Exercise: Simple Messages

1) Regular exercise and activity is probably the most powerful tool to treat or prevent a host of significant health problems.  You can lower your risk of heart disease, most cancers, stroke, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, osteoarthritis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, dementia, decreased libido, dysmenorrhea, among many others.  Exercise gives you a feeling of accomplishment, improves self-efficacy, improves relaxation and concentration, improves brain function, and normalizes GI function.  And it is usually cheaper than a prescription!

2)  Do something physical almost every day!   Commit to putting in the time first:  find spots in your day where it can work, and make regular appointments with yourself and your friends.

3) Make sure it is fun!  And/or do it with a friend.   You will be more likely to stick with it.  Try a new sport whenever you have the opportunity–there are lots to try, so it need never be monotonous.

4) Use large muscle groups, like your legs and arms along with your core stabilizers.  The larger or more the muscles used, the more likely your cardiorespiratory system will benefit.

5) Start within your tolerances and work up as tolerated.  Start with 20-30 minutes of walking, hiking, running, dancing, cycling, snowshoeing, skiing, swimming, a team sport, a racquet sport, or the like, and extend this to an hour when you can.

6) Break a sweat several times a week!  Your elevated heart rate and respiratory rate are signs that you are opening up blood vessels to every working part of your body…. Which is good for you.  Your body adapts to these stresses, improving your vigor.

7) Make sure you do some regular strength training for stronger bones and less risk of injury.  Falls and subsequent head injuries such as concussions are less likely with maintaining strength into the senior years.  Resistance training provides noticeable improvements with 2-3 sessions per week, and can be done without weights or a gym membership.  Your doctor or a personal trainer can help you tailor the right program for you.

8) Include flexibility in your regular exercise program.  Stretching, yoga, tai chi, and other core stabilization exercises can reduce stiffness, retain normal range of motion, and preserve balance and coordination.

9) Talk to your doctor about what you need, and where to start.   Sometimes some initial evaluation is needed, whether blood work, treadmill testing, a review of previous injuries, a review of your preferences and what is available to you, as well as the effect of your current medications. Your doctor can monitor your progress, and problem solve with you to keep you on track.