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Workout for your Heart Health

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Feb 26, 2024 12:53:44 PM

Workout for Your Heart Health 


Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases affect more than 1.5 million Americans each year. Heart disease is the nation’s number one killer among both men and women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The CDC defines the term heart disease as describing several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, which affect the blood flow to the heart.  Decreased blood flow can cause events like a heart attack or heart failure.  Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease.  Some of these risk factors like your genetics, are out of your control, but most of the major conditions that increase your chance of heart disease are things you can change and manage yourself.   Most of these risk factors can be controlled with lifestyle choices, which will reduce your risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases.     


Heart disease is sometimes called a “silent killer” because no symptoms may appear before an event like a heart attack, heart failure or an arrhythmia.  Heart attack symptoms can include chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.  It is important to note that the symptoms of a heart attack are different for men and women.  Women are less likely to experience chest pain that is common in men who are experiencing a heart attack.  Women sometimes have no symptoms at all or only feel nausea and fatigue.  Arrhythmia is a feeling of fluttering in your chest.  The symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.  Knowing the facts about heart disease, as well as the signs, symptoms, and risk factors, can help you take steps to protect your health and seek proper treatment if you need it. 


Exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent or improve many of the major risk factors that contribute to heart disease, including: 


  • High blood pressure is a medical condition that happens when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high.  The high pressure can affect your heart and other major organs of your body.  Your doctor can measure your blood pressure, or many drug stores have machines near the pharmacy that will measure your blood pressure.   
  • Diabetes causes glucose (sugar) to build up in the blood because your body is either not producing enough insulin, or can’t use its own insulin like it should, to move the glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells for energy.   
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels.  Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver or found in certain foods.  If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart.  This leads to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body.  The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to get it checked by your health care provider by a simple blood test.   


Lifestyle behaviors that can increase the risk of heart disease include: 


  • Unhealthy diet.  Eating too much saturated fat and trans fats have been linked to heart disease and related conditions.  Red meat, fried foods and some packaged/processed foods are high in these fats.  Too much sodium in the diet can raise blood pressure.  Excessive amounts of sugars and starchy carbs can create surges of glucose in your blood stream.  If your body’s insulin can’t keep up with the amount of glucose in your blood, the high levels of glucose and insulin can set the stage for insulin resistance and possibly diabetes.   
  • A sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart disease.  Not only does not exercising negatively affect your health, but studies also show that sitting too much during the day can contribute to poor health.   
  • Not enough sleep!  Studies have shown that those who get fewer than 6 hours of sleep at night had a 79 percent increased incidence of heart disease than those who slept 8 hours or more. 
  • Drinking too much alcohol (more than 1 drink a day for women and more than 2 drinks a day for men) and tobacco use increase the risk to heart disease.   
  • Smoking tobacco is another high-risk factor that can lead to heart disease among other health conditions. 
  • Excessive stress can also be bad for your health in many ways, including your heart.  Experiment with ways to reduce your stress like mindfulness, more fun with friends or family, yoga, and other exercise. 


What are the best exercises for your heart health? 


The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of both), preferably spread throughout the week.   In addition to this aerobic activity, it is best to also include muscle-strengthening activity (like resistance or weight training) at least twice a week. 


Cardio, short for cardiovascular, (or sometimes called aerobic activity) is exercise for your cardiovascular system which includes your heart and lungs.  Cardio exercise and weight training both help to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.  Exercise is a key to living a longer and healthier life.   


Just a few of the benefits of cardio exercise: 


  • Lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer 
  • Increases endurance for daily activities 
  • Reduces pain and stiffness 
  • Manage high blood pressure and diabetes 
  • Improves sleep 
  • Improves mood and lowers risk of depression 


Also called aerobic exercise, a cardio workout is any activity that elevates your heart rate and gets you breathing harder.  No matter your level of fitness, there is a type of cardio exercise for you.  Low intensity activities like going for a walk, moderate intensity activities like Zumba and other aerobic dance classes or high intensity exercises like running, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or plyometrics all count as cardio exercise.  Some prefer to use machines to get their cardio workout done.  Every LivRite Fitness location has many cardio machines for you to use.  (Check out my blog post on cardio machines for more information.) 


