Your body is a complex and beautifully designed system that can become your greatest tool towards a healthy and happy life. Keeping it strong and able is key in staying youthful and preventing stress, injury, chronic disease, and many other issues down the road.
We’ve known for quite some time that aerobic exercise benefits cardiovascular health, but we’re now seeing that all types of movement, even slow and mindful practices like yoga and tai chi, additionally benefit our body through decreases in blood pressure, body mass index, and even cholesterol. Science is also showing additional physical benefits from movement, ranging from supporting brain health and cognition to balancing our stress response signals.
Exercise and stress can both impact inflammation on a molecular level, through regulatory effects on the immune system. So what’s the best way to begin a new movement routine? Here are my top four tips for overcoming the intimidation of a new workout routine and settling in to activities that work for your body and schedule:
1. Make it fun! This piece is huge. Choose activities that are appealing to you—whether it’s hiking with a friend, swimming outside, hot yoga at a studio, dancing at a club, or maybe even stationary biking in your own home—if you don’t choose something you enjoy it will be infinitely harder to stick with. On top of that, using this time to exercise but also have fun is beneficial for stress reduction and mental and emotional health.
2. Start small. You don’t need to go from couch potato to marathon runner in a week. Take small steps towards increasing your physical activity, so your body can adjust safely and you can take the time to recognize minor benefits and improvements in your everyday life. If walking is where you want to start, incorporate a 15 minute walk into your schedule twice a week for the first week. Then add an extra day the next week. Then add 5 minutes each day. Allow yourself the room you need to change your approach if needed and monitor your results.
3. Longer isn’t always better. New research has revealed that we can workout less than previously thought and see even better results. Interval workouts alternate between bursts of high-intensity movements and low-intensity resting periods. The idea is that you can push yourself harder for a short amount of time repeatedly than you can for a continuous, extended period of time, which actually burns more calories and stimulates more muscle growth than steady-state cardio.
4. Find a buddy. Many of my patients find planning weekly exercise sessions with a buddy keeps them accountable. Plus, this is a great way to strengthen your relationships and community ties, which as I’ve shared in the past are increasingly linked to better health, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
True health involves a combined approach, using many diet and lifestyle practices, in which movement plays an important role. I hope these tips help you find new ways to move your body and calm your mind that you truly enjoy, giving you a boost of fun and whole-body health all at once.
If you would like more information regarding any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit our website at the theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 2:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.