By Sara Hodson
Those New Year’s Resolutions to exercise more, eat less, give up alcohol or quit smoking might not be going so well – particularly in COVID times.
This is exactly why everyone needs to know how exercise can help.
Exercise is a proven treatment for both physical and mental health. The WHO recommends getting 150 to 300 minutes of exercise each week to reduce your risks of chronic illness and improve mental health Exercise is proven to prevent heart disease, improve brain function and leads to a longer, healthier and happier life. There are many reasons to move today. The side effects of increased sedentary behaviour are both physical and mental. A 2018 study, sponsored by Diabetes Canada, found that participants who were asked to limit their steps to 1000 per day caused them to lose their ability to control sugar, hastening the onset of diabetes. Some participants didn’t fully recover after they returned to normal activity.
Last week, a report was released showing that there are no limits to the benefits of exercise on heart health. The research, which involved more than 90,000 people who were followed over a five-year period, found that those who exercised more had lower heart disease risk. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The study, published in journal PLOS Medicine, endorses the WHO recommendations that people engage in 150 to 300 minutes of exercise weekly.
In 2021, physical activity is more important than ever. With fitness facilities only open in three provinces, we have to urge Canadians to move however they can – joining virtual platforms like ours at LIVE WELL, going for walks, doing bodyweight movements at home – whatever you can to get your heart rate up, challenge the muscles and the bones. The mental health of Canadians has declined since the beginning of the pandemic. Two-thirds of Canadians are worried about their co-workers, and coronavirus anxiety is real. We have been in a state of fight or flight for a long time – and rising case numbers, deaths, new strains of the virus, political upheaval in the United States and lockdowns has kept mental health at a tipping point. Our cortisol levels are high.
The best news? Exercise helps. A lot.
Exercise acts as a stressor on our body, and when we exercise we strengthen our stress system to tolerate higher levels of stress, and we are able to recover faster. It makes us more resilient – physically and mentally. It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to reap the benefits. At LIVE WELL, we have seen blood sugar levels in people with diabetes improve in as little as 10 minutes; we have seen patients regain their quality of life after heart attacks, treat depression, slow the signs of aging in bone health, all through moderate to vigorous activity.
Exercise can prevent stress-induced depression,– something that is affecting all of us, and should be discussed as part of Blue Monday. We must fight the tsunami of mental health concerns that we are seeing across the country – it isn’t enough to report upon rising rates of depression, suicide, addiction and social isolation. We have to have tools to fight this. A study from McMaster University looked at how people were exercising during the first wave of the pandemic and found that those who exercised were faring better. As little as three 30-minute brisk walking sessions was enough
Get ahead this week. Go for a brisk walk, or reach out to LIVE WELL and we will get your started in our virtual platform. We have live sessions with trained clinical exercise physiologists and a team ready to support you in 2021 – remotely, until you can come and be our guest in person.
We need to move more than ever, and there is no need to wait!