All the cardio equipment is equipped with heart rate grips.  When you grip the silver sensors on the handlebars of the machine, it will estimate your current heart rate.  Both hands must grip the bars for your heart rate to register.  It takes 5 consecutive heart beats for your heart rate to register on the machine.  When gripping the pulse handlebars, do not grip tightly.  Keep a loose hold.  Please note:  these heart rate monitors are just estimates and not 100% accurate.  If you feel faint, stop exercising immediately.  Aim to be at 60% - 80% of your maximum heart rate.  (A rough estimate of your maximum heart rate is the equation of 220-your age. For example, if you are a 40-year-old, your estimated maximum heart rate is 180.).  The talk test is another way to gauge if you are working hard enough in your cardio workout.  You should feel out of breath enough that you don’t want to carry on a conversation, but not so winded that you cannot talk.  


The American Heart Association also recommends simply moving more throughout your day.  Get up and move every hour or every other hour for even a minute or two.  Stand up as much as you can and move as much as you can.  Any activity is better than no activity.    


Awareness of the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, is key to preventing them. Monitoring your risk factors like your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with making healthier lifestyle choices will help reduce the likelihood you will be affected by these diseases.  Exercise is an important part of the prevention of heart disease, as well as many other health conditions.  Need help?  Have questions?  Contact a LivRite trainer today!   


Topics: LivRite News

10 Dos and Don’ts of Gym Etiquette

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Jan 23, 2024 2:57:37 PM

10 Dos and Don’ts of Gym Etiquette 


It’s a New Year and many folks are trying out the gym for the first time or after a long time away.  Welcome!  The gym can sometimes feel intimidating.  There is a lot of equipment that you may not know how to use and a lot of people that might seem like they already know what they are doing.  That is okay!  Everyone starts somewhere and everyone in the gym has been in your shoes.   


Besides possibly not being familiar with the equipment, you may not be aware of some things to do around the gym.  What to do and what not to do.  There are some unspoken and some spoken rules (Check out any signs around the club!) of gym etiquette that are helpful to be aware of.  Here are 10 of those “rules” to keep in mind:   


