What if something out there could help you simultaneously lower your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol? What if it also helped you sleep better and have more energy throughout the day, could reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, improve memory and increase confidence and self-esteem?
Did I mention it reduced your risk of cancer, heart disease, and even helps to reverse diabetes? Would you take it?
Well look no further, your magic pill is here!
Its name? Exercise.
Prior to becoming a registered dietitian, I spent many years working as a personal trainer. Now working with the Diabetes Education team at Samaritan Albany General Hospital, I have the opportunity to speak with many of our patients about the importance of physical activity and help them create a plan that fits their life. We know that when it comes to living a long and healthy life, physical activity is a must. However, many of my patients struggle with exercise.
I ask nearly all my patients one simple question: “When you reflect on a time when you were physically active, how did you feel?” Their response is almost universal: “Better!”
If exercise is so good for us, why is it such a struggle?
If you’ve ever seen a Strongman competition on television, it’s impressive. These are competitions where giant men perform incredible feats of strength in a competition against one another. Strongman Eddie Hall, for instance, can be seen pulling a 70,000 pound truck over a distance of 100 feet. When you watch him perform this task, the beginning is incredibly challenging. However, once the truck gets rolling, he seems to get into a rhythm and the truck rolls along at a steady pace.
Sometime getting started with your own exercise feels like pulling a semi-truck. The thing is, it doesn’t have to. The initial barrier of getting started is actually the hardest part. I like to challenge my patients with this – can you do one minute of walking? If the answer is yes, then go for it! Maybe you walk for one single minute every day for a week. Next week, increase it to two, and the next week three. The goal isn’t to run a marathon, it’s to get the truck rolling.
Consistency Is Key
Whether the challenge is with making dietary changes, or performing exercise, I always emphasize with my patients that the key is consistency. The goal is for physical activity to become a daily rhythm, something as natural to you as showering, eating or going to work. The people who are the most successful with exercise in the long-term are the ones who have it built into their daily schedule. For this reason, I had all of my personal training clients schedule their exercise time into their daily planner, the same way they would schedule a dentist appointment. Remember Newton’s first law of physics, “an object in motion stays in motion.”
Choose an Activity That Suits You
Going to a gym is one way to exercise, but it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s okay. There are a multitude of ways to get your body moving – dancing, swimming, hiking, yoga, biking or home workouts on a TV– to name a few. The goal is to get your heart rate up, and stress your muscles by providing some form of resistance. Some chores such as chopping wood and raking leaves are terrific, too!
Unfortunately, activities such as walking inside your house, folding laundry and organizing the office, are generally not strenuous enough to get the type of physical benefits you need. That is why I encourage adding some form of scheduled exercise on top of your daily tasks around the house.
The closest thing we have to the magic pill is exercise. Don’t forget to take your daily dose, and on the bright side – there’s no co-pay required!
Visit with our fitness and wellness experts at SamFit to help you develop a plan that works for you!