Fall brings change, but change can be a good thing. What would you like to change about your current health routine? It takes about 30 days to create a habit, and until then change can be uncomfortable. Will you take the challenge with me over the next few months before the new year and start a resolution right now? How about making your exercise routine a habit? It means sticking to the goals of fitness you may have started in January and have now let go due to your busy schedule. Let’s talk about what a fitness routine looks like.
First of all, why don’t you set some activity goals. Some people exercise to lose weight, while others want to gain strength. I think that exercise does so much more than that. Working out is the No. 1 antioxidant for the brain. Exercise increases brain-derived nerve growth factor, which makes new neuronal connections in the brain. It can help slow down brain degeneration and prevent dementia. That is extremely amazing in my opinion. Exercise is also an antioxidant for every cell in the body. We cannot help but be exposed to oxidation through pollution, pesticides, alcohol, sugar, fried foods and normal aging for example. Working out is also an important way the body detoxifies. As you sweat, the liver releases toxins and they get released through the glands. Increasing detoxing can aid in balanced hormones, regulate digestion, increase clarity of mind and skin health.
Physical fitness doesn’t have to take place inside or even at a gym. If you are moving your body, you are exercising. I suggest picking something you like to do and then putting it on your schedule. If you plan for success, you are more likely to succeed. Think about it, look at your schedule in the beginning of the week and pick three days you can do something active. Aim for about 30 minutes of time, it can be morning, mid-day or night. During the session, challenge yourself every day a little bit more. If you begin walking, try jogging a little or walking uphill, then go back to walking again. Variety helps your muscles continue to get stronger. Try varying your routine and the type of exercise. One day you can do strength training, one day walk/running, or join a class that varies the workouts. Routine is not always a good thing, muscles do get complacent.
I see many patients give up after a few weeks if they aren’t seeing progress on the scale. I want to encourage you to not focus on the number of the scale, but rather how you feel. If you feel great, and are fitting into smaller sizes of clothes, progress is happening. Progress can take weeks or months before you see any results, and even longer for others to take notice. Be patient with yourself, and don’t give up.
However, most of your progress happens in the kitchen. Eating a clean healthy whole food diet with enough protein will give your muscles the tools they need to get stronger. As muscles get stronger, metabolism increases and burns fat more efficiently. Trust the process. Decrease extra calories by cutting out sugar, alcohol, and empty carbohydrates. Try to get energy from healthy plant-based fats, brightly colored vegetables and lean protein from fish and poultry. If you are too tired to exercise, change your diet so you have more energy. It is possible to train yourself to exercise as part of who you are. Imagine that you cannot possibly live without it. Your body loves you, so let it move and stretch and become as strong as it wants, you deserve it.
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a naturopathic primary care doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville. To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com, or call 425-408-0040 to schedule an appointment.