This column is the second in a series of lessons on health and reaching your optimum you!
Exercise? You are without excuse!
I’ve heard them all and used them all.
But, we have no excuse not to exercise. None.
Selene Yeager is a professional cyclist who writes as the Fit Chick in Bicycling Magazine. She wrote: “Exercise is like fertilizer for your brain.”
Working out boosts capillary growth in your brain and muscles, which means more oxygen and nutrients get to them to help them work. Scientists writing in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that people finished faster and scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning and planning after 30 minutes on a stationary bike.
This is a vitally important aspect to consider since your brain shrinks as you age and those connections weaken. Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois, said his research shows that exercise restores and protects the brain.
Now, that doesn’t mean if a little is good, that longer, harder, higher, tougher is automatically better. The sweet spot for mental acuity benefits is 30-60 minutes of moderate to intense work at about 75 percent of maximum ability.
In other words, it’s better to exercise a little every day than to be a weekend warrior and run a marathon or cycle 100 miles.
And when it comes to emotional health, exercise works as well as, or maybe even better than, psychotherapy and antidepressants to ward off depression, according to James Blumenthal, professor of behavioral medicine at Duke University. His study analyzing 26 years of research finds that 20-30 minutes of exercise daily can prevent depression over the long term.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta says sedentary living – not high cholesterol as you might suspect – is the nation’s leading culprit in fatal heart attacks.
According to an article in the Raleigh News & Observer, researchers consider people sedentary who either do no purposeful physical activity or who exercise less than three times a week or less than 20 minutes at a time, or both.
What does exercise do?
It can lower blood levels of artery-damaging LDL cholesterol while raising beneficial HDL cholesterol. A study of 3,621 adults published in the September 2014 issue of The American Journal of Public Health showed that those who walked for exercise for at least four and a half hours a week were half as likely to have unfavorable cholesterol levels as people who walked only a half-hour to two hours a week.
Physically active people who suffer a heart attack are more likely to survive it.
Regular physical exercise can help to lower blood pressure without medication, which reduces your chances of suffering a stroke or developing kidney disease.
Many diabetics who exercise regularly and follow a proper diet can reduce – or in some cases eliminate – their dependence on insulin or other medications.
Exercise can help to curb excessive stress reactions and speed the return to normal when stress becomes an unavoidable burden.
An American College of Sports Medicine opinion paper on physical fitness recommendations for adults said exercise should be rhythmic and aerobic using large muscle groups. Examples are walking, jogging, bicycling, rowing, and stair climbing.
Any other obstacles?
• “I don’t have time.”
Then take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park away from the entrance and walk 100 yards. Set your clock 10 minutes earlier and walk around the block. Turn off the television and play catch with the kids. Instead of “movie night,” go bowling or play Frisbee or explore a park.
We make time for whatever we want to make time for. Your priorities come first – that’s what defines them as priorities.
• “I don’t have money.”
How much does it take? Go outside and walk. That’s the best single exercise you can do anyway. You don’t need to buy fancy Lycra pants, bright colored shoes, mats, bikes, power-output monitors, mesh jerseys or club memberships. Just step outside and walk around the block in the shoes you’re wearing.
Take the first step, and live more joyfully and healthfully.
• “I don’t have a place to exercise.”
You live somewhere. Sit down on the floor and do a sit-up. Sit on a chair and lift your arms. Step outside the door and walk to the end of the driveway or around the block.
Join a local YMCA or find a place with workout facilities. They often offer exercise classes for the community.
• “I’m not healthy enough to exercise.”
Say what? Getting started with exercise is an early step to regaining your health. It will do more for you than many of the pills you may be taking, I promise. I’m not offering you medical advice here and there are many who cannot exercise because of severe physical limitations. Contact your doctor when you’re ready to start getting some exercise.
I’m never going to be 170 pounds, and don’t want to be. I’d look funny. But without exercise, I could never maintain my weight loss. I’m committed to staying as far away as I can from the sluggish, big, clumsy, self-conscious guy I’ve been. When I was at my biggest, I wasn’t myself. There was more of me, but I wasn’t “the me” who is now free to run the ridge and sustain success at the peak!