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The mental health benefits of exercise

Dr. HelloDox Care #
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A good workout doesn’t just benefit your physical fitness. Exercise also has a positive effect on mental health, providing benefits that range from improving sleep to easing anxiety.

Research has shown that exercise is beneficial for everyone’s mental health, whether or not they have a mental illness. For those with conditions such as anxiety or mood disorders, studies have shown that exercise can improve outcomes.

“Exercise can be extraordinarily beneficial both as a way to prevent a mental illness from re-occurring, and as a way to treat a mental illness if you actually have symptoms right now,” says Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital.

Exercise can help address a range of mental health symptoms, but the strongest research supports its benefits for depression and anxiety. Evidence has shown that aerobic exercise – exercise that raises the heart rate, such as brisk walking, biking, running, or swimming – can be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression, Dr. Taylor explains.

“Exercise actually increases serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that’s often deficient in people who have depression or anxiety,” she says. “So it does exactly the same thing a medication does: it increases serotonin levels.”

People who have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) struggle with mood symptoms related to the lack of sunlight in the fall and winter months. Combining exercise with natural light can be helpful.

“If you can force yourself to do some exercise that’s outside – walking, running, doing anything where you have sun exposure – that can be really effective for helping to control seasonal affective disorder,” Dr. Taylor says.

Challenges and support

The trouble with recommending exercise for people with depression is that the symptoms of the condition can make it very difficult to act on that advice.

“Some of the symptoms of depression are that you don’t have a lot of energy, and motivation can become a challenge. This seems counterintuitive to starting an exercise program,” Dr. Taylor says. That’s why self-care is important for people with a mental health diagnosis, even when there are no active symptoms. “If you can make exercise part of your life when you are feeling well, this can be a tool to help keep you well and to help minimize symptoms of depression.”

For those with current symptoms, a good place to start is to make an appointment with a healthcare professional.

“If you have active, significant depression, it’s going to be very hard to engage in anything, so make sure that you speak to a healthcare provider to ensure that those symptoms are being treated properly,” Dr. Taylor says. “If you need a medication, taking that medication may make it easier for you to engage in other activities like exercise that can help you get well faster and perhaps stop needing the medication.”

Including exercise in a mental health regimen is also an area where family and friends can offer significant support. Dr. Taylor notes that loved ones often asked what they can do to help someone who has a mental illness.

“This is an area where support from friends and family can really be essential,” she says. “They can help organize group activities, or activities with a buddy, that can really motivate you, get you out, get you active. So if there is something that you can do with friends, that can be really motivating.”

It can also help address the isolation experienced by many people with mental illnesses.

“Exercise that’s part of a group activity – a running program, yoga with friends, anything that’s an organized social activity – can really help minimize some of those symptoms and make a person feel less isolated and alone,” Dr. Taylor says.

Making mental health a priority

Maintaining good mental health is important for everyone, even if they don’t have a mental health condition. Some of the benefits of exercise include better sleep, improved memory and higher energy levels, which all influence how people feel day to day.

“I think exercise should be part of a wellness program for all of us. Certainly it’s a great stress management tool, it can help keep anxiety under control, and it really forces us to think about ourselves sometimes,” Dr. Taylor says. “Often – especially as women – we prioritize everyone else above ourselves. So if you make this ‘me time’ something that you do to prioritize your own health, that can only be good. If you make it a family activity or something you do with friends, all the better because then you are getting some companionship along with releasing endorphins and increasing serotonin.”

Although the research evidence supports doing exercise that gets your heart rate up and increases your breathing rate for mental health benefits, Dr. Taylor notes that there’s really no such thing as bad exercise as long as it’s done in moderation.

“As an overall effective strategy for managing physical health, stress management, and treating your mental health, we can’t overemphasize the benefits of exercise,” she says.


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Exercise and chronic conditions

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Exercise is medicine – and not just preventive medicine. For many conditions – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mild-to-moderate depression – exercise can be as effective a treatment as some types of medications.

“Exercise is very beneficial for people with chronic conditions,” says Debbie Childerhose, registered physiotherapist with the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative at Women’s College Hospital. “At present, most disease guidelines presently have exercise as a component of their treatment.”