  1. Put away and clean your equipment after use.  If you add weight plates to a machine, take them off and put them back on their racks when you are done.  The next person using the machine should not have to take off the weight plates you used, and they might not be able to.  Any other equipment you use should go back where you found it after you are done.  Dumbbells all have a specific spot to go back to and if you’ve loaded a barbell with weight plates, strip them off the bar and rerack them when you are done.  Don’t make other people clean up after you!
    Also, look for cleaning solution bottle to clean the equipment you used when done. Most LivRite locations have reusable cloths and bottles of cleaning solution in the club for you to use.  If you don’t see any, ask an employee.  Wiping down where you touched the equipment and where you may have left some sweat, is a good rule of thumb.
  2. Step away from the dumbbell rack.  Grab your weights off the rack and step away to complete your exercise so others can grab weights freely.  Don’t stand directly in front of the rack.  
  3. Respect others space.  Try not to set up right next to, behind, or in front of someone.  If you are planning on filming part of your workout, ask those around you that may be in the shot if they are okay with it.  Be okay with it if they are not okay with it!
  4. Respect the gym equipment.  Don’t throw dumbbells around, drop dumbbells, or let weight stacks drop uncontrolled on machines.  This is both unnecessary and destructive to the equipment.
  5. Make sure the equipment isn’t already being used before you start.  If you see a towel or water bottle around a machine, or if there are already weight plates on a machine, look around to see if anyone is nearby and ask if there is if they are using that equipment.  Sometimes people will pace around while resting between sets or they may be doing a circuit and alternating between two or more pieces of equipment.  If you don’t see anyone nearby, you can start using the equipment.  In the event someone comes forward and states they were using that machine, ask them how many sets they have left and if they have a few, ask if you can use that machine while they are in between their sets.  That is called asking to “work-in”.  More on that in number 10.
  6. Don’t interrupt someone during their set (while they are completing a set of repetitions of an exercise).  Wait until they are finished before asking anything.  This is for safety reasons as well as being courteous. 
  7. Finish your sets on a machine and move along.  Don’t sit on a machine for over 5 minutes on your phone in between working sets.  Resting 1-4 minutes between sets is normal and necessary but it shouldn’t be much more than that.
  8. The plyo boxes are not tables.  Plyo boxes are large boxes of various heights that can be used for exercises like step ups or box jumps.  These boxes aren’t there for you to leave your belongings while you work out.   Leave your personal items in a locker and keep your water bottle off the boxes if you aren’t using them yourself.
  9. Wear headphones.  Music is a great motivator for a workout.  Some people like to listen to podcasts or audio books while they exercise.  However, it’s very likely no one else wants to listen to what you are listening to, so please wear headphones if you’d like to listen to something on your phone.  Also, it’s likely (sorry) that no one wants to hear you sing those songs you are listening to.  Be courteous and listen with headphones and keep conversations (and singing) to a minimum.   Along those same lines, don’t be too loud.  It’s not a library, you don’t need to whisper, but in general it is courteous to keep grunting and self-pep-talks to yourself or in a normal indoor conversation voice. 
  10. If you are doing circuits or supersets, allow others to work in.  Circuit training involves alternating between several exercises that target different muscle groups with little to no rest in between.  A superset means alternating between two exercises without rest in between. If it is busy, it might not be a good time to use machines or the cable tower for circuits or supersets.  Because when doing those you are occupying more than one machine or piece of equipment at a time. 


    If you are alternating between two or more pieces of equipment, be accommodating if someone would like to also use that equipment.  Allow someone to “work in” while you are doing your circuit, this simply means letting someone use one piece of equipment while you use another.  By the time you are ready to use that piece of equipment again in your circuit, they should be finished with their set so it will be open again for you.  Or if you are seconds away from using it again, politely tell them that you just have one more set and then it will be free for them.   


    Lastly, remember, be nice!  Especially to those new in the gym.  Even if you are the new person now, you won’t always be.  Offering help, or just saying hi or smiling at someone, can go a long way toward maintaining a positive, welcoming, and productive environment.   


    This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Good gym etiquette is like good etiquette anywhere else for the most part - with a few workout specific things thrown in.  The biggest thing to remember when in the gym is to be aware of your surroundings, respect the equipment, and be courteous to others.  We all go to the gym for the same reason and have all been new to gym at one time.  This is a great community where we can boost each other up, learn from one another and all be healthier in the end.  LivRite team members are also on hand to answer any questions you may have.  Schedule your complimentary fitness assessment with a Personal Trainer today 

Topics: LivRite News

10 ways to get motivated to exercise and stick with it

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Dec 4, 2023 9:00:00 AM


If there was something you could do that would give you more energy, boost your mood, prevent many chronic diseases and health conditions, plus help you sleep better and live an overall healthier life, would you do it?  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  There is something that can do all those things - it’s exercise!  Exercising regularly can give you all those benefits and more yet still it isn’t something most Americans do.  Exercise is often seen as a chore, something we should do but don’t want to do.  Despite its many proven health benefits and health conditions it improves or prevents, exercise is something many people do not take the time to do or just don’t want to do.   


The CDC Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults 18 and older aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking for example) or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous (running for example) exercise each week.  They also recommend adults have at least two sessions of resistance muscle building exercises and that older adults should incorporate balance enhancing exercises as well.  150 minutes sounds overwhelming at first but it breaks down to 30 minutes five days a week.  Or it can be broken down into smaller bouts of exercise like a 10-minute walk three times a day five days a week.   


