There is a growing epidemic that is threatening the health of millions and is placing a tremendous burden upon every facet of life. Ironically enough, we all have the ability to prevent, treat and share the solutions that could quite feasibly eradicate all the harm that is being caused the world over. Obesity and its impact upon physical, emotional and spiritual health can jeopardize everything that we have built as individuals and as a society.
There are many theories as to how this disease is causing so much harm, but the reasons for its prevalence are few and very well documented. Poor diet and a proclivity for sedentary behavior are increasing our collective weight and the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer , all of which are extremely difficult to treat and can dramatically shorten life expectancy.
Keeping the need to modify diet and exercise in mind and considering factors that sometimes limit our ability to dramatically change diet (geography, economy, food preference and sensitivity), attempting to improve our penchant for exercise is something that we can all undertake to help us improve our health and wellness.
So, what does science suggest for ways in which to increase physical activity?
- Find an enjoyable place that is highly ‘walkable’ and pedestrian friendly. To me, this means a neighborhood where the public spaces are well maintained, lit afterhours, lie off major thoroughfares and have ample park spaces and walking trails. There are several other variables that will be favorable to some, but these are just a few that may improve our relationship with the outdoors and exercise.
- Spend more time ‘disconnected’. Spending more time away from the TV and computer will naturally increase the time available to take part in more physically demanding and enriching activities like doing yard work, playing with a pet, or even, god forbid, mopping the kitchen floor.
- Develop a network of exercise enthusiasts who will help keep you motivated to move every day of every season. Our friends have a tremendous influence over our behavior and if we can build a few relationships that favor physical activity we will be that much more likely to move.
Other ‘science-y’ things to consider when developing an exercise program:
- The afternoon may be the best biological time to improve fitness.
- Exercising outside may facilitate greater improvements in body and mind.
- Even small steps may be beneficial in developing a quality exercise regiment.
The benefit of exercise extends beyond the physical and can greatly improve neurological and spiritual wellbeing. Modest exercise has the ability to greatly improve many functions of the brain by improving the capacity for learning and memory while helping to alleviate depression. Exercise has also been shown to improve self-esteem, physical self-perception, and, although unverifiable through scientific inquiry, personal experience has taught me that exercise can greatly improve our connectedness with the world and our selves.
It would appear to me that a little exercise could add a lot value to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Now it’s just a matter of getting out the door and taking the next step (literally) to improve our quality of life.