Monday, October 21, 2013

Benefits of Exercise Don't Come in a Pill, So Get Moving!

Creating a new habit is not easy, but it is possible. You have to make it a priority and it must be workable in your life.

Woman running on trail
Getting a little support can help you develop an exercise routine for life.

How important is exercise?

People who live sedentary lifestyles have a greater risk for a long list of chronic diseases, with a greater risk of mortality. When you incorporate consistent, moderate-intensity exercise into your life, you will measurably increase the quality and quantity of your life. Abundant scientific literature provides the evidence.

What’s stopping you? No, seriously, what’s stopping you?

Why don’t you exercise? What are the obstacles? Take one week and keep a log. Increase your awareness around it. Solving the problem first requires identifying the problem. One of the principles of naturopathic medicine is tolle causam, or treat the cause. You can’t treat the cause if you haven’t identified the cause.

Creating a new habit is not easy, but it is possible. You have to make it a priority and it must be workable in your life. You have to enjoy it. You have to appreciate its benefits. For example, people who exercise sleep better, have more energy and weigh less. Would you buy that in a pill if you could?

Once you have identified your problem – too tired, no time, unhealthy snacking, too much beer, etc. – your next step is to find someone to help you. Clinical research shows people who are supported in their efforts to be more active have greater success and enjoyment. It can be your naturopathic doctor. It can be your pastor. It can be your dog. It could even be your iPod. It doesn't matter. You’re gonna need some need help with this.

To start, commit to exercising every other day for a week. The intensity level of your exercise should exceed your ability to tell a long story to a friend. You want your heart and respiratory rate elevated.

Take stock after one week. How do you feel? How did you sleep? How was your energy? The answers to these questions may not be overwhelmingly positive at this point. Stay strong. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Do the same the next week. Take stock at two weeks. How do you feel? How did you sleep? How was your energy? These answers should be more positive at this point.

Keep in mind that weight loss is only one outcome. We can be overly focused on weight loss, which will come eventually with changes in diet and lifestyle. Exercise will also lead to more energy, better sleep, a sense of wellness, decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, decreased risk for cancer and more. Research tells us you need to exercise 150 minutes each week for maximum disease prevention.

How long does it take to form a new habit? Sixty-six days, according to current psychological research. It may be less for you. It may be more. There's only one way to find out!

Jamie Coroon, ND, naturopathic doctor and resident, Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

FALL 2014
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