Fitness: Make it Fun and Frequent

Within the last month, I found two articles that I wanted to pass along. When I work with my patients, I not only talk about diet and nutrition, but also about getting and staying active with some form of physical exercise. I always encourage my patients to pick an activity they enjoy (make it fun) and then to do it consistently (make it frequent). The physical and mental benefits of regular exercise are numerous, including improving cardiovascular health and reducing stress.

The first article is about walking and how recent research suggests that we don’t necessarily have to get in a full 10,000 steps to receive some solid health benefits. Walking is a simple exercise that nearly anyone can do and is an excellent way to stay in shape. The only necessary gear for walking – a supportive pair of shoes and comfortable clothing. One can walk indoors or out, alone or with companionship. From the article: “She [Bauer] looked at the research that suggests the heart health boost begins with as few as 2,300 steps. … The study goes into more detail, revealing at 4,000 steps, people are less likely to die from any disease, not just cardiovascular disease. Adults over age 60 saw their risk of death reduced by 42% if they walked between 6,000 and 10,000 daily steps.” What an encouragement to lace up and hit the pavement!

The second article is about swimming, in particular, open water swimming, and how it is as good for the mind as it is for the body. Much research has shown that being out in nature (walking/hiking) provides us many mental health benefits. Now there is research suggesting that those same out-in-nature benefits occur when people swim in open water. Swimming is an incredible way to keep fit, in that it uses all the major muscles throughout the entire body. However, it is also very good for our minds. From the article: “Being mentally refreshed keeps our stress levels low and that is as good for our physical health (think: blood pressure levels) as it is for our mental health; all of this natural contact boosts our cognitive performance and creativity.” As an avid swimmer, I can attest to the mental refreshment from swimming outdoors (pool and ocean), which I can do all year long as a resident of southwest FL. But even for those who live in colder climates, where open water or outdoor swimming is only possible during the summer months, swimming is a fantastic exercise. And you never know – some indoor pools may have an outdoor view. When I lived up north, the natatorium where I swam had an enormous wall of windows. I enjoyed looking outside while doing my laps, especially the amusement of watching the snow fall only feet away from the pool’s edge.

Of course, walking and swimming are not the only forms of exercise that are good for us. Aerobics, weight training, cycling, dancing, racket sports, skiing, running, pilates – the list goes on and on – all are great choices to stay fit and feel good. So if you’re not already active, find something you enjoy and get moving! If you are, keep up the good work and keep on keeping on! Make it fun, make it frequent, and make it a lifelong habit. Your body and your mind will thank you!