This post is the third in a three-part series on exercising with physical limitations.

If you went to public school in the United States in the past couple of decades (or had a child that did), you’re probably familiar with the dreaded physical fitness tests administered every year. Gym teachers administer five fitness tests to determine each student’s fitness level. In front of all their classmates. These tests include: “curl-ups or partial curl-ups, shuttle run, endurance run/walk [‘The mile run’], pull-ups or right angle push-ups, and V-sit or sit and reach.” The students who pass a certain number of tests get awards, and the others sigh in relief because another year has passed.

Those events were hellish for me, although possibly not for every child. I always had trouble with the pull-ups. Since my gym classes tended to be after lunch, the mile-long run/walk usually ended with me clutching my side while walking around the field as my classmates headed off to get drinks of water.

I am not here to talk about those tests.

The same President’s Council on Fitness and Sports created some very helpful programs for adults. (Or maybe it’s just better if you’re an adult, it’s voluntary, and you’re not judged by a jury of your adolescent peers.)

These include the Presidential Champions* and Active Lifestyle programs.

The Active Lifestyle program is a really awesome program that I’ve participated in twice. I’ve found it really good motivation to continue exercising. Your goal: Exercise 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for 5 weeks. (You have 8 weeks total for the program, so if you end up missing a week it’s okay.) “Exercise” can be anything outside your normal activity level – walking, doing housework, gardening, swimming, playing Nintendo Wii. It can be low-impact, ease-you-in kinds of exercise, or it can be high-endurance things like weight-lifting. They don’t even have to be 30 consecutive minutes of exercise. Basically, the Active Lifestyle program encourages you to work at your level of fitness.

Many of the fitness resources I have state that keeping an exercise log helps motivate people to continue exercising. (I can’t link them here, because they’re books. Sorry for the lack of an immediate citation!) It’s really satisfying to be able to look over your log and think, “Wow, when I began I could only walk for 10 minutes at a time. Now I’m walking to the park!” The program helped me increase my confidence in my ability to exercise. Even when I’m unable to exercise because of a circumstance outside my control (such as a stomach bug), I know that I can ease back into the program.

Oh, it’s also nice to get a snazzy certificate at the end.

*In case you were wondering, the Presidential Champions program is a more challenging program, in that you input the kind of exercise and length of time you did it, and the program assigns a number of “points” to your total score. When you reach a certain number of points, you get the medal. There is no time limit, although they do limit the amount of points you can get in a day to encourage participants to exercise daily rather than in large bursts. (Yes, Sarah Palin was a recipient of the Gold Presidential Champions medal. That does not mean it’s good or bad, and it did get some publicity about the program out there.)

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