Take time to exercise — your mind and body will thank you

“If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.” — Robert Butler, National Institute on Aging

Dr. Maribeth Orr, a family practice physician at Eudora Family Care, said this is one of her favorite quotes. What many medications can help with, exercise can help with, too.

“One of the best things about exercise is anyone can do it,” Orr said. “Even those who may not think they have the physical capabilities or the time to exercise can do it. It can be so impactful on many positive levels. It can help you mentally, physically, socially, economically and spiritually. Exercise leads to healthy minds and bodies.”

Orr said with so many sources of stress, especially during the pandemic, it’s easy to have a negative attitude, and it is important now more than ever to take care of ourselves. A good outlet can often be exercise. Exercise boosts your endorphins and helps you keep a positive outlook.

“Especially in 2020, life keeps throwing us curveballs, and exercise can help manage these,” Orr said. “The curveballs will keep coming even post-pandemic, and exercise can help us continue to manage these.

“I hope a silver lining is that we will have eye-opening experiences across the world,” she added. “I hope people see how important your health is and how precious life is. You are only given one body, one heart, one spine. Take care of these one-time gifts.”

Our bodies are precious, and some invest more in their cars and homes than they do their health. Orr said the human body deserves the same care that many people give to these other things.

“On a personal level, exercise has provided stress relief,” she said. “When I have my heart rate up, my worries, anger, sadness, anxieties and emotions that can so easily take us in a bad direction are controllable. It is how I care for my body. When I feel I need to be in control, exercise helps me lay that down and realize it is OK not to be in control.”

Not one-size-fits-all

One major misconception about exercise, Orr said, is that you have to hit a high intensity level each time you work out. That’s not accurate, Orr said — in fact, exercise can be just about any kind of movement, even lifting small weights or doing shoulder shrugs, and can even be done from a chair or a hospital bed. There is no one-size-fits-all workout, she said.

“I remember (that) when I first began running, all I wanted to do was jog one lap,” she said. “It was hard and exhausting, but when I got it, I celebrated it. I said, ‘OK, now two laps.’ Someone asked me if I would run a 5K, and I thought they were nuts! … As I grew and worked and strived to achieve my goals, I got better day by day.”

Today, Orr is a three-time Ironman finisher and continues to build up and inspire women to work towards their goals — to celebrate the small wins and never give up. She says that exercise is personal and each person has to find what they enjoy.

While Orr is an accomplished athlete, it took time for her to figure out what kind of exercise worked best for her.

“Be true to yourself,” Orr said. “If you do not enjoy it, it is not a good idea. Don’t buy a treadmill because you feel the only way to move is if you run.

“Invest in yourself and find what you love to do,” she added. “Find a group or a buddy who likes the same thing and do it with them. Encourage each other. You can do this. When working out gets hard and exhausting and there are many things you could complain about, just remember how much of a privilege it is that you can move like that.”

Mothers and caregivers

One group for whom exercise is especially important is mothers and other caregivers, Orr said. She said these people often spend so much time giving to others that there is little time to care for themselves.

“Being a mom, I know, is the toughest job in the world — much harder than being a doctor,” Orr said. “You care for others so much and must make sure not to lose yourself in that. Find time to give back to yourself — and sometimes the best way to do this is through exercise.”

Orr said as stress builds through the day from taking care of children, mothers need to take time for themselves to exercise, especially during the pandemic, when the children may be at home more often.

“As a mom, there are so many demands,” Orr said. “Find yourself through movement. Don’t forget who you are and that you have to give back to yourself, and (that) exercise is the best way to do this. Exercise can energize you and protect your cardiovascular system, which in return helps you keep up with kids (and) keep your cool.”

What Orr said she hears most is that women cannot get out because they have to stay home to take care of their children. One solution is simple, she said — take the kids along, either in a stroller or walking with you. Not only are you taking time for yourself, but setting a great example for the kids, as well.

“The harder a goal is to achieve, the sweeter the reward when you’ve reached it,” Orr said. “You can do this.”

How much exercise?

It’s important to know how much movement is right for you. The American College of Sports Medicine says adults should follow one of these three guidelines to see substantial health benefits:

• At least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (five hours) per week of moderate-intensity exercise

• Or 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity

• Or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity.

Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.

For more information about these guidelines, as well as those for children and for adults in special populations, such as pregnant women, visit cdc.gov/physicalactivity.

— Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Lawrence Journal-World’s health section.


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