Do Readers Exercise?

readexerciseIn a bit of serendipity my blog piece this week mimics Blythe’s blog in asking the question of nature or nurture. Except mine is not about readers but readers who exercise. Once you have developed a love of books, how hard is it to make the commitment to get your nose out of the book and exercise? Do some individuals just enjoy activity more than others? Is it learned behavior or is it genetics? The recent evidence seems to point to learned behavior or contagious social behaviors.

The Trust for American’s Health recently released a list of how each state is doing, and it is not pretty. Along with the release of the list of the state’s ranking, I made note of something else. When Blythe went to New York for the RWA Convention she didn’t use that as an excuse to not exercise (Sandy and Lynn- no offense if you were up there sweating away too!). And guess what, Blythe is from Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity ranking.

While poverty does play a part in the same states continuing to top the list, part of the reason also seems to be that if your friends are heavy, then it more acceptable for you to be heavy. If your friends exercise and incorporate a healthy lifestyle then you are more likely to do so, too. If you haven’t read the Framingham Study then do so, because it quite interesting. In a way it helps explain more about our obesity epidemic.

You probably wonder why someone on a site that talks about books now is talking about healthy living. I could say that it is a “public service message.” But the real reason is that that our love of books can keep us sedentary. Plus if you are like me, you have made some internet friends built around your love of books. Friends influence friends and I hope to get some great feedback from those of you that are successful balancing activity and reading. And along with teaching our children to love books and reading, I believe it is just as important to remember physical activity.

If I had spent as many hours exercising as I do reading, then I wouldn’t have three different sizes of clothes in my closet now. I will be honest. If I have a choice between reading for thirty minutes or exercising for that same amount of time my natural inclination is to open that book. It is not that I hate activity. It just takes a while for the endorphins to kick in and for me to get any kind of good feeling about sweating. In the beginning it is just plain work. It is not that I don’t have the best intentions. I have started and stopped exercising more times than I can count. Usually I run, starting out barely making a mile (although now it is a ½ mile) and work my way up to three miles. This typically last three to six months and then something happens and I stop. Then it can take a year or more for me to start up again.

I am hoping to make the difficult beginning more palpable with audio books. Thanks to Lea, I have discovered that I can have best of both worlds. Yesterday I downloaded one of my favorite books, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had to Be You, and while I can’t say that I am looking forward to getting back on my elliptical machine today, I am looking forward to hearing the book. \

Setting aside a certain time for exercise, incorporating it into social activities with friends, and tracking your workouts are all other ways to keep on track.
So along with teaching our children the joy of reading, I think we owe it to them and ourselves to discover the benefits of closing that book, and moving our body. And the beauty of it, as mentioned here, is “that good behaviors — like quitting smoking or staying slender or being happy — pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses.”

Are you one of those people who finds it easy to maintain a balance between activity and reading or is your idea of heaven spending the day in bed reading (I confess I love rainy/snowy days when I have the perfect excuse to do this)? If you have learned to balance the two what has worked for you? How do you get your children to put down that book, or game or turn off the television? Are audio books successful in helping you stay on track? Share your successes or struggles!

- Leigh Davis

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37 Responses to “Do Readers Exercise?”

  1. Ellen AAR says:

    I don’t find it difficult to balance reading and exercising. I just grab my i-pod and take off for a nice walk. I almost always have a book on it – right now I just finished On the Line by S.J. Rozan. The advent of books on mobile devices was a Godsend for me. Honestly, I think exercise is boring, but it isn’t if I have something to listen to. Where I work, some of my collegues have health related problems because of obesity. That scares me, and I am determined not to let myself get overweight. Listening to books while walking sure helps.

  2. Lea AAR says:

    For an effective exercise program, I must have two things – a commitment from me for my schedule and a good audiobook. If I can get myself into that mode of remembering to exercise at a pre-planned time five days a week, the actual exercising is not that uncomfortable if I have that audiobook playing on my iPod. It makes a HUGE difference.

  3. Lea AAR says:

    Oh – and Leigh…

    Let me know how It Had to Be You goes with your exercising!

  4. Anne says:

    I don’t find it difficult to balance reading and exercising either. My current gym doesn’t have television sets grabbing my attention while I work out, so I grab a physical book, start mild when walking on a threadmill and then crank it up to a level that’s making me sweat, yet allowing that I can read. I find that I can stick to it longer if I maintain a good pace than if I start running, and so, I need distractions.

    I do similar things for stepping machines or bikes.

