Lifestyle Education Discussion

Exercise Is Medicine

What if there were one pill you could take daily that protected against disease, cancer, aging and a host of other maladies?  In addition, it might cure depression and counter the harmful effects of stress and anxiety.  And then, what if I added that this pill was super low cost, and without any unwanted side effects?  As it turns out, exercise is that magic pill.

Exercise:

  • Improves memory and cognitive function
  • Improves mood, induces happiness and sense of well-being
  • Reduces risk of colon, breast, lung and endometrial cancer (and likely many others)
  • Improves cognitive function by enhancing neurogenesis and neuroplastisty (new brain cells and synaptic connections)
  • Improves function of endocrine system (naturally balances hormones)
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Reduces risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Improves self-confidence
  • Reduces pain
  • Reduces blood pressure naturally
  • Promotes blood sugar control/increases insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces inflammation in the body
  • Improves immune function (get sick less frequently)
  • Increases muscular strength and flexibility
  • Prevents weight gain

Most people understand that exercise is good for them on a surface level, but they’ve heard the same recycled message over and over.  Simply knowing that exercise is good for health doesn’t automatically translate into someone adopting it as a health behavior.  So the question we all need to ask is, how specifically is exercise good for MY body?  The challenge here is that oftentimes we won’t know the answer to this question until we have been practicing the behavior for some time.  For example, you wouldn’t appreciate the mood-boosting effects of running until you were 20 minutes into the run, and you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the full health benefits until running became routine, instead of something you did just once or twice.

It’s worth pointing out that exercise should ultimately be something you enjoy, and it certainly doesn’t need to be complicated.  If you have been inactive for some time, there will be discomfort as your body adapts to the new physical demands.  But once you build an aerobic and fitness base, you will come to need physical challenge much the same way you need to eat and sleep.  Movement and physical activity is natural.  Being sedentary is not.  Bodies are designed to move and not sit for 8 hours at a time.  At its core, exercise should work the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system.  This means cardio + building or maintaining muscle and bone tissue.  Bone, by the way, is living tissue.  Incorporating resistance training into your exercise routine helps protect against sarcopenia and osteopenia.  Translated, this means strong muscles and strong bones—a sturdy frame that you have the privilege of using while on this earth.  This body is the only one you have, so take good care of it.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s not all or nothing and any exercise is better than no exercise.  Find some movements and activities that you can do and just start doing them.  Get creative with your exercise and try new things.  One of the most important things you can do in the beginning stages is to surround yourself with others who are committed to an active lifestyle.  Try some group fitness classes or hiking groups.  Spend money by hiring a personal trainer who can encourage, inspire and push you to do more than you thought you could.  Whatever you do, just get moving and stay moving.  Practice.

“The most effective way to do it, is it to do it.”–Amelia Earhart