Wow! I can’t believe how much snow the Seattle area has gotten over the last few weeks. I grew up on the east coast and we are used to this kind of thing, but I know how mild the Seattle winters usually are. I have to admit it was kind of nice to relax inside and enjoy the serene calmness of the snow blanket across the Pacific Northwest trees. I want to encourage you not to lose motivation for moving your physical body through the winter. I would like to explain how important it is for optimal health to exercise regularly.
For some, exercise seems like a chore. Maybe it is because you never played sports, or you never felt physically fit and so it never became a habit. There are also people who felt like their parents had no interest in exercise and so they never really learned what to do or how. I think that when it comes to something new, you can either think of an excuse of why not to do it or push yourself to actually do something. I encourage you to exercise. The current physical fitness guidelines recommend about 150-300 minutes weekly of “moderate” exercise or 75-150 minutes of “intense” exercise. That is really only about 30 minutes 5 days/week.
What happens when you exercise is like fireworks for the physical body. Short-term, blood circulation starts to increase, carrying oxygen to all of your cells. The oxygen awakens cells that carry toxins out, sends positive messages to your brain, increases happy mood hormones, decreases high stress hormones, and mops up “oxidative” damaging free radicals. Free radicals are created in daily life when we eat foods that have inorganic chemicals, preservatives, environmental pollutions, heavy metal exposures, respiratory toxins, household chemicals, and all kinds of other things in our current environment. Sugar, alcohol, processed refined foods, smoking, high-heating foods, and fried foods all create these free radicals that age our cells at a high rate.
Exercise does not have to mean attending a gym. Gyms are not for everyone, and that is OK. I just encourage you to find something you do like to do. That could mean walking up hill outside, jumping rope inside, yoga, Pilates, trying kickboxing, going snowshoeing, kayaking, hiking, the list goes on! The Pacific Northwest has so much to offer, I don’t think there is an excuse for being an indoor person while living here. The natural trees in our environment literally breathe out oxygen so by just being around them you are breathing in more of what your body thrives on.
I hear so many excuses on a daily basis from patients as to why they can’t do something; try not to fall into that category. If time is an issue, pick 3 weekdays and 1 weekend day to carve out 30 minutes of time for exercise, morning or night. Don’t let fatigue get in your way either. There may be multiple reasons for why you may be tired, and your doctor can help figure this out. B vitamins are great for short-term energy boosts, found in vitamins and dark leafy greens. Vitamin D3 is also related to energy levels.
Long-term benefits of exercise include increased strength, weight-loss and weight-maintenance, more energy, longevity of life, normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels and more! I hope this article motivates you to get a plan going for yourself for the long-term and you stick with it. There is no better day to start something then today.
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a Primary care Naturopathic doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville, WA.