    I’ve never had a problem walking and reading at the same time, though, so it’s no different for me on a threadmill.

  5. farmwifetwo says:

    I need an iPod to download books and walk and listen.

    But I do go out most days for a walk and now in the summer I take my son with me. We usually go around 9am so I need to get going…. :) It’s not reading that keeps me seditary but the computer.

  6. Tee says:

    I’ve been walking every day for about 30+ years. Unfortunately, the older I get, the shorter the walks have become (they’re only 30 to 40 minutes long now). My dog and I make sure we get out in the morning, right through the Michigan seasons (weather and conditions permitting, that is). The bones creak more these days and I find that I have to walk with a cane with her because of arthritis in the knee (the cane keeps me from walking like a tilting teapot after a while and encourages me to walk straight).

    So, I don’t read while walking. Also, the exercises I do in the evening are usually done on a bed while watching TV. When I’m reading, I like to have the room quiet and I don’t like distractions, if possible. So, I probably would not ever choose to do both simultaneously.

    But good for those who can do both. That’s a great efficient use of time.

  7. HAT says:

    I am in an exercise slump right now after an illness, but after trying all sorts of incentives for exercising, reading my Kindle while on my elliptical was the best. I always discovered I exercised longer and harder than I did with upbeat music when I have a book to get lost in. I secure the ereader to my machine with giant rubber bands and up the font size and then I am a much happier exerciser. I also bribe myself with new books to read. Still cheaper than a gym membership for me and much more convenient.

  8. dick says:

    Until recently, like Tee, I walked for at least an hour every day. The weather had impact because the college has an indoor track which I used. Three days a week, I followed a weight-lifting regimen as well. But, in June I had surgery, and for some reason, this one took most of the “git” out of my “git and go.” I’ll get back to it though; like reading, exercise is addictive.

  9. dick says:

    Second sentence should read: The weather had NO impact….

  10. Karenmc says:

    Between October of 2009 and April of 2010 I had three surgeries, which really took the vavoom out of me. Also, I will sit and read for hours after having sat in front of a computer at work. Yesterday my doctor suggested that I get up a bit earlier and walk on my treadmill (yes, it sits mocking me in plain sight), which is what she does. I asked if I could consider that a doctor’s order and she said yes.

    This morning I did fifteen minutes and kind of dozed through most of them. It was EASY. Fifteen years ago I walked three miles a day six days a week at the track. My goal now is to work up to two miles every morning on the treadmill. Doctor’s orders and all, so I’m pretty hopeful : )

  11. Barbara says:

    I am on the treadmill for a minimum of 2 miles and if the book is good, 3 miles most mornings. I have had to travel a lot this summer for work so I workout every morning and since it is usually the only opportunity to read it seems like a reward instead of work!

  12. lauren says:

    Good Luck! I have been a slug for the past 6 years with a nose in a book and doing absolutely nothing else…pretty sad for a girl that use to figure skate and train 8-10 hrs a week…work 25 hr job and take care of her mom…Now…I work 12-15 hrs…sit and read most of the day at work and then come home and sit and read…I still take care of my mom and now I also help my daughter with her new baby…she is not sure whether she is going to stay with the father and so on with that crap in life….and all I want to do is hide in a book and in my home and make the world go away!

  13. Heather says:

    I do have trouble sometimes, especially when I’m at work and try to walk for a little while. I work in a library so a desk is my primary workspace. And I used to have trouble when I got home until I decided to just make my workout the second thing I did when I got home. The first? changing into my workout gear. Once I did that, it almost became a ritual: open door, change into gear, workout, shower, eat, in bed with book by 8.

  14. DJ says:

    I just bike every morning for between and hour and an hour and a half. Get it out of the way first thing. Then, if I feel up for it, I may go for a walk in the afternoon or evening.

    I don’t read as much as I used to, or as much as I’d like to, because of everything that a busy life demands, so exercising isn’t a big deal.

  15. Beth W says:

    I got a dog a little over a year ago; one reason I did was to have something to force me to exercise. And she definitely does. Ideally, we take 2 walks (morning and afternoon) of at least 30 minutes each every day. Weather and schedules sometimes limit that but that’s the goal. I will admit over the long, cold, dark Wisconsin winter the walks were usually more like 20 minutes.
    When I realized just a few weeks ago that we were really starting to slow down on our walks (not because of injury or disability, just being lazy and the dog having to smell every other blade of grass) I started listening to my iPod when walking and I find with upbeat music I keep a faster pace. I like the idea of listening to a book while walking but I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have the benefit of the fast pace that I do with the music.

