When most people think of exercise, they imagine things like running on a treadmill, aerobics, and weight lifting. Which is correct, yes, those are all examples of exercise. However, exercise is also so much more. If running on a treadmill has you feeling like a hamster on a wheel, there are other options. There are even hidden ways of getting exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise at all.
Exercise is defined as “physical activity to sustain or improve health and fitness.”
Before we discuss ways of getting your body moving, let’s discuss the many benefits that increased physical activity can have on your life. You may be surprised to find out that it isn’t limited to weight loss.
What are the benefits of exercise?
1. Improves mood.
Have you ever heard the term “runner’s high?” Ask anyone who has a regular exercise routine, they’ll all tell you how great they feel afterward. Not only is there a sense of accomplishment, but there’s a scientific reason why. When you exercise, you stimulate the natural endorphins in your brain. So you’ll get that “ahhhhhh” happy feeling when you’re done.
2. Improves sleep.
Chances are you’ve been to a party, barbecue, or beach where children are running around, hyper, having the best time. Parents usually make a comment about how well the children will be sleeping tonight. It’s true! Studies have shown that an increase in physical activity can be directly linked to the amount of slow-wave sleep you get. Slow-wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate.
3. Decreases pain.
Maybe you’ve heard the term “A body in motion, stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.” If you suffer from arthritis or some other painful physical ailment, you may equate movement with pain. However, making an effort to continue moving throughout the day can actually decrease your pain.
*Please check with your doctor to see if exercise is a good idea for your particular ailment.
4. Improves your cardiovascular health.
Improving blood sugar and reducing risk of Type II diabetes, or improving DMII for those already diagnosed. A Cochran review comparing 14 randomized controlled trials with 377 participants showed a decrease in HgbA1c of about 0.6% with exercise
Reducing blood pressure and triglycerides, decreasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
5. Improves brain function.
Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, reduces inflammation, lowers the level of stress hormones, and decreases the risk of cognitive impairment from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
6. Decreases fat tissue and increases muscle.
The most obvious and well known reason people exercise, the changes in physical appearance. Think of your body like a furnace. Exercising “ignites the furnace” and uses our stored fat as energy to fuel our physical activity. The more physical activity, the more fat is burned for fuel.
However it’s important to note that you cannot outrun a poor diet! Which really makes sense when you think about it. You’re eating poorly, causing a surplus of fat storage. You can only burn so much through exercise. There has to be an intake deficit.
What are some alternate forms of exercise?
Exercise is sustainable if it means doing things that you actually enjoy.
Here are some examples:
- Walking on a treadmill
- Stationary bike
- Weight lifting
- Bodyweight strength training: Squats, planks, push-ups, crunches, quadruplex
- Bodyweight cardio: Jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers
- Strength training with weights
- Jumping rope
- Rock climbing (belaying or bouldering)
- Sports: Golf, Tennis, Baseball/softball/whiffle ball
- Classes: Zumba, Orange Theory, CrossFit, Beach Body (i.e. PiYo),
- Yoga: I love SarahBethYoga (I’m not paid to endorse her and I’m not an affiliate, but she has tons of free classes online.) Truly Yoga in Pike Creek, Delaware, Kripalu for the full experience.
- Personal training
How can I get started with an exercise routine?
Choose a start date. This is important. Choose a date and stick to it.
Choose the number of days per week. If you’re new to exercise, start small and increase as you go according to your comfort level.
Plan your activity. Not sure what you like? Use the list above and try each one, working your way down. You’ll expose yourself to new things and increase the potential of really falling in love with an activity. Then it won’t feel like exercise at all!
Decide how much time you will give yourself. Again, if you’re new to exercise, I would start small with 30 minutes (or less) of low-impact movement a day then increase as you go.
Write this in your calendar. Having your intentions written on a calendar for you to see makes it easier to stick to it.
- Start slow and gradually increase activity to avoid injury.
- Sign up for a 5k to walk or jog. Going with a group can really be the boost you need.
- Ask a friend to join you. Sometimes, things are better with friends. Try Zumba classes together or escape to a calm lake and try canoeing.
For more info on all things health and wellness, check out the full blog, listen to the podcast and sign up for emails so you can get future blog posts right in your inbox.
That’s all I have for today. Stay healthy!
Dr. Kristine LaRocca
Disclaimer: Although I am a medical doctor, I am not YOUR doctor. So the things I teach are not to be used as medical advice. You should consult your physician to discuss what is best for you personally.
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