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If the Energizer Bunny were a workout guru ...

December 03, 2007|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer

After more than two decades on TV and with 64 exercise videos and DVDs under her belt, Denise Austin is still cajoling Americans to get fit with the unflagging zeal of an Energizer Bunny -- a fact not lost on the folks at Energizer, who were so impressed with the similarity that the battery-maker teamed up with her on a nationwide health promotion tour that begins Jan. 1. Her newest DVDs, "Denise Austin: Burn Fat Fast -- Cardio Blast" and "Denise Austin: Yoga Body Burn," are due out this month.

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You exercise 30 minutes a day. What do you do?

I've been working out for 30 minutes almost every day for 25 years. I change it up constantly.

Every Sunday, I call up all of my girlfriends and I see who's available for the week. With kids and all, I never get a chance to see my girlfriends, so this a great way for me to hook up.

Three days a week, I do cardio, usually a run or a walk. At least once a week I do my boot camp workout, which is three minutes of cardio, then one or two minutes of light weights, then right back to cardio. I have my iPod timed with certain music -- Sugarland, Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Kenny Chesney.

This week, on Monday, I ran with a girlfriend, then Wednesday I walked 35 minutes -- I usually walk a 13-minute mile. On Friday, I'll probably do my boot camp workout. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I'll do weight training, Pilates, yoga.

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How has your routine changed over the years?

I've changed my routine a little (I turned 50 this year), but I still believe in the three elements of fitness: You have to do cardio to burn fat and condition the heart; you have to do strength training to keep muscles firmed and toned and because muscle works miracles on your metabolism; then you have to stretch. All three are important in a well-balanced routine.

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If you could recommend only one exercise for someone who is stuck at a desk all day, what would that be?

Isometric exercises. They really do help. While sitting at your desk, try tightening up your tummy muscles and releasing. Squeeze your buttocks, tight, tight, tight, and release. You can do stretches of the shoulders and neck while sitting. And you can do the tightening in the car. Pull in your tummy, zip it up and release it.

Also, good posture can help keep your back healthy and your abdominal muscles nice and flat. If you're slouched over, your tummy has nowhere else to go but out. If you sit up nice and tall, you zip up those abs, hold your abs in, breathe and control those ab muscles so they don't pouch out, they'll start to stay flat naturally.

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We are seeing a growing obesity problem among kids. Are there things parents can do to get their kids more active?

First of all, I encourage parents to ask their kids how many times a week they get P.E. in school. You'd be surprised what you find out. A lot of parents [wrongly] assume that their children are getting a lot of exercise at school, so when the kids come home it's OK to relax in front of the TV.

Also, I'd try to get them involved in after-school events, dance programs, any form of sports, and of course they can do activities at home. "[I'd tell them], let's turn on the music and dance. Let's go outside and play ball." With girls, you never want to say, "You're eating too much," so I focus on activity. And little things can make a difference. One time, I gave my kids pedometers and they immediately started competing.

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You've been through the aerobics movement, which evolved into step aerobics and then cycling. Then you went to Pilates and yoga. Have we learned things from each of these?

I graduated from college in '79, so I was right there in the '80s in Los Angeles when aerobics was taking off. I started on Jack LaLanne's show in 1981. I've seen a lot of fads, especially fashion fads, the leggings, the G-string leotard with the shiny tights. Now it's all about comfort and good fabrics.

It's been a natural evolution. All of these have been vehicles for improving overall health. But now the biggest issue is: We're overeating. I feel like my job has yet to begin, and I've been doing it for 20-some years.

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janet.cromley@latimes.com

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