According to a 2020 National Health Interview Survey, only 46.9% of adults aged 18 and over met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity and only 24.2% of adults aged 18 and over met the Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.   We hopefully know the many health benefits of exercise so why don’t over 50% of Americans do it at all?  Then there are those who are faithful to a workout routine and exercise on a consistent basis.  How did they get to that point?  How do you make working out a habit?  How do you get exercise to be a regular part of your life?  Here are 10 ideas to get motivated to exercise and stick with it. 



  1. Find Your Why - You can’t always rely on external factors, such as an upcoming vacation, to motivate you. Defining your “why” for exercise will give you a personal or emotional investment in your goals.  It could be to get up and down off the floor and run around and play with your kids or grandkids.   It could be to remain living independently as you age.  Your why could be because the mental health boost is what you look forward to after each workout.  Everyone’s reason why they are exercising could be different.  Find yours and remind yourself of it when you want to skip your workout. 
  2.  Schedule Your Workouts - Just like any important appointment, put your time for physical activity on your calendar.  Treat it like an appointment that you can’t cancel without a fee!  
  3.  Make it as Convenient as Possible We are much more likely to do something if it is convenient.  Having a hard time getting to the gym?  Identify the problem.  Is your gym too far away from your home or work?  Maybe they have a different location.   Is it too difficult to remember to take your gym bag with you when you go to work?  Keep it packed with the necessities, put in clean gym clothes as soon as you take dirty clothes out of it and then immediately put it in your car, so your bag is in there for the next trip to the gym.  One person I worked out with slept in her workout clothes, so she was all ready for her morning workout when she woke up.  Make it as easy as possible!  By identifying the problem, you can determine a potential solution.  Make it as easy as possible to do the thing you want to do instead of the thing you are trying not to do.  It won’t always be completely convenient but making it easier for you will make you more likely to stick with it. 
  4. Make Exercise FunThere are so many things to do that can give you the benefits of exercise that you shouldn’t feel like you are stuck doing something you absolutely hate.  Try different types of physical activity to find what you enjoy most.  Hiking, pickleball, dancing, swimming, and group fitness classes are just a few ways to get your movement in.  Find what you like best and don’t be afraid to keep trying new things to mix it up. 
  5. Find An Accountability Partner- Having someone with you can help make exercising more fun and it can also help you to be more likely to do it on a regular basis.  You will be less likely to skip that workout class if your friend is there waiting for you.  Or maybe you have a weekly lunch with a friend that you can start walking before or after.  

  6. Pause, don’t stop - Restarting is harder than starting.  If you derail from your new exercise routine, take a step back and pause.  Don’t think all is lost because you missed a few days of your new habits.  You didn’t stop, you just paused and are able to start right back up where you left off.  This happens to everyone, and it will to you as well.  Plan for it and know what you will do when you do get off track.  Building healthier routines is not all or nothing, and missing a week of workouts or one weekend of unhealthy eats doesn’t make you a failure.  It makes you human and you can unpause and get back to your workout routine as soon as you can. 
  7. Track Your Progress The adage “you manage what you measure” rings true for many.  Tracking your fitness can be a good way to stick with a healthier habit.   Some might find it helpful to write in a journal after each workout about what they did and how they felt.  Looking back at what you did and how it felt 6 weeks ago can help you see how far you have progressed and be a motivator to keep going.  Keeping a calendar or using a don’t break the chain habit tracker can be motivating as well.  Once you see your streak of keeping up your new habit, you won’t want to break it! Or if you prefer data, use a fitness tracker to track your workouts, steps, or other health related metrics.  (Read more about this in my post about fitness trackers.). 
  8. Hire a Personal Trainer Read about why you should hire a personal trainer in my last blog post.  A trainer can help make your workouts more fun and effective.  Plus, you are less likely to skip your workout when your trainer is waiting for you. 
  9. Make Time for Rest It’s true when they say you can have too much of a good thing.  Working out intensely every day, or doing too much too soon, can take a toll on your body.  Not only can it make you not want to work out regularly after some time of doing too much, but it could also cause injury or lead to overtraining.  Make sure at least one day of the week is devoted to active rest (like stretching, gentle yoga or an easy walk) or complete rest.  Consult a personal trainer if you are unsure of what the right amount of exercise would be for you at this time.   
  10. Mix it Up One training plan can work temporarily but to keep your fitness progressing, it is best to change up your routine in some way after some time. Making slight changes to your routine can keep you challenged and bust any boredom that might come up with your workouts as well.  The changes can be a simple as adding more or doing less repetitions or using more weight to your usual exercises or it could be trying a new workout class. 


