Improving Your Mental - and Physical - Health with Exercise

  • In December when I saw Dr. Krall, my c-reactive protein was wacky, thus I'm at an elevated risk for heart disease, even though my cholesterol level and weight are good. Well, I admit I had slid back into not exercising in the fall, and it was time to get hip.

    I've belonged to my gym for four years. It's a clean, well-lit facility, the largest of its kind in the area, and the membership fee is reasonable.


    As soon as Dr. Krall had The Talk with me about exercise, I decided it was a mindset, and so I took control. There's no way out: it's imperative we take our physical health as seriously as our mental health.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    Since before the holidays, I started doing the machines again, and added a Zumba class. That's an aerobic workout that incorporates Latin music and dance. And I've taken two Hatha yoga classes. I recommend yoga: it clears the mind as it conditions the body. Hatha is good for beginners. Vinyasa focuses on sustained poses without slowing down.


    Just last night after the class, I decided I would try the Vinyasa on Saturdays (my weekends are now free) and if I couldn't keep up, stay with the Hatha for now.


    My priority when I move into my next apartment will be to join a gym. For those of you who would rather exercise at home, there are any number of DVDs you can practice with. I also recommend for women Dr. Miriam Nelson's "Strong Women" books, such as "Stay Young," "Stay Slim," and "Strong Bones." To download her simple routines for free, log on to There, you can also subscribe to her monthly e-mail newsletter. The routines require free weights for the arms, and ankle weights that can be adjusted.


    To be candid, I'm not motivated to exercise at home. I surf on the vibe at the gym, where cool music is played and I rarely have to wait for a machine or a treadmill. Dr. Krall told me I had options, and gave me some pointers; however, I'll continue at the fitness center for now.


    In the spring and fall, I like walking a couple miles on the weekends. From my house to the shopping district is a pleasant stroll. As I write that word, "stroll," I fear some buff type will swat me on the head and remind me to take a brisk walk, not stopping to browse the stores.


    It's been just over a month since I've incorporated fitness into my life at least three days a week. I'm happy to report that I lost three pounds. I need lose only seven more if I want to be at my "fighting weight." People always remark that I'm skinny, but here's the catch. I'm barely five feet tall, so if I want to be at a healthy weight, I have to be 125 pounds or less.


    A person's Body Mass Index (BMI) needs to be less than 25 for her to be fit. A BMI of 25 or higher is "overweight," and 30 or higher is "obese." This figure depends on your height and weight. Find yours at


    Believe it or not, a skinny-looking person can be flabby. For the history I've gone to the gym, I've had a body fat percentage hovering around 31 percent, and for someone my age, it's supposed to be 27 percent. So I don't intend to scare you off by talking about numbers or inches or pounds. If you can walk out of the subway without gasping, that's a start.


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    The best advice I can give you is to find an activity you enjoy. Hey, it could be ballroom dancing. One thing you can do for optimum results: find something that elevates your heart rate to within the target range. Find your target heart rate at


    To be honest, fitness is a mindset. If you feel that it's something you "have to" do as opposed to "want to" do, you'll come up against the idea with a natural resistance. I'm not an athlete, either. Some suggestions:


    • Get off the bus one or two stops before you usually do, and walk the rest of the way.
    • Park your car farther away in the parking lot, and walk to the mall. (As a woman, I wouldn't do this at night, alone.)
    • Carry your bags home from the convenience store (preferably in a cotton, environmentally-friendly tote) instead of having them delivered.


    Find a fitness buddy, even if it's just someone you can check in with on the phone. One simple motivational tool that could sound silly: I keep an appointment book, and whenever I do exercise, I sticker the date I worked out. For cardio, I use a heart sticker, for a fitness class, I use a star, and the machines get a smiley face.


    On March 6th, I return to Dr. Krall for an exam, so I'll report in here the results.


    Next week, I intend to return to a yoga class.



Published On: January 24, 2008