“Eating alone will not keep a man well,” Hippocrates famously wrote. “He must also take exercise.”
Why is it that health care providers often encourage exercise like the annoying car alarm you might hear buzzing in the parking lot, yet we all struggle to actually do it? Is it the increase in the usage of screens or are we so busy that we can’t make the time to move our bodies? In an article published in TIME magazine, The New Science of Exercise states doctors used to prescribe diet and exercise as a course of treatment prior to medication. While the medical model of prevention previously has decreased over the years, it's making a come back. Now, more than ever, health care professionals are prescribing daily movement to their patients as "must-do" to stay healthy and prevent the chronic disease or the repercussions of chronic disease. The benefits of exercise are not limited to decreased weight or improved body tone, however.
According to a study published in the Primary Care Companion, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal (Sharma et al, 2006). So, can exercise save your life? I personally think it can. The Coronavirus has caused a disruption in routines thus creating a high amount of anxiety and depression. While many gyms are not open, there are other ways to exercise such as going for a walk, riding a bike, roller skating, swimming (where facilities are open), and home work out videos. Meeting a friend for a walk or run can be a great way to increase your heart rate and provide a social outlet as well.
Per the Primary Care Companion, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry the clinical health benefits of regular exercise are as follows:
- Improved sleep
- Increased interest in sex
- Better endurance
- Stress relief
- Improved mood
- Increased energy and stamina
- Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
- Weight reduction
- Reduced cholesterol and cardiovascular fitness
Is making exercise a priority easy, no? But I think it’s safe to say that the benefits outweigh the cost of having to get up early or juggle a few things to fit in a work out. Find something you enjoy and aim to do complete that exercise for 30 minutes three times a week. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with that, increase your time and variety. I have never once regretted pushing myself to get out the door for movement, but I have regretted making excuses — and sitting on the couch instead. What will you do to get moving, and who will you connect with to help keep you accountable?
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JoAnn Gruener RD, CDE
Health Advisor | Email JoAnn