You might exercise more than you think
My brain free-associates: my mom reminds me of Costco. Texting while driving: natural selection. Vladimir Putin: mutating Swine Flu.
But when people see me, their brains wander to exercise.
Colleen: “Want to come over for dinner? Five-ish? I should start swimming again.”
Liz: “Your dog is at my house again. No, I didn’t give her all the leftover chicken, just half. By the way, I did four miles on the treadmill today. On an incline.”
A stranger walking his dog: “That’s a pile of leaves you got there. I need to lift weights.”
I don’t know what it is about my face that drives people to exercise. But here I am, again, talking about the new exercise guidelines. Before you toss me to the same-old health-advice boneyard, let me tell you some wonderful news.
First, new evidence shows exercise may be the “brain pill” we’ve been looking for. It may reduce the risks of anxiety, depression and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease). Second, because most cancers are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors, exercise can lower the risk of many cancers, including breast and colon, by up to 20 percent.
So why aren’t 80 percent of Americans moving? No time, no fun, joint pain. For some, there’s simply nowhere to go to “exercise.”
Here’s how the new Physical Activity Guidelines help:
- Think small bites. The most important new message: You don’t need to exercise in long blocks of time. Your total exercise time is more important than how long or often you exercise. You can do two hours in one day or a few minutes here and there. Finish this sentence for me, please: “Even on my worst day, I can … (any action verb will do) for … (duration in seconds).” Start with that.
- Find your exercise shoulder-angel. Studies shows that exercising with a spouse or a friend improves adherence. Sign up for a class or join a group. It helps if your companion has a frown that can guilt Putin out of Ukraine.
- Don’t tiptoe around pain. Exercise is the first-line treatment for any arthritis. Strengthening the structures around the troubled joint (be it back, neck, shoulder, hip or knee) reduces pain, maintains mobility – your best bet for recovery. Take ibuprofen before exercise if needed.
- The “everywhere” gym. Don’t buy a treadmill, if you think you should, would, but never could run. If access to a gym is difficult, your living room, work space or a Walmart parking lot are your gyms. Park far and walk. Take the stairs. Walk your neighbor’s dog. Body-weight squat during commercials. (By the way, each television hour averages 15 minutes of ad time. It adds up.) Set a goal. Many fun fitness gadgets and apps can help track your progress.
It’s bizarre that my face reminds people to exercise. Would I rather remind people of Halle Berry, in her 007 days? Sure! Who wouldn't. But I do with what I’ve got. Like Mom said, "For things you can’t change, consider them a gift."