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For the love of it

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By Peter Hadzipetros

So Keizo Yamada is giving up racing marathons. Japan's Iron Man is conceding that he's not up to the training anymore.

He made the decision after running three marathons this year, including his 19th trip to Boston – a race he won in 1953. He ran the marathon for Japan the year before at the Olympics in Helsinki.

Yamada's 81. A pretty fit octogenarian.

He told Sports Hochi newspaper "I'm not getting any younger so I won't run any more 42-kilometre races."

"I will carry on running for fun to stay in shape," he added.

His "running for fun" is a daily 20-kilometre jaunt. That's more exercise than the vast majority of even the most active people get. If it's not fun, it's pretty tough to be motivated to enjoy that much exercise.

Researchers have spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out the most effective ways of getting people motivated to get active enough to stay healthy and ward off obesity.

Two years ago, the Canadian Obesity Network warned that – without action – Canada would face an obesity epidemic that would be a bigger drain on the health-care system than smoking. The network estimates that 11 million Canadians – about a third of the population – are overweight and a million of them are so obese they need treatment.

Last week, an Australian study found that spending money on public campaigns can make a difference in getting people active. The study found that encouraging the use of pedometers was more effective than having doctors refer patients to an exercise physiologist.

Pedometers give you instant feedback. They'll tell you how many steps you've taken, how far you've gone and how many calories you've burned.

Feedback's good. You can use those numbers as a base to build on. That can help develop motivation far better than a piece of paper that will get you in to see a specialist – a piece of paper that you might ignore.

The findings of the Australian study were similar to one published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. Among its conclusions was that it's more effective to encourage people to walk at a moderate pace than to prescribe high-intensity walking.

That's right: exercise doesn't have to be this high-intensity medicine that you have to force yourself to swallow every day.

Casting a wide net with mass campaigns might get more people moving, like the ParticipACTION ads did when it was first launched back in the 1970s. But information and encouragement won't be much help in keeping you motivated, especially after you figure out that getting in shape is not the end goal. You don't go back to your old sedentary ways once you hit that target weight – or complete your first five-kilometre race.

Getting in shape – and staying there – is the payoff for being a little more active, for the rest of your life.

Keizo Yamada may be through with marathons, but he's not done testing his limits. He says he could still be coaxed into racing the odd half marathon.

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Comments (3)

ned

There's only a few people who dedicate themselves physically and maintain that status in todays society. With technology evolving every year, it makes it hard for the average person to take time out of the day to exercise. These people must take advatage of situations were they will the required exercise, such as taking the stairs, walking to the corner store, diet, while watching TV try stretching your legs and arms.

Posted July 30, 2009 03:24 PM

Addie Bundren

AB

On motivation: Exercise started out for me as as an alternative to smoking, which I'd just given up after many, many years of very enjoyable but, yes, dangerous, indulgence. The idea was, go back to smoking and you'll have to give up something fairly tangible and healthy like, in my case, swimming. It took about seven months to get good which was the first motivation--continuous improvement. After that, staring at the bottom of the pool day after day got pretty monotonous but, hey, why not keep track and swim across Canada, so to speak? And pay attention, too: Remember, today, for example, how lousy you were seven months ago? Remember how good you feel physically (bounce to step) and mentally (conquer the world, at least for a minute) when you're done, or on those rare sweet days when everything clicks and you don't want to stop? Notice how much more juice you seem to have compared to your sedentary buds? Of course, the chlorine (particularly as chemically combined with human organic matter) and lack of ventilation got my lungs in the end (i.e. irony). But there's still biking, running, and the exercise bug.

Posted July 22, 2009 11:24 PM

cyclistextraordinaire

Guelph

Here is, in my opinion, the most easy way to get exercise: give up using your car for any commutes under, say, 5km. You'd be surprised at how much exercise you will get over the course of they day. You will be fit in no time and save some money to boot!

I find that it is very difficult for a person who is not bent toward exercise to find something physical that they like. I believe this is why there is a direct link between car ownership and obesity--it is hard to exercise when you are not forced to do so.

Posted July 22, 2009 09:10 AM

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Peter HadzipetrosPeter Hadzipetros is a producer for the Consumer and Health sites of CBC News Online. Until he got off the couch and got into long distance running a few years ago, he was a net importer of calories.

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