“Slow down my friend! The turtle always wins!”
Benefits Of Exercise
How exciting! You’ve decided that it’s time to get in shape. Good for you! Maybe you are interested in dropping some of those winter pounds. Better yet, maybe you are looking to get back into the game after extended time away. Regardless of your motivation, the benefits of a regular-moderate fitness focused lifestyle, are many fold.
As you embark on incorporating daily fitness into your life, you will notice both physical and psychological (mood) changes almost immediately. Exercise plays and important role in the holistic (biopsychosocial) nature of sustainable change. As one element improves, so do the others.
Exercise and Hormones
Observing the effects of regular exercise is a great way to understand the mind-body connection (energy and mood). To be specific, exercise is effective at regulating hormone levels (Insulin, Glucagon, Cortisol, Epinephrine/Norepinephrine, etc.), thus impacting mood. It even has an effect on sex hormones!
Let’s look at insulin as an example: With exercise, you start to burn immediate sources of energy in the form of glucose. As a result, your insulin levels also starts to flatten.
If you have ever been on a sugar crash, you have experienced what happens when your body releases high levels of insulin to accommodate high sugar intake. The resulting dramatic drop in blood sugar leads to moodiness and mental crash.
What do most of us do next? We reach for that candy bar for a “pick-me-up”. It is clear that the sugar-insulin yo-yo impacts mood in a very negative way. Exercise mitigates the yo-yo.
Design Your Exercise Program – Five (5) Tips
There are several considerations for anybody wanting to engage in a sustainable exercise program. Shoot for the moon, and take your time getting there. Fitness is not a means to an end, it’s a lifestyle:
1- Physical Assessment: See your family physician. As part of your check-up, attempt to gather baseline data from your doctor. This might include current weight, blood pressure, and screening for diabetes indicators. After a few weeks of regular exercise, you will want to to see evidence of physical changes resulting from your self-designed program.
2- Enlist Support: Doing it alone works for some. However, most of us need some form of support from others. Whether you participate in a walking club, are an active member on Strava, or have connections with friends and family on MyFitnessPal, having a well rounded fitness circle gets you through the difficult times.
3- Be The Turtle: Comparing yourself to others, regardless of fitness level, is a dangerous path. If you are a runner and feel anxious when another runner zips past you, remind yourself of your accomplishments and the various styles of running. After all, ultra-runners (50k races and above), all run methodically slow, and even walk on occasion.
4- Keep Records: Data is your friend, detailed data, to be exact. Keep track of the activity you are participating in, the time, and distance if it applies. Use weekly collected data to gauge safe increases in activity each week, in an effort to prevent burnout and injury. Finally, the most important measure is how you feel, not the number on the scale.
5- Reward Yourself: Sustainable change requires periodic extrinsic rewards – These are self-imposed. Never wait for others to acknowledge your efforts. On a given Friday, have that piece of cake or chocolate brownie you crave. It’s a reward! Enjoy it!
A Final Note
There are many events in life that we have no control over (stock market, the president’s tweets, etc.). Looking for places where we do have an effect on outcome gives us a sense of purpose and drive. Fitness is one such area. By making changes to your activity level, you will experience physical and psychological benefits almost immediately. Consider an exercise program your quick win!
We Suggest Paddling!
There is an overwhelming set of activities that you can engage in as part of your lifestyle transformation journey. We suggest that you check out the sport of Standup Paddle boarding. We love it so much, that we even have a podcast episode dedicated to it! Head on over to, “FMP 003 • Estelle Matheson Interview: Paddling as Activism in Vancouver BC“.