Exercise is Good Medicine

Exercise is Good Medicine (One of the Best!)

As I struggled to get out the door this morning for a gentle jog, I started to think back over the years. February is the month “IT” hits me. The long winter, lack of sunshine, little time outdoors in the natural light, eating heavier foods – whether it’s S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), Depression, or just the winter blahs, there’s one easy and important thing to not give up on – EXERCISE.

The benefits of Exercise are numerous. The documented positive effects on mood, brain chemistry, and emotional stability are undeniable. Regular exercise also supports improved sleep, relaxation, decreased anxiety and tension. Of course there are the basic health benefits to your heart, lungs, bones, and connective tissue, as well as the support for weight and cholesterol management.

It’s also clear that not everyone has the capacity to get out to jog, ski, or even walk. But there are simple things everyone can do:

1. If you’re a TV watcher, get up on every commercial and walk up and down your hallways.(Not just to the refrigerator)

2. While sitting reading or watching TV, do some ankle pumps, leg lifts, arm raises – anything to keep your body moving.

3. Find out your baseline tolerance for walking. For some it may be 30 minutes or more. But for some of my patients who struggle with chronic pain, it might be only 5-10 minutes. But whatever it is – JUST DO IT! Walk every day, two times on the weekends. If at all possible walk outdoors, but if not, walk up and down your hallways, or go to a large department store (like Fred Meyers, Wal-Mart, or Costco) and just walk the perimeter.

4. Park your car across the parking lot when you go shopping. It’s always easier to find a parking place there, you’re less likely to get a ding in your door from other cars, and, of course, it gets you to walk further to and from the store.

5. Be more selective about TV watching. Too much bad news anyway doesn’t help your mood or motivation.

6. Practice your balance. While brushing your teeth, washing your hands, waiting for something in the microwave, simply practice standing on one foot.

7. Penny Pinches. No matter where you are, you can practice squeezing your large gluteal/buttocks muscles and holding for a count of 3-5 seconds.

8. Sit with good posture. There are actual studies that show that just slouching can begin to affect your mood within 30 minutes. Good posture also helps maintain good core muscle strength.

So beat the winter blues and keep moving. Before you know it spring will burst forth, and hopefully we’ll all be out enjoying the sunshine again soon!