Exercise to Find Your Fountain of Youth

As a family nurse practitioner for 21 years at Westfield Premier Physicians, I truly believe exercise keeps us happy, healthy and strong. Our bodies are made to exercise.

If there is a fountain of youth, it really is exercise. It helps our minds, our bodies, and our moods. It improves our energy and stamina, and can even ward off some of the problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other ailments that affect us as we get older.

Many patients struggle to make exercise a priority. As a nurse practitioner in a direct primary care practice, I take time during appointments to discuss ways to fit regular exercise into your lifestyle, what type of exercise to do and how to remain active year round.

How Often Should I Exercise?

The Centers for Disease Control recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderately intensive exercise each week, along with strength training twice a week. Breaking down the 150 minutes per week might mean exercising for 30 minutes, five days a week, or exercising for one hour two to three days a week.

For most patients, it’s more important to focus on actually doing the exercise than worrying about the frequency or duration. The minutes will come and results will happen when you enjoy doing that activity. I think the key is to pick the right activity.

Are Certain Exercises More Beneficial Than Others?

I don't think there's one exercise that’s more beneficial than others. The most beneficial exercise is the one that you will do. Anything that gets you moving is good. In fact, I equate exercise with movement.

I try to help people figure out what they can do. Many people think if they don’t sweat, don’t go to the gym and don’t exercise for a full hour each time, then they’re not really exercising. That’s totally not true.

When patients come in for routine screenings and preventive care, we discuss lifestyle, diet and exercise. I'll ask them if they're doing any kind of exercise and they’ll tell me, “Well I just walk.” Taking the dog on a 30-minute walk is exercise. You don’t need to go to a gym to get exercise. It doesn’t need to be anything more exciting than putting on a pair of walking shoes, opening your front door and taking a walk.

Exercise is anything that gets you moving, gets your heart rate up and keeps it up. That's really the definition of exercise. It might be chair exercises, walking outside or doing laps around the house, going to a gym, riding a bike, swimming, yoga or Pilates.

Does Exercise Improve Physical and Mental Health?

Exercise helps patients who experience problems with depression and anxiety. It helps you sleep better and eliminates problems with fatigue. It’s probably one of the single best ways to lower blood sugar and blood pressure.

It’s almost like once you start moving, you’re almost afraid to stop. My challenge is to help each patient find their way to exercise. Some patients require a dramatic change, while others only need to make simple changes.

I try to match ability with activity, and get patients to rethink their activity level. I help them find ways to exercise, rather than thinking about the reasons for not exercising, such as no gym membership, lack of time, or believing a fit body is out of reach.

Which Exercise Fits You?

It’s important to find an exercise or activity that fits you. This is not a one-size-fits-all idea. For myself, I've always been a walker. I used to go outside and walk, but I tended to slow down the longer I walked. To challenge myself, I decided to try Jazzercise, which fits me perfectly.

If I hear music and it's fast-paced, it makes me want to move and jump around, and that’s exactly what we do in Jazzercise class. It pushes me further than I would push myself. For an hour, we’re stretching, and doing cardio and weights. I exercise alongside women who range in age from their teens to their 80s. Jazzercise fits me, and I stick with it.

If you would rather do anything in the world then get up and exercise at 5:30 in the morning, then don’t get up at 5:30 a.m. and exercise. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. We try to make ourselves do things that are going to be impossible to keep up or achieve, and we feel very defeated when we don’t reach our goal.

Think about yourself and your daily routine. Would you rather exercise in the morning or in the evening? Would you rather take a walk with your family or ride a bike by yourself? What suits you better? If no specific exercise appeals to you, get a pair of good supportive shoes, open your front door, set your timer for 10 minutes and just walk.

Since we live in Indiana, I also help patients find ways to work out in winter . During summer, patients tell me about gardening or taking a walk on the beach when on vacation. But when the weather gets bad in Indiana, we come out of our garages in the morning, we go into our garages at night, we never see our neighbors and we hibernate. I challenge my patients to find an exercise they can do in good and bad weather.

That could mean getting a gym membership or taking some classes to exercise year round. It could also mean bundling up and taking a walk outside, or putting the kids down for a nap and exercising to a DVD. I help patients find creative and safe ways to exercise no matter what time of year.

Want to learn more about exercise and ways to be more active? Please email me at npcerickson@westfieldpremier.com. I’m happy to answer any questions and help you reach your personal fitness goals.

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