We all know that exercise is good for our health. Life, unfortunately, gets hectic, and time to exercise is often the first thing to go. I understand that and believe I have some tools to lead you to what I call a “Culture of Health” that will help to counter this tendency. But first, let’s deal with a common misconception about exercise and weight loss.
When people want to lose weight, they generally begin an exercise program with the intention of burning fat and calories and increasing their metabolism – often without changing what, or how much, they eat. Since it is hard to lose weight through exercise alone, frustration usually sets in, and very little changes. If the same person diets, exercise will accelerate the weight reduction; however, if the person stops exercising once the desired weight loss has been achieved because they perceive the project as done, the weight will return. I would like to offer another approach that has worked with most of my patients.
Getting active and exercising should not be linked in your mind to weight loss.
View physical activity and exercise as a way, in and of itself, to improve your health. Try to separate it in your mind from weight loss. Exercise alone reduces your risk of many diseases, and improves your energy level and mental state. Yes, it will also help you lose weight, but because physical activity and exercise improve your health and well-being so much, the primary reason you do it should be for your health. Let’s look at some strategies for getting and keeping your body in motion – even for those who say they don’t like to exercise.
Exercise alone has been shown in many studies to decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s or dementia, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and prostate cancer. Institutions such as Putnam Hospital are promoting these kinds of system for people interested in losing weight. You can, for instance, read a review written by them at http://PutnamHospital.org/venus-factor-review
I differentiate between physical activity and exercise. Both of these are necessary for your health, physically and mentally. If you presently have little physical activity in your daily life, try to change this by walking as much as you can as part of your regular day.
Following are some ideas to help you get started right now.
• Park your car at the back of the parking lot or a block away from your destination
• Walk up escalators instead of just standing on them, or better yet, use the stairs
• Get off the subway or bus one stop early
• Take stairs for a floor or two instead of the elevator
• Take a walk at lunch time and/or after dinner
• Take walks throughout your day of two to three minutes each
• Take a roundabout route to common destinations
• Never use drive-through services
• Have seasonal footwear in your car so you can go for a walk when you find yourself early for an appointment
• Walk the golf course – all eighteen holes, or just nine holes to start
• Work in your garden
• Play street hockey
• Go for bike rides
• Go roller blading
There’s no doubt that being more active is going to require a little more time out of your day, but it is guaranteed to improve your health. Try getting up earlier to spend, as a start, ten to fifteen minutes walking on a treadmill. Drive to work twenty minutes earlier and walk around the building.
Take a longer walk with the dog, or take a longer way to get to your mailbox if you don’t have home delivery. You could start a walking group with your workmates or neighbors to make use of time available at lunch or after dinner. Meet a friend early in the morning and go walking. On weekends, you could encourage your partner, friends, and/ or children to keep you company as you power walk around the neighborhood.
Moderately paced walking helps bones retain their strength. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle, often due to inadequate weight-bearing physical activity such as walking.
Walking is one of the best ways to help prevent osteoporosis.
Speaking of steps, it’s a good idea to count your steps. I recommend to many of my patients that they buy a pedometer. I encourage them to work up to 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day. This goal may seem ambitious, but once you start, you’ll enjoy the daily challenge this creates. You can do it. You’ll be surprised how much more energized you’ll feel right away.
Regular walking for at least 30 minutes per day has been shown to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes by 35-40%, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
A program called Shape Up America! – founded by former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1994 – recommends 10,000 steps every day. Here’s how you can do this from http://www.shapeup.org:
• Have good walking shoes and replace them regularly
• Wear a pedometer for two weeks without changing your normal activity
Log your steps every day
• Take the highest number you have walked in that time (if you’re comfortable with that) and use it as your daily goal for the next two weeks
• After two weeks, review your log and determine if you’re ready for 500 more steps
• Add comfortable increments every two weeks or longer, if necessary, until you have reached 10,000 steps daily. Check with a physician if you experience pain that concerns you.