What does it take to get you out the door for your workout?
Two recent studies looked at the most effective ways to motivate people to exercise and found different, seemingly contradictory answers to that question:
In one study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, older, overweight women who used a Fitbit activity tracker ended up walking farther than those who counted their steps on a pedometer. The other study, conducted by Brooks, the athletic shoe company, found that runners preferred training with a friend than with a Fitbit (dogs were a close third).
These studies and others, says Harvard Medical School psychologist Jeffrey L. Brown, "are telling us that there are plenty of ways to motivate ourselves." And while there might be one method that works best for an individual, he adds, "that doesn't mean the alternatives aren't useful. Just as you cross train in your activities, you can use different approaches to motivate yourself to exercise."
Case in point: Cheryl Clifford, a 52-year old mother of four (including triplets) from Seaford.
Clifford, a former runner who had to stop because of knee injuries, now walks about 35 miles a week. To keep herself motivated on her robust five-mile-a-day regimen, she employs several motivational approaches.
First, she usually walks with a friend or two. She's got a weekday partner, Suzanne Peluso, a Seaford neighbor, whose kids are also friends with Clifford's. On Saturdays and Sundays, her companion is Maureen Quinn-Morse, a flight attendant from Massapequa, who is generally away during the week.
If neither one is available, Clifford says, "my poor dog Pepper, goes with me. She likes to walk, but not an hour and a half or two hours. She looks at me, and I know she's thinking, 'Are you kidding me?' "
Whether she's walking with two- or four-legged friends, Clifford also wears a Fitbit, to keep track of her steps and pace. And for good measure, when she walks with Pepper -- a Lab-border collie mix -- she listens to music.
Clifford is dedicated. Even during this year's brutal winter, when she and Peluso would frequently walk at the Sunrise Mall because it was too cold to endure their usual neighborhood routes, she managed to show up to meet Peluso at 7:30 a.m. "I didn't want to let her down," she says.
"That kind of accountability is terrific," says Brown, who is co-author of a new book, "The Runner's Brain." "You're not only doing something healthy, you're deepening your friendship."