Staying fit can be a cheap investment of time and money

Posted: Thursday, April 05, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) -- Donna Burke's 40th birthday brought her many new highs but unfortunately, one was on her bathroom scale.

After years of calorie-laden business lunches, Burke, like many Baby Boomers, had put on unwanted pounds. Determined to avoid the middle-age spread, the human resources executive made some changes.

She packed apples on business trips to avoid the temptation of the hotel minibar and fatty airport snacks. Most importantly, the Winchester, Mass., woman also made time to exercise, power walking on the $2,000, gym-quality treadmill she installed in her house. She also sees a personal trainer at her gym.

''The big impetus at 40 was that I was at the height of my weight chart. There was nowhere to go but up, and I said, 'No way,''' said Burke, 42, who now runs a consulting firm from her home.

Burke is like many Boomers who want to be fit but struggle to find the time to exercise. For this group -- those born between 1946 and 1964 -- it's a money issue too. After years of throwing away big bucks on never-used aerobic videos and exercise bikes that have become clothes hangers, Boomers want to burn fat, not cash.

Finding the right routine is key, said insurance agent Kenny Ray of Lexington, Ky. His solution is running, which he likes because it's so simple -- all he does is lace up his $75 shoes and take off, even when he's traveling.

''Running is nice, because it's just you,'' said Ray, 49. ''You can just take your shoes with you and wherever you go, you can run.

Ray deals with the time issue by taking his daily six-mile runs very early.

''I have never had my kids want me to do something at 5:30 in the morning, and I never have had an appointment at 5:30 in the morning,'' he said.

Meanwhile, elementary teacher Linda Dunn, 51, combines family and workout time at the Jewish Community Center in New Orleans.

''My whole family comes. On the weekends we have a big workout,'' Dunn said.

By taking advantage of an $80-a-month family package, Dunn, her husband and their two teen-age sons also work out during the week after work and school.

''I needed to be able to work out when it is convenient for me,'' Dunn said.

Getting fit doesn't require a lot of money or time, fitness experts say. Small, everyday changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of driving that mile to the grocery can add up in terms of calories burned and fitness gained.

''We have this urge to be efficient and walking to the store seems to be a waste of time. We overlook opportunities to build in exercise opportunities into our everyday lifestyle,'' said T. Shawn Caudill, chief of internal medicine at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center.

Caudill, 43, follows his own advice, hustling rather than strolling when going from one appointment to another.

While getting fit can be a small sacrifice of time and cash, the payoffs are huge, said Caudill, who specializes in adult medicine. Getting out from behind the desk or off the couch will make you feel better. You'll work harder or better, even take fewer sick days.

And, he said, when it comes time to take that retirement you've been saving for, you'll enjoy it more.

''We're all going to live longer. You can either live longer and feel crummy or live longer and feel better,'' Caudill said.

Keeping fit is an even bigger must-do for many small business owners like Patricia Jennerjohn.

''Since I am my business, I need to be very well maintained,'' said Jennerjohn, who owns a financial planning business in Oakland, Calif.

Although always fitness minded, Jennerjohn, 50, bumped up her activities in recent years to include yoga classes and working out with a personal trainer, which together cost her about $5,000 a year. For folks who want more attention but don't want to spend $60 for an hour of one-on-one training, Jennerjohn suggests grabbing a friend and checking into special buddy rates offered by some fitness centers.

''It's not cheap, but I think the money I spend on a personal trainer is money I'd save on a doctor,'' Jennerjohn said. ''I was tired of getting sick and tired of getting tired and tired of seeing what middle age was doing to my body.''

Likewise, Burke, the woman from Winchester, Mass., has reveled in feeling better, and, of course, getting into a size 6 again.

''When I got to my checkups and I have great blood pressure and pulse,'' Burke said. ''I feel that it has to be from taking time out and making it exercise a part of my life.''

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