Exercise: It’s Just What the Doctor Ordered

April 1, 2009 8:32 pm

What if your doctor could write a prescription that would help you to avoid a heart attack or stroke, manage your diabetes and ward off future osteoporosis? And what if the prescription had no negative side effects when followed correctly? Would you take it?

Of course there is no “magic pill”. But there is a way to significantly improve health and reduce your risk of many diseases. The secret is simply good old fashioned exercise! That’s right, exercise is an excellent way to maintain optimal health and increase the likelihood of living longer.

What is good for the body is good for the mind:

Exercise has long been known for its ability to increase energy and maintain overall mobility. We now know that exercise can help us to sleep better and even improve our mood. But did you know that healthy bouts of regular activity are associated with improved self-esteem and an increased ability to respond to stress? Studies have even shown that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication for some who suffer from major depression[i].

Movement is the key:

So, you don’t like to exercise? Feeling apprehensive about the idea of “working out” at the gym? Fear not! Exercise need not be formal and it certainly doesn’t need to be difficult. The secret is movement– anytime, anywhere. That might mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Even parking your car a block or two away from your destination will help. You could try stretching for 5 minutes 2-3 times a day. Any type of movement counts!

Do something you enjoy:

Find an activity that you like to do. Maybe you enjoy yoga or dancing in your living room. Do you love walking but can’t seem to find 30-45 minutes of free time? Try splitting it up into three, 10-to-15 minute segments and do it at least three times a week. You’ll reap the same benefits and may even be more likely to fit exercise into your day. A general rule of thumb is if you move more today than you did yesterday, you’re ahead of the game! Keep building momentum little by little each day!

Don’t overdo it:

It’s a good idea to speak with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Too much exercise can cause stress and decrease our immune response so be sure to ask if there are any restrictions. He or she may suggest that you start out slow. This might include simply bending or swaying slowly to music. With practice you will begin to build more strength and your energy should begin to increase. Pretty soon you’ll be working your way up to 30-60 minutes of moderate activity every day.

Exercise can be a life long practice:

Exercise is not just for the young at heart! Our bodies can reap the benefits of movement throughout our entire lives. In addition to improving strength, flexibility and balance, exercise can actually help to avoid injury and combat disease, which can be very important as we age.

It takes approximately 6 weeks for something to become a habit and exercise is no different. Be patient! If you get bored, try something new. The “end goal” is to make exercise a daily practice that you will enjoy and maybe even begin to cherish. Remember that this is an investment in your future. The more you move now, the easier it will be to move later!


[i] Duke University (1999, October 27). Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression. ScienceDaily

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