We already know exercise is good for us physically.

Take a Walk

I’m currently reading a book titled, ‘The Positive Shift’ by Catherine A. Sanderson, PhD. My mom gave me this book for Christmas and I cannot put it down. Last night, as I was reading Chapter 8: Change Your Behavior and Your Mindset Will Follow, I read an excerpt that I had already decided to implement daily in 2020. Then, upon my arrival to the studio this morning, I found it extremely applicable. As some of you know, during January through May our parking lot can be crowded due to volleyball season. I know this can be frustrating but I want to offer you a shift in framing this situation. One, we still have the best parking in Houston. The best! Two, we can use this as an opportunity to ‘take a walk’! I can’t say it better than Catherine A. Sanderson, PhD so I decided to just share it with you verbatim. Please take a moment to read the excerpt below to ease the stress of a full parking lot, get some insight in to what you might learn in our upcoming Growth + Goals workshop and perhaps adopt some new habits in 2020. -Patricia Bomar

From ‘A Positive Shift’ by Catherine A. Sanderson, PhD:

“We already know exercise is good for us physically. It helps us maintain a healthy weight, strengthen muscles and bones, and leads to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Most important, exercise reduces the negative physiological effects of stress on the body, which is why people who engage in regular exercise experience fewer illnesses. 

But exercise isn’t just good for our physical health-it also helps improve thinking and memory skills, and may even reduce the risk of dementia. Even pretty low amounts of exercise, such as walking a few times a week, leads to changes in brain function that predict better cognitive functioning. 

The benefits of exercise on mental sharpness are also seen among those showing early signs of dementia. One study of older adults who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment randomly assigned people to one of two groups. One group of people walked for one hour three times a week; the other group received education in nutrition and healthy living each week. Before the study, none of these people were currently engaging in regular exercise. Six months later, people who had started the walking program had lower blood pressure, and, intriguingly, now had better scores on cognitive tests. 

Engaging in regular physical activity is also good for our mental health. Have you ever been in a bad mood but then exercised and felt better? Exercising helps us feel better in part because it can get our minds off any problems we may be facing. It lets us manage stressful life events without becoming irritable and upset. 

But exercise also leads to physiological changes in our bodies that make us feel better. When we engage in physical activity, the brain releases chemicals, called endorphins, that reduce pain and make us feel better. 

Exercise may even help treat depression, and, at least in some cases, may be as helpful as psychotherapy or antidepressants. In one study, researchers examined whether exercising could help people who are depressed feel better. To test this hypothesis, they assigned 156 adults with clinical depression-a severe level of depression that disrupts daily life-to one of three groups: 

  • People in one group engaged in aerobic exercise (three forty-five-minute sessions a week for four months). They did not receive any drugs to combat depression. 
  • People in another group received drugs to relieve the symptoms of depression (also given for four months) but did not engage in aerobic exercise. 
  • People in the third group engaged in both aerobic exercise and received drugs (again for four months). 

The researchers then examined people in all three groups over time to see if levels of depression changed. They found that people who engaged in aerobic exercise, even when they received no drugs to help with their symptoms of depression, showed improvements in mood for as long as four months. In fact, people in all three groups improved at the same rate. This study provides important evidence that moderately strenuous exercise can be as effective as pharmaceuticals in treating depression. 

Although the benefits of exercise are clear, it can be hard to make time to exercise. But changing your exercise mindset can help you start and stick with an exercise routine. Specifically, don’t focus on the long-term benefits of exercise for improving cardiovascular fitness or maintaining a healthy weight or preventing depression. Instead, focus on the short-term and immediate pleasures of exercise. Maybe taking a yoga class is a time to clear your head and relax after a busy day. Maybe going for a walk with a friend is a chance to catch up. Maybe you’ll get better sleep-and feel more refreshed the next day-after working out. Adopting this type of focus on immediate gratification makes it easier to stay motivated because you don’t have to wait so long for the payoff. 

Also, try not to stress about finding more hours, or even minutes, in your day to add in an exercise program. Make small shifts in your behavior, such as taking the stairs instead fo the elevator and parking farther away from store entrances. One recent study even found that simply getting up and moving every thirty minutes or so, instead of just sitting for long periods, reduced the risk of early death. In sum, when it comes to exercise, almost anything counts-just start moving.”

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