Can’t I Just Take a Pill?
Let’s face it: most of us wake-up absurdly early and hit-the-hay way too late. The time in between, called life, is so busy and so focused on everyone else that the last thing on our list is squeezing in a workout. Instead, we rely on a cocktail of pills to keep us healthy – one for headaches, one for anxiety, one to keep our bones healthy, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a firm believer in the magical healing powers of Advil and take my vitamins every morning, but when I learned that simply getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day could seriously cut down my pill popping, I hopped on the exercise bandwagon.
Exercise is Medicine
This bandwagon’s leader is a relatively new initiative called, “Exercise is Medicine,” which is focused on encouraging health care providers to include exercise in patients’ treatment plans. Our health and longevity are influenced by three factors: genetics, environment and behavior. We can’t do a whole lot about genetics (sorry!) and much of our environment is out of our control, but our behavior? Now, that’s all us. Exercise is Medicine targets this last component of health and is urging the public to take responsibility for their well-being and to get moving!
But the Couch is so Comfy…
Still not convinced, I channeled my inner nerd and did some research. I found my most compelling information in the 1999 Surgeon General’s report on physical activity and health. The report states that physical activity is associated with:
- lower mortality rates,
- a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease,
- the prevention or delayed development of high blood pressure,
- a reduction of blood pressure in hypertensive individuals,
- a decreased risk for colon, breast and prostate cancers,
- a lower risk of developing non-insulin-dependent diabetes,
- muscle strength, joint structure and joint function,
- a decrease in fat mass and an increase in lean muscle mass,
- and the relief of symptoms of depression and anxiety and improvements in mood
My dorky curiosity satisfied, I realized I needed to get my butt out of my chair. I knew I would feel better, be healthier and be able to cut down on those darn pills.
Where to start?
I wasn’t about to hop out of bed and run 5 miles. Let’s be real – I would be lucky to run down the driveway. So I began my exercise revolution by talking to my doctor. In all my years of check-ups and visits, we had never discussed my physical activity. Why is that? Well, I’ve realized it’s because the general public is not nearly as wise and savvy as we (I mean, you can’t blame them, it’s hard to be like us). When the doc recommended hitting the gym, Average Sally put up a fight and ignored this advice, opting to sit her booty down on the couch and simply up her medicine dosage. So naturally, physicians became accustomed to dealing with this type of patient and handing out prescriptions like candy instead of ordering us to pull our tennis shoes on and hit the pavement.
So when I asked what sort of exercises would be safe and effective for me, my doctor was the one who nearly needed the CPR as I stunned him into silence. When he recovered (I almost ran for the nurse), we discussed my current activity status and set goals. He directed me to exerciseismedicine.org where I could make my own exercise plan and track my progress. That was almost 6 months ago, and today, I can say that was by far the best doctor’s visit I’ve ever had. I can now run down the driveway…and then some. I’ve found I’m more alert, energetic, and happier. I’ve been able to cut down on asthma medication and experience fewer aches and pains. In general, I just feel better.
Now, Exercise Guru I Am Not
Remember, I’m not an exercise or health professional. I’m a busy working woman who needed to tweak my lifestyle. It took time for me to fully embrace the Exercise is Medicine philosophy, and frankly, time to overcome my excuses. As a busy woman, my biggest struggle was finding time to dedicate to my workout, so along the way I came up with a few tricks to mix physical activity into my daily life.
- Take the stairs. We’ve all heard this tip – now actually do it.
- Invest in a cheapie pedometer or a phone app that counts your steps. When I realized how few steps I was actually taking, you betch-ya I took those stairs.
- Instead of family bonding being a board game or movie, play video games. The Wii and other gaming consoles have plenty of fun, interactive games that will really get your heart rate up. This also happens to be extremely entertaining, albeit sometimes embarrassing for me.
- Walk or bike to the post office, or other places you would typically drive. This one’s a gas-saver too!
- Read on the treadmill. Don’t try this at high speeds! Been there, done that and I have the bruises to prove it. But really, read the paper every morning while on the treadmill or on a stationary bike.
- Throw out that office chair and opt for an exercise ball. Sitting on the ball all day is great for the core and hey, if you get bored you can bounce around a bit.
- Park farther out in the lot. Honestly, the steps add up.
- Instead of meeting for coffee, move your weekly gossip sesh with the girls to the sidewalk. Our friends are multi-tasking freaks too and would probably enjoy mixing socializing and exercise.
Check out exerciseismedicine.org for more tips and tricks. And remember to reward yourself for hard work! I recommend a yummy cocktail and bubble bath .
Maggie Voelker works as an Internet Marketing Specialist in Indianapolis, IN. She loves shopping for sunglasses and accessories, reading, cooking and talking to whoever will listen.