Exercise, exercise, exercise! How many times have we heard this? Most people know exercise is a good way to lose weight since activity burns calories. You do not have to be working out to increase your activity level; even taking the stairs instead of the elevator helps. The Mayo Clinic details six other benefits of exercise at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676.

For example, worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent high blood pressure? “No matter what your current weight, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls.”

Further, exercise improves mood. “Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.”

Next, exercise boosts energy. “Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores.”

Exercise also yields deeper and better sleep, as long as you don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Many people do not realize that exercise can even improve your sex life. “Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life. But there’s more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don’t exercise.”

Finally, “exercise and physical activity can be a fun way to spend some time. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting. So, take a dance class, hit the hiking trails or join a soccer team. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. If you get bored, try something new.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has its own philosophy on exercise. The whole premise of Chinese Medicine is ultimately about YIN and YANG ( pronounced Y-ahng). Balance. Movement and Rest, Light and Dark. Now picture this: you have a stressful job that keeps you seated for most of the day, or your job requires you to drive around in traffic. Our bodies are meant to be bodies in motion. We are not meant to sit and stagnate, but are meant to live and move throughout life. Just as our muscles propel us through space and time, with this movement, we are keeping healthy by boosting our metabolism, building long lean muscles, and at a cellular level, really working our metabolism to not only help us burn calories, but also to detoxify us from harmful chemicals build ups in our bodies. If we sit and don’t move, then we won’t detoxify ourselves as well. Exercise moves our QI and it moves our BLOOD. These are the YIN and the YANG. Blood is our YIN, the tangible,  and QI is our YANG, the ephemeral. Picture yourself as a body of water. If the your body doesn’t move or circulate, what happens? It stagnates and might become thick with algae. It becomes de-oxygenated. It becomes old quickly, and a place where life can perish. Now picture the water moving, clear, and inviting. Exercise and movement also teach you to be like water, to go with the flow, to learn to be flexible, and to learn that nothing is permanent in life. Your body will thank you for the movement!

Dr. Jamie Hampton says, “One question I get asked a lot in my clinical practice is, ‘What kind of exercise do you recommend I do?’ Just as I tell most of my patients, it all depends. It depends on where you are with your exercise regime, if you have one at all, and what are your target goals? What do you find joyful, and how in shape are you at that moment in your life? I recommend starting slow, walking or swimming every day for 30 minutes. Learn to enjoy the quiet in your mind as you focus on moving, feeling better. Enjoy the fresh air that fills your lungs. You are doing this for yourself. When you are healthy, your family becomes healthy. Your world becomes more joyous.”

After walking or swimming everyday for a few weeks, pick the pace up. You are getting stronger and healthier every day you move. Walk a little faster, get a pedometer. Swim a little faster.

Watch your clothes fit a little better. Then regroup and branch out. Try something that you might enjoy. Dr. Anahita Forati practices Qi Gong and yoga as well as biking, swimming, and hiking.  Dr. Jamie Hampton recently discovered a workout that utilizes Ballet Barre, Pilates, Weight Lifting, Yoga, cardio and intense stretching. She absolutely loves it. She says she looks forward to her hour every day where she can turn off the noise in her head and just focus on building lean muscle mass, sparking her metabolism, and reshaping her body. Hampton explains, “I do this for me. This is my medicine. And I take it just as I would a needed prescription.”

She continues, “Don’t have time? Be like me, make it for yourself. Enlist a friend who can hold you accountable. When you are able to share experiences with others, it makes the journey so worthwhile.”

-Golden Leaf Blogger