Spring is just around the corner and if you’re ready to reboot one of your New Year’s resolutions, here’s why exercise should be at the top of the list. Current medical research continues to robustly establish vigorous physical exercise as a major influence on overall health and well-being, in addition helping in the treatment of many diseases including depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis. A recent study found that regular, intense exercise beneficially influenced the action of 400 genes — that’s right, 400 genes, a huge number — that produce proteins increasing the healthy functioning of mitochondria, the energy-producing machinery inside every cell. Exercise is synergistic with medicines and surgery. Developing, undertaking, and maintaining an exercise regimen is one of the best steps a person can take toward a self-actualized style of medical care.
An exercise “prescription”
We are a physician couple who have been physically active all our lives. We prescribe exercise regularly in our practices (one of us is a neurologist, the other a psychiatrist) and approach it in exactly the same way that we approach prescribing a medication, informing patients of dose and frequency benefits, possible side effects, and mechanisms of action. We describe a concrete regimen of exercise rather than simply saying, “exercise” and leaving it at that. Many patients don’t know how to get started, and specific details about using machines, weights, running, and other techniques prove valuable. Practical details are important, and we take time to answer any and all questions a patient might have. The physician-patient partnership around overall health goals is crucial. As partners, they can work together to include exercise as one tool among many to help achieve good health.
Follow-up is also key to encourage continued elaboration of goals, to educate about the interventions, and to support motivation. An exercise regimen is not static, and for best effect changes organically over time.
We have also found it is important to describe our own exercise experience, as a way of modeling what is possible.
Here’s how we make room for exercise
We have discovered many techniques that help us maintain our exercise routines in the face of the daily demands of busy lives. Here is a partial list.
- On Sunday night, when you think about your week, schedule your exercise just as you plan for work, errands, and other commitments. It’s easier to stick with it when you have concretely planned time.
- Mix it up. Plan different types of exercise to challenge different muscle groups, as research shows us this is the best way to stay in shape and develop endurance and muscle mass.
- Don’t get bogged down if you don’t have a lot of time. Research has demonstrated that intense, short bursts of exercise can be as effective as a longer workout, perhaps more so.
- Get your heart rate up, but watch it recover to baseline too. Wearing some type of heart rate monitor can be helpful.
- Try something new. Winter is a great time to try cross-country skiing. In the summer, why not go for a kayak paddle? Everything physical that you do counts as exercise.
- Find an exercise buddy. That way, if you want to beg off, your partner can motivate you, and vice versa. Our cardinal rule is: never miss your exercise session!
- Consider a consult with a personal trainer. You don’t need to commit to the time or expense of regular meetings, but a one-time consult can be informative and motivating.
- Keep an exercise journal, at least at the start. You will be surprised when you concretely see how much progress you are making (be sure to set goals).
Do remember to get an okay from your PCP before you start. And one last thing — it never fails to motivate us that exercise can decrease your risk of developing cognitive impairment. That thought has us lacing up our running shoes and heading out the door every time. Hope we see you out there.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NIV
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 NIV
The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:24 NIV
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 NIV
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24 NIV
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23 NIV
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV
deliverance You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of. Psalm 32:7 NIV
So that I Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 NIV
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