Exercise! Our secret weapon to improved mood, increased libido and overall health by Grace Calihan, ND, LAc

Summer is just around the corner, and it’s time to start moving.  It can be easy to excuse a sedentary winter, but when the sun is out and the weather is starting to warm up, we need to become active again.  It seems that losing weight is always the big motivator –we’re told to start exercising to support weight loss goals.  And this is great advice.  But there are so many more benefits to being an active person, and if activity (ie: exercise) is too wrapped up with weight outcomes, it doesn’t always “stick.”  So let me give you some even better reasons to move around.

Mood cure – We’ve all heard of a runner’s high, those feel-good brain chemicals (endorphins) that are released with a high-impact physical activity.  But the way exercise affects mood goes far beyond this.  And the benefits come even with low-impact movements, like walking, swimming and yoga.  These exercises help lower cortisol, the adrenal hormone that makes us feel stressed out and crazed.  They also improve are ability to think clearly and manage stressful situations, which makes us less angry, tense and tired.

Hormone regulation – Stress hormones aren’t the only ones improved with exercise.  Sex hormone regulation is great side effect of a regular movement routine.  Women who exercise regularly have less cramping with their menstrual cycles and fewer pre-menstrual symptoms (like moodiness and bloating).  Additionally, they have greater sexual interest and better sexual functioning.  

Risk Reduction – A recent study found that physical inactivity ranks higher than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure as a cause of heart disease in women over 30.  This means that whether or not you are actively meeting your other health goals, regardless of your weight, exercise is lowering your risk of the number one killer of women in the US.

In other words, by finding 30 minutes a day to fit in a walk, ride your bike or take a yoga class, you can be less stressed out, have a higher libido and more normal cycles, and add years to your life.  This seems like a no brainer.

So why are we still not exercising?  The biggest hurtle I hear from patients is time; no one has the extra 30 minutes.  So we have to be creative, we have to find space and prioritize movement for all the reasons discussed above.  It doesn’t need to be 30 minutes in a row, and it certainly doesn’t need to be at the gym.  One less TV show can become a bike ride around your neighborhood, handing off a responsibility can make the time it would take to do the dishes into a walk around the block, turning a chore like house cleaning into exercise can absolutely be a full body workout.  Take advantage of internet resources, as well.  You don’t need a yoga studio membership to youtube a short yoga routine during your lunch break.  “8-minute abs” is a fantastic way to spend a commercial break.  It doesn’t really matter –just be the type of person who moves, every day.  I think you will be very happy with the results.

Contact your naturopathic doctor about what type of exercise could fit into your lifestyle.

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