Exercise is an important part of a healthy life.  Experiment with ways to get it in your regular schedule and get it done consistently.  Need help?  Have questions?  Contact a LivRite trainer for a fitness assessment today! 

Why should you hire a personal trainer?

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Oct 25, 2023 1:01:09 PM


You have most likely heard of a personal trainer but what do they do? Why would you or should you, hire one? A personal trainer is a fitness professional who works one-on-one with a training client (or a small group of clients) to create and implement a fitness regimen. A personal trainer will create a workout program for you, then work with you individually showing you how to do each exercise and will insure you have proper form. Personal training is a great option for beginners who need help getting started as well as for experienced exercisers who want to push themselves further. Trainers don’t just simply give you a workout program, there are other aspects to having a personal trainer that make it even more invaluable.


Trainers will create the right plan for YOU. The first step with a personal trainer is a fitness assessment or a consultation. During this assessment, the trainer will ask questions about your past and current workout routines, health issues (including injuries and current medications) and your goals and objectives. The trainer will also conduct some postural, movement and overall fitness assessments that will help them create a personalized workout for you.


After getting to know you and helping to define your health and wellness goals, your trainer will create an exercise plan specific to you and your goals, preferences, schedule, experience, and constraints. They take the results of the assessment into account when creating your personalized workout so you won’t be doing any exercises that could potentially be detrimental. Your trainer can also help you determine healthful habits right for you to implement that will help with your goal.


There isn’t just one perfect workout program for everyone. We are all unique with our own fitness levels, injuries, and goals. Your trainer will create a workout plan specifically for you. For example, workouts will look different if you want to work on muscular endurance vs. muscular strength.   Or, if you have a knee injury, your trainer won’t include exercises that would exacerbate the issue. Your trainer will create your training plan based on you, what you are looking to achieve and will help you get there.


A trainer will help you set realistic goals. Many people come to the gym with a big goal of losing 100 pounds or a vague goal like getting healthier.   Research says that goals that are most likely to be achieved are SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, and time bound. Setting health and fitness SMART goals can be difficult to do when you are first starting out and your personal trainer can work with you to make your goals SMART and therefore more achievable! An example of a SMART goal would be to do strength training three times a week for the next three months. It is specific (you know what you are going to do and how often you will do it), measurable (this is easy to track on a calendar or in an app), attainable (you can make time for a workout three times a week) and time bound (you will do this for at least the next 3 months).


A personal trainer can help set a realistic timeline to achieve results. Unfortunately, many exercisers quit their program before its effectiveness is proven. By setting expectations, you and your trainer can see yourself through the full program and see the full potential.


A trainer can boost your knowledge and confidence. There is so much information about health and wellness out there it is hard to know what is true and what isn’t. A trainer can provide educated advice about fitness and exercise. The gym itself can be intimidating and confusing as well. So many machines, it is hard to know what to do and how to do it. Your trainer will show you how to use the equipment and explain what things you could do and point out anything that might not be a good idea for you to do. They can give you the knowledge and confidence you need to feel comfortable in the gym.


