Saturday, January 31, 2015

Walk it Off!

The benefits of exercise can't be overstated, though not for the reasons you might expect. Too often exercise, or lack thereof, is blamed for our obesity epidemic. "Those Americans, so fat--all they do is sit around all day!" or words to that effect. So, can exercise fix the problem?

Let's imagine we have just eaten a Snickers bar (remember, this is for science).

Okay, now let's imagine we are letting ourselves off the hook for this indulgence, because, after all, we are going to the gym later, aren't we? Let's take a look at our favorite calorie counting website to see just how much exercise it'll take to burn that sucker off:
That's right. It'll take you 69 minutes of walking, 29 minutes of jogging, 21 minutes of swimming or 38 minutes of riding a bike to make those Snickers calories disappear. That's a lot of time spent on exercise, isn't it? Are you sure you've got that kind of time, or anywhere close to that amount of physical endurance? A few more bad choices like that and you might as well start training for the Olympics, because that's what it'll take to work it off.

So, just like the only way to win "War Games" is to never play at all, the only way to "win" the calorie fight is to never put certain kinds of calories in your body in the first place--not trying to eliminate them with exercise after the fact.

However, I'm not suggesting not to exercise; far from it. We need physical movement to keep our organs functioning correctly, to keep our muscles limber, and to keep our bones strong. It's not just for our physical selves, though. Our mood, studies show, is also positively affected by exercise. 

This recent study shows that middle-aged women in Australia suffering from depression had their condition improved by regular sessions of exercise. It's a really good article, and an eye-opening study--so be sure to follow that link! An excerpt:
Women who averaged 150 minutes of moderate exercise (golf, tennis, aerobics classes, swimming, or line-dancing) or 200 minutes of walking every week had more energy, socialized more, felt better emotionally, and weren't as limited by their depression when researchers followed up after three years...They also had less pain and did better physically, although the psychological benefit was greater.
With depression so prevalent, "there is an urgent need" to identify treatments, including non-medical options that people can do themselves, said Kristiann Heesch, who led the study.
I'm willing to bet that those outcomes would be the same for anyone, not just depressed Aussie gals. So whether or not you belong to a gym, help yourself make it through these long, miserable winter months by finding someplace safe and warm to walk. Our local mall opens a few hours before their stores and many people take advantage of that to do a few circuits. Be sure to check and see if there's an option like that near you.

Okay, maybe not THAT mall...

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