Staying healthy looks different for everyone.
Some people enjoy running. They get up at the crack of dawn for a brisk, energizing morning run, or hit the track after work to clear the mind and reboot.
Others appreciate more social exercise settings, participating in gym communities that provide weight training, cardio classes, cycling and more. Motivation is gained through a sense of belonging and working towards health goals together…
And, other people pledge to eat healthy and integrate long walks and stairs into their daily routine.
The possibilities for healthy exercise are endless. The point is—everyone can do ‘health’ differently, and each different way has value. It’ important to find a routine that works for best for you and your way of life…
Consequently, it’s important to remember to not get bogged down by guidelines. For instance, it’s long been recognized, and encouraged, that health comes from physical aerobic activity, which maintains physical and mental wellness. National guidelines suggest that adults 18-64 should engage in at least 200 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week to stay physically and mentally healthy and prevent disease.
Yet, these guidelines have created a very narrow understanding of what ‘healthy’ looks like, thus perpetuating a norm that cardio (i.e. exercise that revs you up, makes you sweat and move) is the only route to good health and decreased risk of illness.
While aerobic exercise is one good way of exercising to stay healthy, it’s not the only way. In fact, recent exciting research from the Journal of Frontiers in Immunology finds that different healthy practices such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and tai chi not only relax us but also ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause ill health and depression. Authors suggest that the benefits of these practices to our health may even surpass the effects of cardio by actually recoding genes to decrease the risk of illness.
These findings illuminate that ‘staying healthy’ does not always include aerobic activities. Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation, which take a more peaceful approach to body health, showed a remarkable impact on decreasing the risk of cancer and mental health issues. Compared to aerobic exercises, these approaches work to lessen our fight-flight response by not overly exerting energy, and instead working to calm the body to reduce the production of molecules (NF-kB) that contribute to inflammation and illness.
The takeaway here is that, when it comes to your health, you are in control. Pick a routine that best fits your needs. Instead of jumping on the treadmill because thats always been what you’ve done, maybe it’s time to switch it up and practice something new.
Take time to find what works best for you, your body, and your mind.