Trainers will reduce the chance of injury. A personal trainer will perform an initial assessment determining any imbalances and any weaknesses. They take the results of the assessment, as well as any injuries you may have, into account when creating your personalized workout so you won’t be doing any exercises that could potentially be detrimental. Another bonus of working with a personal trainer is that they won’t just tell you what to do, they will help you through each exercise, explaining how to perform it correctly and watch you to insure you have proper form to help prevent any potential injuries, and so that you get the most out of each exercise.


Trainers provide accountability. Personal trainers also help keep you accountable. Health and fitness goals take time and sticking with your plan consistently is essential. Your trainer will keep you accountable for getting to the gym and getting your workout done. They also will help you navigate when life gets in the way (because it will!) and help keep you on track when you get thrown a curve ball, changing up your plan if necessary. Some days it is tempting to skip the gym. Knowing you have a scheduled session, and that your trainer is waiting for you, will get you there even when motivation doesn’t.


A trainer will bring motivation. We all tend to do more if someone is watching us, and personal training is no exception. Having someone there to cheer, encourage and challenge you will help you do more each exercise session. A trainer can help you set weekly goals, then check in regularly to see how you're doing, keeping you motivated and pushing toward your goals.


Trainers can make exercise FUN! Most personal trainers will learn what you like to do and don’t like to do and will do their best to make the workout both effective and fun!


Don’t hesitate to meet with a few trainers if you don’t feel a connection with the first one you contact. Like with medical providers, spend a bit of time finding one that matches your goals and values and look at it as a long-term investment in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask about the trainer’s certifications and work history.   The personal trainer should at least be certified by an organization that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) such as The American Council on Exercise (ACE), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), or National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The certification process teaches individuals proper training techniques, the science behind training the human body and how to optimize workouts without causing injury.  Some trainers will also have a specialization in which they have received additional training such as training older adults, training for specific sports or bodybuilding.


Your trainer will give you a customized workout plan, help you to perform it safely and keep you consistent and progressing with your plan. These are just some of the important things your trainer will do that will help you become your healthiest you and reach your goals. Hiring a personal trainer is a great investment in your overall health. Get a complimentary fitness assessment with one of the trainers at LivRite today!

Exercise for your mental health

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Oct 4, 2023 10:56:38 AM



Exercise and physical activity improve our physical health through cardiovascular workouts and strength training to build and maintain muscle mass. It also improves our immune system function and helps to prevent many chronic diseases, condition, and injuries among other physical benefits. Exercise is also a known mood booster with many mental health benefits. The Mayo Clinic states that depression and anxiety symptoms often improve with exercise and can keep them at bay once they have lessened or gone away. Research hasn’t shown just one clear way that exercise works to help increase our happiness but there are many proven benefits to exercise that help improve both our mental health as well as our physical health.


“When you exercise, it increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid — these are all brain chemicals associated with feeling happy, feeling confident, feeling capable, feeling less anxiety and stress and even less physical pain.”

Dr. Kelly McGonical

Exercise Gives You Endorphins


Elle Woods, the main character in the Legally Blond movie played by Reese Witherspoon, has a famous line, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”   While this was part of a speech when the character is proving that a woman didn’t shoot her husband (“Because happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”) you get the idea, it is proven that exercise can release the mood enhancing hormones endorphins that help to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your sense of well-being. There are other ways to boost your endorphins as well like meditation, massage and laughing. Endorphins aren’t the only hormone that exercise can produce in the body to help your mental health.


Exercise Can Boost Dopamine and Serotonin Levels


Dopamine and serotonin are two more hormones that make us feel happier and less stressed. The most commonly used antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. One natural way to increase these hormones is by working out. When you exercise, your body releases more tryptophan, the amino acid your brain uses to make serotonin. This boost in serotonin (along with other endorphins and dopamine) is why some people may get that happy feeling known as a “runner’s high” after an intense workout. It is important to note that you might not get an intense euphoric feeling (“runner’s high”) after your workout, but you will still get the increased feel-good hormone levels and an overall mood boost.


