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Get yourself fit to aim for a home-buying goal

March 21, 2009

Since 2003, Scott Trappe, a professor of exercise science at Ball State University, has twice led a research project involving groups of average, out-of-shape undergraduates. In both cases, he convinced the students to do a 16-week training program to prepare for a grueling marathon. The results were stunning.

Not only did every student complete the marathon, but the fitness improvements that came with vigorous exercise had a transformative effect on their lives, helping them attain a myriad of personal objectives.

Could fitness help you achieve a long-held real estate goal, such as moving from a cramped apartment to a house of your own in an area with top-rated schools for your children? Absolutely, according to Trappe, who says "exercise delivers big time, both in physiological and psychological ways."

"With fitness you get mental focus and the confidence to conquer almost any goal you set," he says, "whether that means buying the house of your dreams, getting an advanced degree, or landing a new job."

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The link between exercise and home-buying goals hardly surprises Mark Nash, a veteran real estate broker and author of "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home." For years, he's noticed that clients who pursue fitness regimens are more likely to reach the finish line with their housing plans.

"Exercise can propel you to homeownership by giving you the structure and self-discipline to move forward. As you see your body improving, you can envision your living space improving as well," Nash says.

Of course, many prospective home buyers are currently waiting on the sidelines until the turbulence in the U.S. economy passes. But "if your job is secure and your credit is decent, this could be an ideal moment to acquire your first property," Nash says. "People who do their homework can find outstanding values in this market."

Here are pointers for those who'd like to use exercise to gain momentum toward their real estate goal:

Take a methodical approach to both fitness and home-buying.

As Nash says, those who attempt either a crash exercise program or a crash home-buying venture are at risk of failure. Rather, they need patience and tenacity.

Before going house hunting, would-be home buyers should outline their priorities, scout neighborhoods and meet with a reputable lender to gain mortgage preapproval. Likewise, those embarking on an exercise program should follow a methodical course as they ramp up.

Trappe says that even though research shows it can take at least six to eight weeks of training for an out-of-shape adult to become physically fit, "after three months, you'll be hooked."

Choose the kind of exercise that fits your lifestyle and preferences.

Research done at Ball State University's Human Performance Lab shows that relatively small amounts of time spent on fitness can yield large results.

"We bring people in here, some up in their 80s and even 90s, and get them going on a solid exercise program that yields big benefits with just three to four fairly brief workouts per week," Trappe says.

You don't need to be a marathon runner to gain the results you're seeking. The key, Trappe says, is to choose fitness activities you enjoy that can be embedded in your daily routine and pursued on a regular basis near your home or workplace.

"Research shows that intensity wins hands down over the amount of time spent," Trappe says. "A little exercise goes a long way if you work out at a high percentage of your full potential."

Engage with others as you pursue your dual goals.

Home buyers gain momentum by working with enthusiastic and supportive real estate agents and mortgage lenders. Likewise, an "exercise buddy" who lives nearby can make a huge difference in helping you achieve your fitness goals, says Lawrence Mandarino, a kinesiology professor at Arizona State University.

"It's amazing how much faster time goes by when you have someone to talk to during exercise," he says. "Many people fail to keep exercising because they do it alone, which can be isolating and boring."

Include exercise expenses in your budget.

Exercise experts say it needn't be costly to pursue a rigorous exercise program that could both improve your health and advance your home-buying goal. All you need are a few items of gear, such as good running shoes or swim goggles. A gym membership also works well for those who enjoy the sociability of a health club.

But those struggling to save for the down payment on a home might consider dropping their gym membership. Trappe, however, recommends that prospective home buyers keep the gym and instead cut their restaurant tabs or cable TV bill.

"An investment in exercise is low-cost and the returns are monumental," Trappe says.

To contact Ellen James Martin, e-mail her at ellenjamesmartin@gmail.com.

Copyright 2009 Ellen James Martin

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