Chapter One: Fitness Should Be Simple
I'm sedentary by nature. I walk my dog, but it's not aerobic activity. I'd like to get myself moving without holding a leash.
I exercised regularly for about ten years. Then I accepted a promotion. Previously, I was responsible for ten people; now I'm responsible for 1,500 people. I start work earlier in the morning and finish later at night. My fitness routine has been disrupted, and I want to reestablish it.
Since my mother's death a few years ago and my husband's cancer diagnosis last year, I've gained a lot of weight. My diet is pretty good, but I have trouble exercising enough to burn extra calories. I'm hoping to learn a routine I can do daily, one that's simple and quick enough so that I remain motivated.
Do you wish you were fitter and healthier? You know you should exercise -- but it's just not happening. There's no time, and you don't really enjoy it, so you can't get started. Maybe you're held back by extra pounds, bad knees, or another physical problem that limits your mobility. Or perhaps you're facing one of those life challenges -- unemployment, a crisis with a teenager, serious illness -- that makes even eating and sleeping difficult. So exercise has gone out the window.
Believe me, I understand. I've been in the fitness business for nearly thirty years. Over the decades I've worked with kids, frail senior citizens, new moms, executives who clock sixteen-hour days, professional athletes -- you name it. I know how tough it can be to make exercise a regular part of your life. That's why I designed Quick Fit, and that's why I wrote this book.
Quick Fit is a complete workout, but all it takes is fifteen minutes a day. And I really mean fifteen minutes. This is no-sweat exercise. You don't need another five minutes to change clothes before you start, even if you're wearing dress-for-success business attire. You don't have to allow ten minutes to shower and get dressed afterward. Quick Fit can be done at home, at work, or anywhere your travels take you. The program is simple and realistic; it's safe -- and it's efficient.
Janine, Anthony, and Tina aren't sedentary anymore. They've become consistent about exercise. You read what they said before they tried Quick Fit. Here's what they reported less than two weeks later:
I started the exercises and have done them seven out of the last ten days. This is huge progress for me. I think the program is terrific!
After laying off exercise for a month, it feels good to get back. I do Quick Fit first thing in the morning, and it starts the day with a real boost.
On the first day, I began with the first exercise, thinking I'd do as much as I could. I wound up going all the way to the end. The ease of the whole thing -- the small amount of time, not needing to go anywhere or to wear special clothing -- makes it work for me.
Janine, Anthony, and Tina were part of a group that tested the program in this book. I want you to know something that makes me particularly excited about their success: They started Quick Fit in mid-December, right between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Imagine learning a new exercise program -- and finding the time to do it -- during that hectic period. What an accomplishment! But Quick Fit is so simple and convenient that they didn't want to wait -- and they didn't have to. I promise: This program will get you moving, too.
The Story of Quick Fit
I'm one of those people who actually prefers running to sitting. My mother tells me I was born moving. (She also tells me, "Slow down!") Because I enjoy physical activity so much, I've always coaxed others to join me. I take it as a personal challenge to convince anyone who's sedentary -- even people who say they hate exercise -- to give it a try. I've converted thousands.
In college, at the University of Maryland, I joined the Gymkana Troupe, an exhibitional gymnastics team. Unlike other collegiate gymnastic teams, we didn't compete. Our purpose was to have a great time and to promote healthy drug-free living through our performances in schools and community centers. I loved it! I know this sounds crazy if you've never been a gymnast, but even now, when I'm past fifty, I still do handstands on the parallel bars in my basement. My wife, Judy, shakes her head when she watches me turn upside down. "Rick," she says, "no wonder your hair is still red."
During my freshman year in college, I heard about a field called industrial fitness. American businesses, inspired by the Japanese, were incorporating exercise into the workplace. They had learned that when you boost fitness, you boost productivity. I knew this was the perfect career for me; I loved the idea of working with companies to help their employees get fit. I majored in physical education and exercise physiology, and graduated from the University of Maryland with honors in 1975. The following year I received national certification in occupational health from the YMCA.