Research has shown the benefits of exercise for managing chronic conditions:

Exercise is a pillar of cardiovascular rehabilitation, which reduces risk of death or future heart attack. It’s now recommended for all patients after a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.
Exercise helps people with diabetes and pre-diabetes manage their blood sugar levels, among other benefits.
Regular exercise is effective in managing anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression, and in preventing recurrences.
Exercise is recommended for people with musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
“It’s really important that people get exercise in their lifestyle no matter what their chronic condition is,” Childerhose says.

Some people with chronic conditions may need individual instructions or supervised programs to begin an exercise routine safely. That’s one of the advantages of cardiac rehab: it’s a specialized, supervised program for people with heart disease. People with other conditions – such as osteoarthritis – may feel they can’t exercise because of pain. However, the right exercise program can actually help manage pain, which in turn improves things like mobility and independence.

“At the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative, we have a lot of women who come because of a heart condition, but also have underlying musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis or osteoporosis,” Childerhose says. “After they’ve been doing regular exercise over time, they start to see the benefits in those areas as well as their heart health.”

It’s understandable for people with a chronic condition to have concerns about physical activity, but Childerhose stresses the importance of seeing exercise as part of a treatment plan, rather than a potential risk.

“I get a lot of questions from people who are worried about exercise: worried about the right amount of exercise, worried about getting injured, worried something might be too strenuous on their heart,” she says. “I tell them they’re actually doing more harm to themselves by not exercising. That’s how important it is to get some type of healthy exercise into your lifestyle.”

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Five Ways to Fit Exercise In Despite Having a Busy Schedule

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You're enjoying your long warm-weather walks, and then it hits. The busy season. Your exercise routine slows way down or comes to a screeching halt. If this has happened to you, don't worry, you're not alone especially when your longer-than-normal to-do list and the cooler weather make for pretty good excuses to reschedule. Still, hibernating can do a number on your body, affecting your weight, mood, sleep, and heart health. Plus, pressing the stop button on your activity means you'll have to start again from square one, and that can be daunting.

But what if there was a way to stay motivated from fall to spring so you could continue to feel great? I promise that with just a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can make this a new kind of year. I've come up with five ideas to keep you on track, utilizing the tricks that help me stay on course. So let these suggestions challenge and inspire you, and you'll avoid weight gain and tone up. This season just got a whole lot healthier!

1. Make over your to-do list.

In life, most of us work from two lists: the "I will do" list and the "I should do" list. The "I will" list may include getting up early in the morning … fitting in a trip to the supermarket … folding laundry … filling the gas tank. Then there's the other list: I should work out … get in my steps … order a salad … just stick with water. The trouble is, we typically do the things on the first list, which won't really help us live longer, healthier, happier lives — but we forgo most of the stuff on the second list, which actually will.

2. Start a push-up challenge.

They may seem like an old-school gym class activity, but you get so much from classic push-ups. The exercise works almost every muscle in your body, helping strengthen your chest, arms, and core at the same time. So here's your goal: Complete 10 to 15 full push-ups a day by the end of winter. Never fear, you can ease into it. Most women don't have the upper body strength to go right to a full-body push-up, so these quick and simple variations will help you work your way up at your own pace to let you meet that final goal.

A. Wall push-off

Start a few feet away from a wall. Let yourself fall forward into the wall, with your hands shoulder-width apart, then push off until you’re standing straight again. That's 1 rep. Aim for 15 to 20 reps.

B. Counter push-up

Lean against a countertop with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart and lower your chest close to the counter. Push back up again. That's 1 rep. Aim for 15 to 20 reps.

C. Assisted push-up

Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor and let your knees rest on the ground. Lower your chest until you are close to the floor, keeping your abs tight. Push back up again. That's 1 rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.

D. Full-body push-up

Start in a straight-arm plank position with your hands slightly wider than your chest. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Bend your elbows and lower your body as far as you can. Keeping your core tight, push back to the starting position. That's 1 rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.

3. Set a new walking goal.

You hear all the time that it's important to get in 10,000 steps a day, but I'm going to offer a different take: Aim for 8,000 steps a day instead. It's simple, easy to fit in, and light on your joints. Eight thousand steps a day is about 3.5 miles, which is nothing to sneeze at. Start first thing in the morning to set yourself up for success, then add a few more walks later in the day. I suggest buying an inexpensive pedometer — you'll start looking forward to seeing that number go up.

