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No-sweat guide to home exercise

Are you tired of your tired body? Ready to get up off the couch and start burning fat? Here's some good news. You don't have to spend big bucks to start the burn. You can do it yourself at home.

Before you get going, keep the following tips in mind so you can successfully maintain your level of motivation for the long haul. Running six miles a day for one week won't do you any good three months from now!

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First of all, enlist a buddy to participate in whatever it is you are doing. "A friend is like a trainer," says Sono Harris, author of Fun Physical Fitness for the Home. "All of us are more motivated when someone is there watching us."

Secondly, think about and set very specific goals. For example: You want to be able to run three miles a day five days a week and lose 10 pounds over three months.

The more you actually think about what your goals are and when you want to accomplish them, the more likely you are to get there, says Harris. He explains, "If your goals are really imprinted on your brain, you won't lose sight of them overnight."

Finally, get into the habit of weighing yourself regularly. Set aside "weigh day" each week and stick to that day. This helps you track your progress, keeps your goals in sight, and motivates you to keep on track with your exercise program.

Now that you've got the motivation factor down, here's what you can do to trim fat with a lean wallet.

1. Adopt a dog. No joke. Having a dog means having to walk it and walking is a fabulous way to stay in shape. Most likely the dog will take you for a walk (the bigger, the better), meaning you aren't going to be limply strolling along. Try to keep the dog and yourself outside for a full half hour at least four times a week, and gradually take longer walks, seeking out uphill routes.

Don't underestimate the power of walking. It is very effective exercise if done regularly. Eventually, you can enhance your walks by adding a small 5 to 10 pound weight. That way, you've got the dog in one hand, and the weight in the other, working your biceps as well (of course, if you forgo the pup, you can walk with two small weights, one in each hand).

2. Watch a little TV -- and while you're at it do a variety of sit-ups, push-ups, crunches and lunges, starting at about 20 minutes a day and doing as many as you can of each in that amount of time.

Wayne Prescott, the fitness research director for the South Shore YMCA, in Quincy, Mass., says "they are extremely useful for building strength and toning muscle." Plus, there's no excuse: You can do the exercises from the comfort of your home while watching your favorite sitcoms.

Another suggestion: Enhance your doorway with a chin-up bar. You can buy one at most major athletic stores for less than $25 and work both your arms (with chin-ups) and legs (with lifts).

3. Have some fun! No matter where you live, there are countless ways to make your life more active and enjoyable -- do some of them and you'll burn fat and relieve stress -- without even realizing it.

If you live where there's snow, get outside and play in it: cross country ski, skate or go sledding. If you live in a warm climate, try horsing around in a pool, playing volleyball or frisbee on the beach, or jogging on the boardwalk. On indoor days, do leg lifts while washing dishes or talking on the phone.

If you live with your boyfriend or girlfriend, burn off some steam and get your heart pounding with a tickling fight, or a pretend wrestling match. "Funny as it sounds, tickling is a great form of exercise," says Prescott. "It works your stomach muscles, and it is great for mental health."

4. Expand your mind. Try new activities that involve your body, such as yoga, martial arts, or dance classes. They cost very little (usually no more than $10 a class) and they get you out of the house when you are craving some variety.

Exercise that's entertaining and original? You bet! These classes may have a bigger effect upon you than you expect, as they did upon Jennifer Galassi. Galassi, a writer in New York City who started taking salsa classes for fun, found herself getting into such good shape that she began running to complement the classes. Today, Galassi dances three times a week and runs three times a week and has a ball doing both. "I never feel like I'm exercising," she says, "I'm just doing what I love."

That's the way it should be, right?

-- Updated: Jan. 21, 2005




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