My first job out of college was as program director for Health and Fitness at the local YMCA. Three years later, I joined the Occupational Health and Fitness Program at the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) -- and I've been there ever since.
Throughout my long and happy affiliation with DOT, I've also consulted on fitness. In the early 1980s I was flexibility coach for the Washington Redskins football team under their legendary coach Joe Gibbs. I started my own company, Creative Stress Management, in 1983. Through this business I've conducted seminars on health and fitness for hundreds of companies, schools, churches, community centers, and other organizations.
The Best Program in the World
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the fitness regimens I recommended required forty-five minutes a day: thirty minutes of aerobics, ten minutes of strength training, and five minutes of stretches. I thought this was the best program in the world. Of course, by the time someone showered and changed clothes, the whole routine took more than an hour. As far as I was concerned, that seemed about right. But people kept telling me: "I don't have time for this." Or they'd do it for a while, then begin to skip exercise sessions, and finally quit.
It wasn't just average folks who had trouble sticking with the workouts I designed. When I worked for the Washington Redskins, I came up with a stretching program for the team. I explained to these massive guys how much it would help them if they stretched: "Your muscles contract all the time. Here's a routine that will stretch them out again. It will improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury. All it takes is forty-five minutes a day."
You know what they said? "Fat chance."
Over the years, I've watched people start many other exercise programs. Members of the DOT Fitness Center often bring in the latest books to ask me what I think. You've seen these books. Some of them feature "before" pictures, showing flabby men and women with dull skin and stringy hair. In the "after" pictures, they're not only trim and muscular, they've also got shiny skin and attractive hairdos. Isn't that amazing?
But what I want to know is: Where are the "after after" pictures? Most of these programs are demanding, with lengthy, shirt-drenching workouts. I recently saw a book that called for a minimum of five thirty-minute aerobic workouts per week, preferably involving strenuous activities like jogging or climbing stairs. You could climb a skyscraper in thirty minutes. Do you know anyone who does that five days a week?
I'm not knocking these books. People who consistently follow their recommendations get great results. If you can keep up an hour-plus per-day commitment to strenuous exercise, more power to you. But in my experience -- and survey findings back this up -- most people simply can't; they quit in a couple of weeks. Sometimes they last a few months, but then they become increasingly inconsistent and finally stop altogether. Worst of all, they feel bad about themselves and discouraged about exercise.
Years ago, I'd shrug it off when people quit an exercise program, whether it was one of my lengthy routines or someone else's. I'd think, okay, that's their choice. I didn't yet understand a very important principle: If people won't follow an exercise program, it's not the best program in the world.
How Much Exercise Do We Really Need?
In the 1970s, when I studied exercise physiology at the University of Maryland, experts believed that the only way to get any beneficial results was to work out vigorously for at least twenty minutes. But subsequent studies showed that moderate exercise was just as effective. Moreover, less vigorous exercise caused fewer injuries.
For example, you get about the same health benefit -- and burn about the same number of calories -- whether you walk one mile or run the same distance. Of course, you can complete that mile more quickly if you run. But walking is safer. You're less likely to sprain an ankle or hurt your knees or other vulnerable joints.
Another advance was the discovery that short exercise sessions can make a real difference. These findings were summarized in the 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health. I read the report with great interest. One statement jumped out at me:
People who are usually inactive can improve their health and well-being by becoming even moderately active on a regular basis.
In other words:
• Even if you've been sedentary, it's never too late to begin exercising.
• Exercise need not be strenuous to improve health and well-being.
• What's important is making exercise a regular part of your life.
By then, my own thinking had evolved considerably. I understood -- especially after I got married and my son, Ryan, was born -- that finding time really was tough for people who are working and dealing with family responsibilities, and who don't necessarily love physical activity the way I do. They don't want to wake up an hour early so they can do forty-five minutes of exercise, then shower and dress; nor do they want to spend that much time at the end of a busy day, when they're tired and hungry for dinner. Who could blame them?
