 3-4 times per week, if they really want to change their lifestyle.
So, the next hurdle to overcome is actually finding a fitness program that you can stick with. Most people who begin a fitness program don't stick with it, most often because it isn't the right program for them. So I asked a group of fitness experts what they would recommend for someone just beginning a fitness program:
-- Gauge yourself. J. Anderson, certified personal trainer, Natural News contributor and founder/editor of Always Active Athletics, says to take some photos of yourself before you start your program and do some fitness tests, to see where you're at physically. "If you are having a down day" after you begin a program, "you can look at old photographs or re-take your fitness tests to see just how far you have really come." Motivation.
-- Don't attempt too much at first. Ainslie MacEachran, a certified personal trainer and cycling coach with Gemini Training Systems, located in Fort Collins, Colo., says you should set small goals initially. "Break up your goals into little bit size pieces. Instead of trying to do it all at once, make little goals along the way that work towards your ultimate end goal," she told me.
-- Don't go it alone. Get a friend to start a program with you, says expert fitness trainer and former collegiate gymnastics star Kari Pearce of Innovative Fitness Trainers. "Exercising with someone else often makes it more enjoyable and you will want to push yourself harder," she told Natural News.
-- Pick something fun. Kim Evans, a professional fitness coach at Wello in Grand Haven, Mich., says the dance-exercise Zumba might be a good fit for a beginner, mostly because the classes are inviting, not intimidating. "That is a huge deal," she told me, because "many classes can be intimidating for the new exerciser."
Dr. Kim Chronister, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation, agrees. She said in an email that a great way to get "motivated is by finding fun activities to get into (i.e. dancing salsa for one hour or playing water polo for an hour)."
-- Get in the right mindset. In order to stick with any program, you have to decide that it is for the long haul. "When you take the time to transform your thoughts, beliefs and patterns, making lasting change is easy and effortless," Michelle Hastie, of Total Body Health Solutions, said.
-- Don't make excuses. It's easy to blow off your exercise session by convincing yourself that you don't have time today or something else "came up," says Josh Greene, who has a bachelor's degree in in Kinesiology from Indiana University and is currently a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Indianapolis. "It takes as little as 20-30 minutes for someone to do a vigorous workout. And doing that 2-3 times per week is much more beneficial than someone doing absolutely nothing," he told Natural News.