4. Don't abandon that H2O.

Hydrating in the summer when it's hot and sticky out is a no-brainer, but when the weather turns cooler we tend to forget. I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of H2O a day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water. Why so much? Water will keep you energized (so you have enough get-up-and-go to exercise) and feeling full, not to mention that extra bathroom trips can add to your daily step total! If it seems too hard to sip that much, I advise adding half a lemon or some frozen fruit to your glass. Keep a tally at first of total ounces consumed (a typical cup is 8 oz) so you'll know where you stand.

5. Get out of your groove.

It's easy to do workouts you're already good at or stick to a routine, but sometimes you fall into a rut. When you do the same activity every day, your muscles get used to the moves, and eventually the exercise is less effective. However, when you make your muscles do something they aren't used to, they're forced to work harder, and that translates into more calories burned. To shock your muscles and step out of your comfort zone (a place you may often find yourself this time of year!), I recommend trying at least one new fitness class a month. No need to join an expensive gym or a boutique studio: You can find workouts at your community center or on YouTube — a boot camp class, yoga, whatever!

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Over 40? You'll Want to Do These 5 Exercises Every Week

Dr. HelloDox Care #
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Many think of exercise as the solution for all of their health woes even those related to the aging process. Of course, no amount of physical activity can stop us from getting older, but there's plenty of evidence that proves that physical activity can increase life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic diseases something many folks start thinking about after they turn 40.

Want to get in the best shape of your life? In Fit After 40, Natalie Jill coaches you though routines to help you drop pounds, firm up, and transform your entire body — in your 40s, 50s, and beyond!
"There comes a point when we realize we're no longer invincible," says Holly Perkins, a personal trainer and author of Lift to Get Lean. "Believe it or not, the body starts to decline after about 30, and that decline gets more aggressive every year." The good news: Exercise not only helps you feel (and look!) better, it can also slow that decline, helping you stave off some common health conditions.

Here, five exercises you should start doing every week once you're in your 40s to stay healthy, happy, and looking as great as you feel.

To prevent heart disease…
Try: Cardiovascular workouts, 3 to 4 times a week

Less than 1% of American women between the ages of 20 and 39 suffer from coronary heart disease, according to a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. However, among 40- to 59-year-olds, that number increases nearly 10-fold, to 5.6%. So how can you stay healthy?

The word "cardio" is short for "cardiovascular," so many people know that this kind of heart-pumping exercise will keep the heart muscle strong, Perkins says. (Running, spinning, dancing, rowing, and swimming all count!) However, if you really want your heart health to benefit from your cardio workouts, you need to exercise at 80% of your maximum heart rate for at least 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week.

So, if you're barely breaking a sweat while walking or taking it easy during your favorite Zumba class, it's time to pick up your pace and increase your effort, Perkins says. "Cardio workouts should feel effortful — like you could do it forever but wouldn't want to."

To ward off osteoporosis…
Try: High-impact activities, 1 to 2 times a week

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 1 in 2 women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become brittle, increasing the risk of fractures.

While you may already know that calcium can keep your skeletal system strong, recent research reveals that high-impact, weight-bearing exercise can help build bone strength, too, Perkins notes. "There's still widespread misperception that high-impact activities do more harm than good, but that's simply not the case — particularly when it comes to bone health," she says.

"Dancing, jumping jacks, racquet sports, and even adding a light jog into your go-to walking workout are all great examples of exercise that can keep your bones strong."

To fight arthritis…
Try: Strength training, 2 to 3 times a week

The risk of developing arthritis increases with age. However, chronic joint pain and stiffness can plague adults of all ages — especially those who are overweight and those who have suffered a previous joint injury, according to the Arthritis Foundation. That said, it's never too soon to start protecting your body.

Strength training is one of the best ways to prevent the aches and pains. "Strength training has been proven to decrease pain associated with arthritis — and prevent its onset in the first place," Perkins explains. And you don't have to spend hours in the weight room to reap the benefits. "All you really need to do is some form of a squat, deadlift, and overhead press to strengthen multiple joints and muscles."

To fight depression…
Try: Yoga, once a week

Women between ages 45 and 64 have an increased risk of depression, according to John Hopkins Medicine, one of the leading healthcare systems in the United States.

Though any form of exercise can help stave off anxiety and depression, a growing body of research shows yoga may be particularly beneficial for reducing stress and regulating mood. One study found that yoga increases levels of GABA, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter that's typically deficient in those with depression and anxiety. Another study found that women suffering from mental distress were less stressed after participating in a three-month yoga class.