Finally, I realized: The best exercise program in the world is one that people will do consistently. Such a program must be simple, convenient, and realistic; it must fit into people's lives. Was it possible, I wondered, to develop an exercise routine that would take just fifteen minutes, yet provide a meaningful workout? I decided to give it a shot.
Packing a Complete Workout into Fifteen Minutes
The task was challenging. My workout had to cover the key components of exercise -- aerobic activity, strength training, and stretches for flexibility -- in just a quarter of an hour. Every move would have to deliver multiple benefits. But a program for people who are reluctant to exercise would also need to be simple to learn and easy to do.
I decided that ten minutes out of the fifteen would be devoted to a brisk walk -- aerobic exercise to condition the heart and lungs. Walking is the perfect aerobic activity: It can be done anytime and anyplace. No equipment is required; no instructions are needed.
That left five minutes for strength and flexibility. Since walking strengthens the leg muscles, I focused on the midsection and upper body. Everyone wants toned abdominal muscles, so I added one minute of abdominal crunches. There are many ways to perform ab exercises; I picked a version that also strengthens the neck muscles. Four minutes remained.
I selected three strengthening exercises for the upper body that would require about one minute each. Together, they address muscles in the back, shoulders, chest, upper arms, forearms, and wrists. And because these exercises move the arms through their full range of motion, they improve flexibility, too.
The clock was ticking! Just one minute for stretching. I picked one stretch for the upper body and one for the lower body. Thirty seconds each. The upper body stretch includes a strengthening component for the shoulders, a little bonus. The lower body stretch is pure relaxation -- the perfect way to end a workout.
I called this program Quick Fit. Fifteen minutes from start to finish. Now that's quick, and you get fit!
Inch by inch,
fitness is a cinch.
Yard by yard
makes it hard.
Quick Fit Catches On
I introduced Quick Fit at the Department of Transportation Fitness Center in 1998. Everyone who tried the program loved it. They told their friends and coworkers. More people came to the Fitness Center than ever before.
That wasn't enough for me. I went around the building, recruiting. I'd arrive at one of the office suites and ask the receptionist, "Did anyone here call me to learn about Quick Fit?" The receptionist would go around to the cubicles and ask, "Who wanted to hear about Quick Fit?" That made everyone curious. Note that I didn't say anyone had actually called, because the truth was, no one had. But inevitably, a crowd would gather in the reception area. People would be asking, "What's Quick Fit?" So I'd say, "Well, as long as you're here, let me tell you about it..."
Pretty soon, hundreds of DOT employees were doing Quick Fit. The program also was a hit with the thousands of people who've attended the wellness seminars I offer through my consulting company, Creative Stress Management.
A journalist who heard about Quick Fit, Martha Frase-Blunt, decided to write an article about it for the Washington Post. She visited DOT, interviewed me, and spoke to people there who were doing the program.
The article was published on August 21, 2001. Hours after the paper hit the newsstands, NBC's Today show called. The next day they sent a camera crew to the Fitness Center at DOT and I was on the air. What a thrill!
Though I was delighted by the interest in Quick Fit, the beginning of the article made me a little uncomfortable. Here's what it said:
It's 10 A.M. in the lobby of the U.S. Department of Transportation's vast headquarters in L'Enfant Plaza and Rick Bradley has just spotted his day's first mark. The man -- harried, 40-ish, with a thick waist, tired eyes and a slightly stunned expression -- gets on the elevator, and Bradley follows. "Hey," he greets the unsuspecting man as the doors slide shut.
I expressed my concern to my wife: "It sounds as if I pursue people."
"Wait a minute," Judy said. "Isn't that exactly what you do?"
I have to admit it: I'm not shy about approaching out-of-shape colleagues at the Department of Transportation. Now I'm reaching out to everyone with a book about Quick Fit. I've adapted the exercises so you can do them anywhere, without expensive equipment. If you're sedentary and wish you were at a different level of fitness, I want to tell you what I told that guy in the elevator:
You don't need a whole new lifestyle to change your life dramatically. Just a little bit of exercise can make a difference.
