Thursday, April 16, 2015

Take a walk on the sunny side

Even after years of running I can still feel that familiar wave of dread as I laced up my tennis shoes and walked in to P.E. class. That terrifying moment when my gym teacher announced we would be doing timed sprints that day, and escape was futile. The instant I heard the whistle my mouth would go dry, my legs turned to jelly, and my lungs would burn as I tried to keep up with my classmates. Running on the playground was fun! Running for physical fitness was pure agony. I understand how daunting exercise can seem, and how easy it is to avoid. However, I also know that there is no denying (as hard as I might try) the immeasurable benefits of living an active lifestyle. For those of us that need convincing, here is an excerpt from Good Food Great Medicine (p. 50) listing some of the rewards of exercise:
  • Reduces overall risk of a heart attack by 47% and lowers risk of premature death in those with heart disease by 26%.
  • Is equal or superior to medications for managing risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Prevents and treats peripheral vascular disease.
  • Reduces cancer, depression, and dementia.
  • Reduces risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improves heart disease risk factors including LDL and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and lipid oxidation.
  • Improves flexibility in the arterial walls and blood clotting function, and helps the heart repair damaged blood vessels and from new arteries when necessary- the “do-it-yourself coronary artery bypass” effect.
  • Improves neurohormonal function, insulin resistance, weight management, and immunity, and slows aging within the genetic material of your cells.
  • Eases symptoms of pain and stiffness, lowers inflammatory load, and improves energy.
  • Improves sleep. 
Are you also haunted by repressed exercise memories? Never fear! Nowadays there are so many ways and places to exercise that it doesn’t have to be the scary ordeal of my childhood. Even everyday tasks like weeding, vacuuming, and swinging a hammer count. Here are a few ways that I like to fit exercise into my life: Running the stairs at work, walking during lunch or while I make phone calls, walking to the grocery store, lifting free weights at home, or doing lunges, squats and toe lifts whenever I get a chance. I also belong to a local gym and enjoy trying new classes. My favorite motivational tool is an exercise buddy to hold me accountable. Avoiding the gym becomes a bit trickier when a friend is there waiting for me.

My running buddy is about three feet tall, 55 pounds,
and has no qualms about using the side of the trail as a public restroom.
 His name is Bruce, Bruce the dog. I have found no limit to his energy,
 which has done wonders for my exercise habits. 
These are two of my human running buddies on a beautiful day in Forest Park.
Bruce was nice enough to take the picture. 

Miles’ Postscript: 

The extraordinary range of benefits for daily exercise are so great that they seem to many people to be unbelievable. We would all do well to look again at Malea’s list above, and take a moment (or two) to think about the difference daily exercise could make in each of our lives. Let’s consider just the cancer, depression and dementia bullet. Look at the numbers: 30% reduction in cancer risk, a benefit for depression that exceeds that for antidepressants, and about a 50% reduction in dementia. Whoa! That’s the payoff associated with just one of those 10 bullet points! So quit reading and go take a walk. RIGHT NOW! Get going!