"We know that yoga is so good for stress reduction, and we know there's a correlation between stress and mood disorders," Perkins says. "Even better, certain styles of yoga are also a great weight-bearing strength workout and even offer some cardiovascular conditioning, making it a win all around."

To fight back pain...
Try: Holding a plank for 90 seconds, 3 times a week

Most people experience back pain for the first time between the ages of 30 to 40, and back pain becomes more common as we get older, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Strengthening your core can help ward off the pain. The plank is a great move to try because it tones all of the core muscles of the body. Not only does it work the abs, it also challenges the muscles in the chest and those surrounding the spine, Perkins explains. "As these muscles become stronger, your entire midsection tightens, which ultimately supports your lower back, keeping it pain-free."

To ensure you're holding the plank position correctly, stack your wrists under your elbows, position your elbows under your shoulders, and push the floor away from you with your feet. Your legs should be outstretched behind you, and your feet should be shoulder-distance apart. Also, be sure to pull your bellybutton in towards your spine to turn "on" your abs. Stay here for 30 seconds, come down to your knees to take a short break, and then repeat the exercise two more times. As you get stronger, try holding the position for 90 seconds without a break.

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Daily Habits For Women's To Help You Stay Fit!

Dr. HelloDox Care #
HelloDox Care
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When it comes to being fit, soldiers set the best examples. Here are 15 habits that you could imbibe to stay fit like a soldier.

1.Start the day early: A soldier’s day begins at dawn. Starting your day early will give you more time to get things done and takes away the excuse of not having enough time to exercise.

2.Maintain a daily schedule: Set a time to wake up, eat, work, exercise, sleep and follow it diligently. This helps you stay physically and mentally fit.

3.Don’t skip breakfast: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eat a proper breakfast that will give you enough energy to get through the day.

4.Eat on time: Don’t delay a meal and maintain regular intervals between each meal. This helps stabilise your metabolism and keeps you from unnecessary weight gain.

5.Eat a balanced diet: Skipping out on carbs may help you lose a little weight temporarily but will not keep you healthy. Eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and milk.

6.Spend time outdoors: If you can’t exercise outdoors, walk to and from office or while grocery shopping to give yourself a chance to breathe in the open.

7.Avoid junk food: Avoid all kinds of processed foods. These foods that very low nutritional value but high fat content. Instead snack on fruits or nuts between meals.

8.Limit alcohol intake: Alcohol not only harms your body but can interfere with your schedule as well. Excessive drinking can keep you from waking up early the next day and throw your entire day off schedule.

9.Get adequate sleep: You should ideally get 8 hours of sleep so if you’re going to wake up early, go to bed early as well. Drinking a warm glass or milk or chamomile tea can help you get a restful sleep.

10.Make exercise a part of your daily schedule: Along with work, exercise needs to be made a priority as well. The best time to exercise is early in the morning before starting with the day’s work.

11.Mix it up: Make exercise fun by mixing up your exercise routines. If you go for a run on one day, go swimming the next or hit the gym.

12.Drink plenty of water: Stay hydrated to ensure that your body can absorb nutrients well and to optimise your circulatory system.

13.Play a sport: Playing a sport is not only a way to exercise but also boosts your mental health.

14.Surround yourself with people who support you: Avoid negative people and keep company with those who live a healthy lifestyle themselves to keep yourself motivated.

15.Never give up: Just because you don’t have the stamina to run 10km on the first day, doesn’t mean you should give up on it. Persevere and have patience with yourself and you will be able to overcome all the obstacles before you.

Dr. Vrushali Sarode
Dr. Vrushali Sarode
BHMS, Homeopath Psychotherapist, 5 yrs, Pune
Dr. Sandeep Awate
Dr. Sandeep Awate
BAMS, Ayurveda Panchakarma, 15 yrs, Pune
Dr. Meghana Karande
Dr. Meghana Karande
MS/MD - Ayurveda, Ayurveda Panchakarma, 1 yrs, Pune
Dr. Jyoti Kumari
Dr. Jyoti Kumari
BDS, Chest Physician Child Abuse Pediatrician, Ranchi
Dr. Pallavi U Bhurse
Dr. Pallavi U Bhurse
BAMS, Ayurveda Family Physician, 5 yrs, Pune
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