What Regular Exercise Can Do for You
No pill can match the health benefits of exercise. Regular physical activity cuts the risk of heart disease and stroke, counters excess weight and diabetes, and protects against certain forms of cancer. What's more, people who exercise are happier and more productive.
Nevertheless, many Americans have taken the call to fitness lying down. A recent government survey asked adults if they exercise in their leisure time. Any physical activity -- even a ten-minute walk -- qualified for a "yes." But an astonishing 38 percent said "no."
Why don't more people exercise? The number one reason: Lack of time.
Can Fifteen Minutes Really Make a Difference?
You may have heard that you must work out for at least thirty minutes to experience any benefit. Or you may think that physical activity doesn't count unless your heart pounds and your clothes are soaked with sweat.
Not so! Exercise, like money in the bank, is cumulative. It all adds up.
People ask me: "Can Quick Fit provide all the beneficial effects of exercise programs that call for longer and more strenuous workouts?" I tell them: "It depends on whether you'll actually do those workouts."
Think of the bank again. If you deposit $15 a week, your balance won't be as high as if you deposit $30 a week. But a consistent $15 per week beats an irregular $30 every month or so -- and it's a whole lot better than nothing. That's true for exercise, too.
A woman raised her hand at one of my seminars. She said, "Rick, I walk on the treadmill for half an hour five times a week. After three of those sessions I add a twenty-minute workout with weights. And I have a five-minute stretching routine that I do after each workout." Some of the other people in the audience looked ready to collapse, just from listening to her. She asked, "Should I drop this and do Quick Fit instead?"
"No -- don't stop! What you're doing is great," I told her. "But you might want to try Quick Fit on those two days when you don't exercise, or when you can't manage your usual program."
Many people who normally follow more demanding exercise routines turn to Quick Fit when time is tight. For example, Chuck says:
Yesterday I had about half an hour before an appointment. Quick Fit fit perfectly into that opening, which I probably would have frittered away otherwise.
Unfortunately, the folks who need to exercise the most can't (or won't) work out thirty-plus minutes a day, month after month, year after year. They resolve to exercise on January 1; they buy a treadmill on the cable TV shopping channel. Then a couple of months later, they've quit and they're using the treadmill as a coatrack. But lifelong fitness requires consistency.
People who won't do any other exercise are willing to try Quick Fit. It allows them to ease into fitness with minimal risk of injury. Once they start, nearly all of them stick with it, because it's so easy -- and because it makes them feel so good.
Small Efforts, Big Payoffs
Results start with the very first workout. I'm not promising that you'll be transformed, in just fifteen minutes, into someone your best friend wouldn't recognize. But when you're done, you'll definitely feel energized. You'll probably have a smile on your face, too, because physical activity is a natural mood booster. And if you've been plagued by guilt because you can't get yourself to exercise, imagine the relief -- and pride -- when you finally begin.
Over time, other benefits develop. Your heart and lungs become stronger, so you have more energy and stamina. You might not notice this if the rest of your life is sedentary. But one of these days you'll play tennis or take a long walk, or you'll shop and lug heavy bags back from the store -- and suddenly you'll realize that this exertion is much easier than it would have been before Quick Fit.
Once you're stronger and fitter, physical activity won't seem like such a chore. In fact, it might actually be fun. For many people, Quick Fit is a bridge to a more active, healthier lifestyle.
What About Weight Loss?
People often ask me if Quick Fit will help them lose weight. The answer is yes -- but this isn't a weight-loss program. One Quick Fit session burns approximately fifty to seventy-five extra calories per day. Obviously, that's not as much as you'd burn if you were in training for the Olympics. But it sure beats a day at the computer followed by an evening on the sofa.
If you add a daily Quick Fit workout to whatever other exercise you're doing (if any) -- and you don't alter your diet or anything else in your life -- you'd lose about five pounds in a year. If you lost five pounds a year starting at age forty-five, you'd be down twenty-five pounds by the time you hit your half-century birthday.