  16. Sharon says:

    Downloading audio books is probably for me the best way to get out walking. I have a sedentary job and a sedentary leisure time habit (reading), which does make exercise a challenge. But I also love animals and that keeps me moving. I have three dogs that need their walks. I also ride my horse and am in group dressage team, and so without my love for animals, I would be much more challenged to find ways to exercise.

  17. wenmc says:

    I don’t really connect exercising less with reading more or vice versa. For me exercise is more about the time of day, it must be done early, before my kids claim all my attention. I got a Kindle and it is easier to read books now while I walk on my treadmill.

  18. Kate K says:

    What a great question! For me, exercising severely cuts into my reading time, and I really resent that. If I had it my way, I’d come home from work and just read for 5 hours straight. I have to make compromises and barter with myself (work out for 30 minutes, THEN I can read). I never even thought of audio books, to be honest… it’s something I will soon be looking into :)

  19. Carrie says:

    I generally walk a brisk 3+ miles at least four or five times a week. Like many others here, audiobooks makes that happen. (Having a young dog that needs plenty of exercise helps, too.) I have a treadmill I use occasionally, but I generally walk outside. I’ve been known to stretch my 3 miles to 4 because I don’t want to stop listening to the book. ;-) I also find time to read paper/ebooks several hours every day. I find time to read as I eat, while waiting for appointments or for kids to have music lessons, in the evening (instead of TV) and before bed.

  20. Diane says:

    I do find it hard to balance reading and exercising. I would rather sit and read than walk and I have to push myself out the door most days; but I have my ipod with downloaded books and that helps.

  21. Xina says:

    I run 2-3 miles on my treadmill 5 x’s a week. I read off my iPad and listen to music off my iPhone. It works really well for me. I also walk with my daughter or a dog or 2 on my non running days. I do it for my health and to keep my blood pressure down. It has worked and I am off those horrible meds. I actually look forward to my treadmill time with the reading. I used to just hate it but it became so much easier with a good book.

  22. gumbybird says:

    When I decided to try to lose 40 pounds 2 years ago, I decided to bribe myself to exercise with audiobooks. I started with Outlander and wouldn’t let myself listen to it at any other time except while walking or running. (Well, once I cheated and cut myself a break while painting the basement – so boring otherwise!) It worked great – 6 months later I was at my goal and I’ve kept it off for almost a year and a half now. I no longer need the audiobook bribes. Instead, I use romance novels as the reward for getting up early to exercise – I give myself a half hour to indulge in a good book and tea before I start every morning. Exercise (and being in shape) ARE addictive!

  23. Blythe says:

    I feel very antsy if I don’t exercise – whether I’m on vacation or not. For me it’s a seven day a week habit, though I vary what I do. I discovered yoga a few months ago and am very into that right now, but I also walk and bike, and I used to do step aerobics. Over the winter I was really into an exercise program on the xbox. I can read if I’m riding my stationary bike, but I listen to music for most of my workout because I tend to slow down more while reading.

    Honestly I don’t know how much being a Coloradan influences my exercise habits. I’ve now officially lived here longer than anywhere else (14+ years). I think people are more fitness conscious here. We get a lot of sun and have a lot of opportunities for outdoor recreation. And people think nothing of going all over town in their yoga pants or gym shorts (not in a sloppy way; usually they look like they’ve just exercised or are about to). People like to talk about what they do for fitness. I do notice that when I travel to certain places, there are more overweight people than you’d see here.

    My work out habits and reading habits don’t coincide too much. I’d rather listen to music than a book on tape. I work out in the morning before I go to work. I read during my lunch break and at night.

    I find it easier to encourage my kids to read than it is to encourage them to exercise. One daughter runs, the other takes long walks. I think my two in high school will both run cross country this year. My youngest is veering toward being overweight, though. We try to do active things as a family, but it’s a challenge with this one.

  24. Leigh says:

    Ellen and Lee, like you both I am enjoying using audio books while exercising. I think I will probably switch off between books and music. But books right now are getting over the beginning hump.
    And I loved listening to “It Had to Be You”

    Karenmc, and Dick . . being ill and having surgery does take a lot out of you. Glad to hear you both are feeling better.

    Anne I never tried reading. I might try it the next time, I don’t want to put that book down

    Farmwifetwo. . . yep, the computer keeps me sedentary too. It is just as addictive as reading.

