There is one thing you can do to prevent and treat diabetes, heart disease, depression, premenstrual syndrome, anxiety, dementia, memory loss, osteoporosis and weight gain. Even better - it's free. Exercise does not require going to the gym or buying special equipment. You can walk out your front door.
The goal is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. For prevention or reversal of insulin resistance, it is better to get some exercise every day instead of doing multiple hours of exercise on only one or two days a week.
Some health benefits of exercise:
Heart health: Physical activity decreases triglycerides and increases HDL (the kind of cholesterol that is protective to your arteries and heart.) Aerobic exercise also strengthens your heart so that it pumps more efficiently.
Weight loss: The rate at which your body burns calories is increased during and after exercise. Muscles burn more calories than fat so by building muscle mass, you increase the number of calories that are burned even when you are sitting.
Improved sleep: Exercise helps you fall asleep and sleep more deeply. Just be careful not to exercise too close to bed time or you may be too energized to sleep.
Improved mood: In multiple clinical trials, exercise for 30 minutes per day worked better than Prozac and other antidepressants for treating depression and anxiety.
Increased energy: The more you move your body, the more oxygen and nutrients are traveling to your brain and to all of your cells. With physical training, your heart and lungs become more efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients to all of your cells.
Tips for developing an exercise habit:
Schedule time for exercise on your calendar: Don't let exercise be the activity that you fit in "if you have time." Schedule your exercise as you do other engagements. Even better, schedule exercise with a friend or join a class.
Vary your routine: Change your routine to keep it interesting. Walk around your neighborhood, meet a friend for a hike in the woods, bike to the store, work out with an exercise video. Consider activities that you enjoyed in the past or activities that you always wanted to learn how to do like dancing, tennis, kayaking or snowshoeing.
Make it fun: If you are exercising by yourself, consider listening to an audiobook (free at the library) or fun music. Next time you are meeting with a friend, suggest meeting for a walk or bike ride instead of a meal. Exercising with children is a great way to connect with them and encourage them to develop healthy habits. Next time you are with a child consider suggesting an outdoor physical activity as a fun way for both of you to get exercise.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of exercise, there is a great youtube video called "23 ½ Hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?" by Dr Mike Evans.
Dr. Gwenn Rosenberg ND is a naturopathic doctor who practices with Natura Medica clinic in downtown Mystic. The family medicine practice utilizes therapeutic nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine and lifestyle counseling as well as conventional therapies in disease treatment and prevention. When she is not in the office, Dr. Rosenberg enjoys spending time with her sweet dog, Turtle. Dr. Gwenn, as her patients call her, loves to hike and ride her bicycle. She hiked across Oregon and Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail and she is often seen along Route 1 in her bright yellow jacket, riding to work.