By BRIAN WASSER, MD
Milton Family Practice
As the warmer months get closer and closer, as the ground thaws, the days get longer, and we come out of what seemed like an unusually long and cold winter, it’s time to remind ourselves the benefits of being active. It was probably sometime on or around the holidays that many of us, myself included, forgot what exercise feels like. Unfortunately, especially here in Vermont, winter is the time when we stay indoors, when we drive everywhere, and when we tend to slow down and not be as fit as we’d like. But spring has arrived, and it’s time to move our bodies; but trust me…this year, it’s going to be easy!
Being, and staying, as physically fit as we can has often been made to be more complicated than it needs to be. Gym memberships, personal trainers, books, fancy exercise routines…they’re all great, but being active, and healthy, can actually be really simple. First, let’s talk about a few of the many benefits of exercise.
It goes without saying that physical exercise is really good for us. Did you know that exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease anxiety, depression and stress? Exercise is also great for increasing your energy levels. Feeling sluggish? Just a few minutes of exercise a day can really help. Exercise can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol. Exercise also increases blood flow to your brain, improving memory and brain health. It can also help you sleep better, helps prevent osteoporosis, and even reduces signs of aging.
Patients often ask, “how much exercise do I need, and how often?” The best answer is, just do something, anything…everyday. Any aerobic activity (i.e. anything that gets your heart beating a little faster) is great. It doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym. Housework can be aerobic. Breaks from work can be aerobic. Getting the mail can be aerobic. Just 5 minutes a day of something can have dramatic benefits.
The big takeaway: it doesn’t matter what you do, or how you do it. As long as you’re moving your body as much as you can, I guarantee you’ll feel much better. The key is to start small, start with what is doable on a daily basis. Set realistic goals, and have someone hold you to it…if not by checking in, then by joining you! And most of all, have fun! Happy Spring!