by Nettye Johnson
This article was published in Natural Awakenings of Greater Baton Rouge, May 2014
Our bodies were made to move and being regularly active is one of the most beneficial things we can do for our health. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and include resistance training, flexibility and functional fitness exercises two to three days per week. Maintaining this activity level can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death in the U.S.), some cancers, metabolic syndrome and stroke. It helps in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, strengthens our muscles and improves bone health. Exercise helps with weight management, making us more comfortable and confident in our swimming suit – and birthday suit. It can also relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve our mood, mental clarity and sleep.

The benefits of exercise are abundant and undeniable, yet CDC research indicates that only one in five U.S. adults gets enough physical activity for substantial health benefits. As a nation, we know the benefits of an active lifestyle, yet most of us still remain sedentary. The most commonly reported obstacles to regular exercise are perceived lack of time, no energy and lack of motivation. The following suggestions can help us move beyond these barriers to making activity a regular part of our lifestyle. 

We lead full, busy lives, so finding time for exercise can be difficult. This is particularly challenging for women who often get wrapped-up in filling multiple caretaker roles.  In order to care for others, we first need to care for ourselves. To overcome the no time obstacle, think of our exercise time as our own sacred time for ourselves.  Prioritize, schedule and protect it on our daily calendar. Sometimes a bit of sacrifice is required such as waking up an hour earlier or eliminating a few non-essential activities. If it simply is not possible to carve out a significant block of exercise time, divide it into multiple 10 to 15 minute mini-workouts and fit it in throughout the day. Studies show this segmented exercise approach yields similar health benefits to single exercise sessions.

A common cure for feeling too tired to exercise is, oddly enough, to exercise. When we start an activity, our metabolic rate gets a boost, endorphins are released and blood flow increases carrying more oxygen (needed for energy production) through our body. On a cellular level, regular cardiovascular activity increases the body’s creation of energy producing mitochondria. Hence our bodies respond to expended energy by becoming better at producing energy.  Studies show that exercise can reduce fatigue and increase energy better than the use of stimulants.  Other energy boosters include getting adequate sleep (7 to 9 hours nightly for adults) and drinking water before, during and after exercise, as fatigue can be a sign of dehydration.

Making exercise a regular part of our everyday lifestyle can be difficult – especially when motivation wanes. We can fortify motivation by identifying our WIIFM: What’s In It For Me. Before we lace-up our cross trainers, we can take time to examine our ‘why’.  For example, if health is the reason for boosting one’s activity level, go further and explore the health improvements that we will gain. Clearly define how better health will benefit us, our family, our work and/or our purpose. We can dig deep until we see how it connects to that which is most important in our life. When our WIIFM is personal and powerful, motivation soars. The unexpected benefit is that answers become clearer about how, when and where to add more activity into our daily life. 

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month– a perfect time to begin or refresh our  exercise routine.  Let’s share the benefits of getting and staying active and move for improved health.

image source: huffingtonpost.ca

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