Exercise Does A Lot More Than Burn Calories

Exercise Does A Lot More Than Burn Calories

We all know exercise helps us stay physically healthy, but did you know about these extra benefits? Patrick Friedli MD, medical director of Munson’s Healthy Weight program, discusses how working out helps mental health, too, and offers tips for staying motivated.

What makes exercise such a powerful tool for a healthy lifestyle?

“Exercise which combines both aerobic (oxygen loving) and anaerobic (weight resistance) has been shown to improve stamina, strength, balance, coordination and agility. It helps reduce falls in the elderly who are at risk if they have osteoporosis. It strengthens our heart and vascular system, thereby reducing blood pressure. Consistent movement is the best way to manage weight and lower obesity and risk for diabetes. People who have maintained weight loss of over 30 pounds in one year (see NWCR.ws) are consistent with some form of exercise five to seven days a week.”

What are the mental health benefits of exercise?

“Exercise is a great way to reduce stress as it helps build up endorphins, those naturally occurring hormones which give us energy and make us feel better. It is the most underutilized antidepressant there is. It may even help children and adults focus better for school and work, so it would be a good adjunct to treating ADHD.”

How active do you need to be to get a mental health boost?

“The bare minimum of continuous movement for exercise needs to be at least 10 minutes for it to count as exercise. The ideal guidelines are 30 minutes five to seven days a week, or 150 minutes per week. The key to getting a mental health benefit is not going longer than two days in a row without some form of exercise. As we all age, our body loses strength, so maintaining some weight resistance at least two to three days out of the week is essential to preventing lean body (muscle wasting) loss. This can be in the form of resistance bands, free weights or dumb bells, kettle bells, or even using your own body weight such as pushups and sit-ups.”

What are some common obstacles to working out consistently?

“We are creatures of habit and all love to make excuses for ourselves. Arthritis pain and other chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia often make people shy away from some consistent movement. Ironically, these conditions do much better and actually lessen the more a person maintains exercise. The key is keeping it fun and manageable. Expecting someone with bad knees to run is not practical, but doing something like Tai Chi or low resistance aerobics would be a better choice.”

How can people overcome those obstacles?

“Trying an exercise class, getting a workout friend, checking out a DVD to do at home, listening to music, writing motivational quotes on a sticky note put on the fridge or mirror are some helpful ideas to overcome those obstacles. Trying something new and keeping the type of exercise fun rather than work will usually keep people involved.”

Any more tips to staying motivated?

“Setting short term and long term goals can help people stay motivated. It’s easy to blow off exercise, but if there is a goal to achieve a person is more likely to stick with it. Keeping the goals realistic and rewarding oneself with new shoes, exercise clothes or some non-caloric treat also can be empowering.”

How does nutrition factor in?

“If the goal of someone’s journey is weight loss, than changing one’s fuel is the key. This would mean to limit or avoid all processed sugars as much as possible. This would include all of the ‘C’ foods:  cookies, cakes, candies, chocolates, crackers, chips, colas and cereals. Rehydrating with at least 60 ounces of water daily is important, and maintaining lean proteins to help fuel our muscles is essential to any exercise plan.”


By: Carly Simpson, MyNorth Media