What often happens, though, is that when people who've been sedentary start exercising consistently with Quick Fit, they begin to make other changes in their lives. And that's when the weight really comes off. What's more, stronger abdominal muscles flatten their midsections and help them stand taller. Those changes make them look trimmer, too.
To lose weight,
move a little more;
eat a little less.
Nancy lost eighty-five pounds, and it all began with Quick Fit. When she joined the DOT Fitness Center four years ago, her energy level was down and her weight was up. She didn't think she had time for exercise, so I started her on Quick Fit. She became a regular at the Fitness Center.
A few months after she joined, Nancy attended one of the nutrition seminars we offer from time to time. She decided to cut back on the fat in her diet, and to eat more fruits and vegetables. She also added more exercises to her workout. A year later, she was eighty-five pounds lighter -- and she's kept the weight off ever since. Says Nancy:
I don't look as if I've lost eighty-five pounds; I look completely different. I used to shop from catalogs for large-size women; now I can shop at Victoria's Secret. A good friend who hadn't seen me for a while walked right past me at a conference. I called her name. She stopped, looked at me, and said, "I recognize the voice, but I can't seem to place you." I told her, "It's Nancy." She was amazed. She kept saying, "I can't believe it -- I just can't believe it!"
What's in the Book?
Quick Fit is so simple, I could show you the moves in just a few minutes. But there's more to developing a lifelong fitness habit than learning the exercises. You must be motivated. You need to understand what's been holding you back, so you can figure out how to overcome the obstacles that have tripped you up in the past. Once you've started and have been exercising for a while, it's helpful to think about how you'll keep up your good work. That's what this book is all about.
If you're impatient to begin, you don't have to read the whole book first. Turn to page 101 for Quick Start.
Most people know that exercise is good for them. But they're amazed when they find out just how many benefits they can expect from fitness, even if they're spending only fifteen minutes a day. Chapter 2 explains why you need to get moving and tells you about some of the latest research findings on exercise.
When I give seminars, I always ask people to raise their hands if they exercise regularly. Usually, very few hands go up. Then I ask: Why not? Occasionally, the problem is an injury or a difficult personal situation that takes priority over everything else. But mostly I simply hear excuses. In Chapter 3 I'll list the most common problems -- and explain how to get past them. I'll also explain how exercise can actually help when life pitches you a curve.
Quick Fit takes very little time from your day. But it does require a commitment. I'll talk about that in Chapter 4, suggesting ways you can commit to getting fit.
No one should start an exercise program without checking to see if they need medical clearance. In Chapter 5, I'll give you a simple test to see if you must discuss this program with your doctor before you begin; you can adapt the exercises to most personal limitations. This chapter prepares you to begin the program, with information about everything from setting up a small workout space to making sure your shoes fit properly.
After you're pumped and prepared, it's time to learn Quick Fit's simple moves. Chapter 6 walks you through the exercises, step by step.
Developing an exercise habit is much easier if you make it fun. In Chapter 7, I'll give you many ideas, as well as suggestions for staying motivated.
You can continue doing Quick Fit forever. But many sedentary people who follow the program are astonished to discover that they actually enjoy physical activity. They love their trimmer, tighter bodies; they relish their improved energy. Suddenly, fifteen minutes isn't enough. That's great news, because you gain even more benefits if you expand the Quick Fit workout. I'll explain how to do that -- without overdoing and burning out -- in Chapter 8.
Any questions? In Chapter 9 I'll answer the ones I hear most often when I talk to people about Quick Fit.
Consistency is the name of the game with fitness exercise. If you can stay consistent with Quick Fit for four months, you've established a habit -- and you'll also see results. Chapter 10 gives you a month-by-month preview of those important first months.
I know you want to get fit, because you picked up this book. Quick Fit is easy, realistic, and convenient. Finally, there's an exercise program you can do for life.
Copyright © 2004 by Richard R. Bradley III and Sarah Wernick