Time to Move
Happy New Year! With the uncertainty about health care on this eve of a new administration my recommendation today is for everyone to be more active. Exercise is the key to good health. It can improve memory, lower stress levels, improve mood and lower the risk of chronic diseases. This includes serious conditions like breast cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. And it doesn’t have to cost you anything. Exercise keeps bones strong as we age and improves sleep. How can we turn down something that is so good for us and free? If these benefits could be had in a pill everyone would be buying it.
I think I have heard every excuse for not exercising in my 30 years of practice. For most exercise brings to mind grueling hours in the gym when it doesn’t have to be that at all. Exercising is movement, and the more we move the healthier we are. Find an activity that you like and stick with it.
The American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week as ideal. This might seem overwhelming for someone with limited time due to long work hours and family commitments.
For those who work at a desk, take every opportunity to get up and walk briskly when you do. If that is not possible, move your legs under your desk. ‘Fidgety’ people tend to weigh less. If it’s safe, park your car further from your building to get in those extra steps. At home make your chores a form of exercise. Exaggerate your movements when cleaning, walk in place while doing dishes and go up and down stairs every chance you get. If you wear a step counter, try to get 10,000 steps a day.
Another problem that prevents regular exercise is fatigue, but unfortunately fatigue is not treatable with medication. Exercise does. Recent studies have found that even brief, intensive exercise can have health benefits. A minute of all out strenuous activity can provide the benefits of much longer but moderate activity. If you are too tired, try just doing that minute of strenuous activity every day to get started. Obviously if you have chronic health problems, check with your doctor first.
If you have a favorite TV show don’t allow yourself to watch it sitting down. Ideally walk a treadmill, peddle a bike, do some floor work, but if that’s not possible at least spend every commercial taking a quick walk around your home.
The last recommendation is to make a plan in writing. This has been found to improve compliance with change. Get a calendar and mark your start day, then put a check box on subsequent days where you can mark that you met your goal for that day—brief intensive minute, 20-minute workout of 10,000 steps. Hopefully this will get you started on a path to better health.