    Tee, I wish I could walk with my dogs. I have four. I live off a pretty busy country highway. So it is walk to the end of the street and back. For a while I was driving to a walking trail but it has gotten so hot and if I am honest, walking four dogs is a bit of a pain. I swear I spend more time detangling the leads. When it gets cooler I do need to do it because they need exercise as much as I do.

  25. Leigh says:

    HAT, hope you are feeling better. I find it extremely difficult to make myself exercise if I am feeling bad.

    Barbara, the audio books are working as a reward. I need to switch off to my treadmill, so I am going to try to read a book.

    Lauren, I hear you. I am taking care of an elderly relative. The stress has been increasing and I figured I had better do something.

    Heather, that is what I need to do on the days that I work. Just come in and do it first thing.

    DJ Biking is a lot of fun. Sound like you are a very active person.

    Beth W. try four dogs (grin) I don’t feel at times that I am getting any exercise at all with the stops, but then at times it is all I can do to keep up with them, expecially once they start watching for squirrels. It almost like I have a sled team.

    Sharon, I did dog agility for a while. I loved doing that with my dogs.

  26. Leigh says:

    wenmc, sounds like you have always been able to have a good balance between the two.

    Kate K You sound like me. Except it doesn’t work for me with housework. I am alway say that, then I think Oh, I finish the book first and then clean. One reason my house is not as clean as I wish.

    Carrie, You guys are making me jealous, since it sounds like you have a good place to walk. Cooler weather and my dogs and I are off to the trail.

    Xina, great for you being able to get off your hypertension medication.

    gumbybird, that is great. I am not sure I am going to be as discipline as you. I have already finished my one book I got yesterday. Although not listening to it except for exercising is a great motivator.

    Blythe, Colorado has a lot going for it in terms of exercise. When I lived in San Diego, people were always outside doing something. Here it is so humid and hot. Once I get my endurance up, then I will probably be switching back to music I want to first set up the habit again, and then push on the intensity.

    Thanks everyone for sharing. For those of us that are getting back in the habit again, reading your success stories is encouraging.

  27. LinnieGayl says:

    I can get into slumps where I don’t exercise much for awhile, but for the most part do get some form of exercise every day. I do vary it over the course of a week, mixing in walking (used to run, just can’t do anymore), yoga, pilates, and swimming. Audio books have greatly enhanced my walking (both outdoors and on treadmills) over the last few years.

    In fact, when I’m listening to a book I particularly want to finish, I’ll not only walk in the morning before work, but will make certain that I go out at lunch for a walk so I can listen some more.

  28. desiderata says:

    I work out 5-6 days a week, and have for years. I cross train with weights, cardio and yoga. I don’t incorporate reading or audiobooks with my workouts. I exercise in the early morning so I’m energized and revved for the day before work, then I read at night before bed so I’m (hopefully) relaxed and sleepy.

  29. Jane AAR says:

    I’ve recently moved from a city to rural/suburban environment; from walking everywhere and being at a job where I spent much of the day on my feet, to driving everywhere and not having anything to do but sit around. I can feel a difference. I’ve gained a bit of weight (not much, maybe 3-4 pounds) in the past 3 weeks and feel antsier than usual.

    I’ve never managed to work reading into my exercise routine; I can’t read on a treadmill or elliptical, and since I have a Mac I can’t borrow Audiobooks, or use CDs (my drive is broken). Reading has always been a relaxation for me, so I work exercise into other parts of my life so I can stretch out and read without feeling guilty. When I move again in a few weeks, it will be back to an urban environment without a car, so my exercise once again will be walking and being on my feet at work. I also ordered an exercise ball, as I’ve found that has helped me tone muscles well without it feeling like exercise.

  30. RobinB says:

    I work out two or three times a week at a Curves gym–half the time the workouts include Zumba which is a terrific way to get your cardio going! The Zumba instructor at our Curves is fabulous; she has only two rules: 1. Don’t overdo, and 2. Be aware of your neighbor’s whereabouts while you’re moving so that there are no accidents!

    I should mention that there’s a small library at the gym; members are encouraged to bring already-read books in and take books that they haven’t read. So while I don’t read while I exercise, I do check the library to see what gems might be there! :)

  31. willaful says:

    I wrote a post on the RT board a few years ago about how romance novels were good for my health, because I always had something to read at the gym… these days I do more classes and I miss the reading/listening time!

    We have a library at our gym too, and it’s saved my hide once or twice when I lost my book or picked a loser. (Oh, the horror of being at the gym with a boring book…)

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