By Joseph C. Piscatella
Regular exercise is a building block for good health, weight control and stress management. It is particularly beneficial for dental professionals who often feel “out of time” and saddled with chronic stress. January is a perfect month to turn it around and commit to a program of regular exercise. And that is exactly what thousands of people do – join a YMCA or health club, buy a piece of home exercise equipment or start a walking program. Exercise becomes part of their “new year, new you” resolution.
The problem is that many of these resolutions are broken within a few months. Many people who started January with good exercise intentions find that by April they stop going to the health club, drape clothes over their home exercise equipment, and never find time for a walk. The challenge then is not only to start an exercise program but to sustain it. It must become a lifetime habit in order to support good health.
Fortunately, the key to regular exercise is a simple one: get a partner. Here is how it worked for me. I get up early, around 5:30 AM, to exercise. Usually I’m laced up and ready to go on my walk by 6:00 AM. On one February morning, the radio alarm went off and I awakened to a driving rainstorm. To add to my unhappiness over the prospect of getting drenched on my walk, the radio announcer said it was 38 degrees, so I knew I had to find some gloves. And I was still cozy and warm under a down comforter. “There’s no way I’m going out this morning,” I said to myself. “It’s terrible outside and I’m so comfortable in here. I’m skipping my workout today.”
Then I remembered. I have a partner who has little kids. I couldn’t call his house at 5:30 in the morning to say I was too lazy to meet him. So, I got up and got dressed, met him at the intersection and went for our walk. When it was over, I was happy that I’d done it. But if it had been up to me, I’d never have gotten out of bed. My partner made it happen.
I relate this story because it illustrates how important it is to find a workout partner. While it is important to find the right exercise for the right amount of time and at the proper intensity, regularity is the key to exercise efficacy. Regular exercise means just that…regular. And when someone else is depending on you to show up, you do it. You don’t cancel. You are more dependable and accountable. In my many years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success (with myself and others), the single most important factor is having a support system. Having a partner is the ultimate support system. It makes exercising more fun and motivates you to stick with your routine.
Joe Piscatella knows the science of healthy living, but he understands the practical aspect as well. At age 32, he went through coronary bypass surgery. The prognosis was not good (one doctor predicted he would not live to age 40.) But he put his effort into developing healthy lifestyle habits and it has worked. He has celebrated the 38th anniversary of that surgery, making him a wonderful example of the effectiveness of healthy lifestyle habits. TIME magazine calls him “a positive force for healthy changes.”