“If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.”

― Hippocrates


Exercise Can Decrease Stress Levels


Physical activity helps to decrease or regulate stress hormones like cortisol. When stressed, our bodies increase our cortisol levels which can cause inflammation and when they remain elevated, can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. Chronic stress can take a toll on you both physically and mentally. According to the American Heart Association, physical signs of stress can be headaches or trouble sleeping and can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Emotional signs of stress can be feeling anxious or depressed or both. Stress can also make you feel cranky or forgetful.


Regular physical activity can help to reduce stress which in turn may relieve tension, anxiety, and depression. Any kind of exercise or physical activity can help. Walking, pickleball, a workout class, biking, swimming, yoga, gardening, strength training or dancing are all possible options. Find something (or several things) you enjoy and will do on a regular basis.


“I do have to take care of myself, not only because I’m in the movies, just for mental health reasons. I exercise for me. You know, maybe it would be nice to not have to do that in order to feel good, but I do. I feel like I have to, to feel good. To clear my head and all of that, so.” 

-Annette Bening

Exercise Can Increase Self-Image and Self-Esteem


Exercise can increase your confidence as you try new things, get better at exercises or a sport or reach new goals. For example, someone who works for weeks to build their upper body strength to complete a push up or a pull up will feel great once they achieve that goal. Or crossing the finish line of a 5k after working hard to train to be able to finish that race.   These feelings of self-mastery can boost your self-esteem which in turns reduces stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.


Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood.


Exercise Can Be a Good Distraction


One of the ways that researchers think exercise can help our mental health is the Distraction Hypothesis. Doing some kind of physical activity requires some focus and can help take your mind off any worries you may have. If the activity involves repetitive motions, it will take the focus from your mind and into the rhythm of your movements. This will give you many of the same benefits of meditation, like calmness and clarity. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.


Exercise Can Provide Social Support


Connection with others is an integral part of our health, physically and mentally. A low level of social interaction was found to be as harmful to one’s lifespan as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Having positive relationships with others could influence personal behaviors that influence your health. For example, your spouse or a friend may encourage you to eat healthier and go for walks. Other studies confirm that having social relationships can positively affect our mental health as well. Having gone through the recent pandemic, most of can relate to the fact that less social interaction can contribute to loneliness, feelings of isolation and feeling depressed.


Exercising is a great way to find or create social connections. Joining a gym, a recreational pickleball league, a running group or group exercise class can boost our connectedness with others by talking with others in the group, sharing feedback, using friendly competition, and feeling like you are part of something. Physical activities can create events where you connect with others which increases our feelings of connection and improves our emotional wellbeing.


How Much Exercise Should You Do?


Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. A study found that adults who completed 150 minutes of brisk walking per week had a 25% lower risk of depression when compared with adults who did not exercise. Those who walked for 75 minutes a week had an 18% lower risk of depression. Higher physical activity levels only offered minor additional benefits according to the researchers.


For your overall health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (think walking or a leisurely bike ride) five days a week PLUS strength training twice a week. Or at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like jogging or a challenging bike ride) three days a week PLUS strength training twice a week. The Centers for Disease Control offers more detailed guidelines.

Don’t let these guidelines intimidate you, even 10-minute exercise sessions a couple times a day have been shown to help you get the effects without it taking over your schedule. Find a way to work movement into your daily routine even in short bursts. Any type of exercise for any length of time done regularly can increase both your physical and mental health.


To start exercising when you are experiencing mental health problems can feel difficult, or even impossible. Start small and start with something that you usually enjoy. Keep reminding yourself that you will feel better from exercise, both long and short term. 

Exercise Isn’t a Replacement for Other Treatments for Mental Health If Needed


If you feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, or that stress is affecting how you function every day, consider connecting with a mental health professional. Whether it’s a social worker, pastoral counselor, marriage and family therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or another trained professional, getting connected to a professional can be a first step to feeling better.


If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat