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.

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    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 http://www.strongwomen.com/. 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 www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/.

     

    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.

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    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 www.mayoclinic.com/health/target-heart-rate/SM00083.

     

    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.

     

    Namaste.

Published On: January 24, 2008