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Living Well: Don’t worry! Be happy (through exercise)!

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September 21st, 2010
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This week two scientific studies reminded me once again of the importance of physical activity to our well-being. Researchers in Hawaii demonstrated that senior men who walked merely one quarter of a mile a day significantly reduced their risk of developing depression, and a University of Georgia study showed that exercise may in fact lessen feelings of anger. While it is remarkable that exercise can affect mood, is it really so surprising? I think we all have experienced an improvement in mood after a workout or even a simple walk in the neighborhood. There is a scientific basis for this as we have learned that exercise does impact your brain s biochemistry and may improve brain function and memory. In fact, one study showed increased mental performance for 60- to 80-year-olds who walked just three times a week for six months. How incredible to realize that there is an emotional and cognitive benefit to exercise, in addition to all the well-known physical benefits which include lowering blood pressure; improving heart, lung, muscle, and bone function; and avoiding pain and disability. [caption id="attachment_14489" align="alignright" width="168" caption="Exercise can turn your outlook from grim to a grin. (File photos)"][/caption] The news gets even better because you don t have to run a marathon to get positive benefits from being active! There are many age-friendly exercises and activities that will benefit your health that don t require overly strenuous effort. Walking, gardening, or playing with your grandchildren are some examples. Water activities like swimming or water aerobics don t stress joints and are particularly good for people with arthritis or difficulty walking. Perhaps our greatest challenge to reaping the wonderful rewards of exercise is summed up by Yogi Berra: Ninety percent of the game is 50% mental. So find something you enjoy and get active! In good health, Matt Narrett, M.D.

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