In the Winter 2015 IssueNov 20, 2015 06:26AM ● By Erica Shames
Nothing compares to the feelings of happiness and wellbeing that surge through your body as a result of exercising. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. When you exercise regularly, you’ll feel better about your appearance, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Truly a natural high.
My favorite ways to stay active are bicycling, hiking, golf and spinning classes. I also jog. I’m not the fastest runner, nor am I the most agile. But jogging is one of the best ways to burn calories. Lots of them.
Sometimes I can’t wait to get started exercising. Then there are days when just getting out the door for a jog is a struggle—especially in winter. But I keep at it. Here’s why.
Obesity, it turns out, is more than an aesthetic issue. It’s predicted to outpace smoking as the leading cause of cancer within the next decade.* Close to 30 percent of the global population is overweight or obese, and one in five deaths is now associated with obesity.
Obesity figures into mortality risk because of its link to many chronic and serious conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, dementia and cancer.
According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 800,000 cardiovascular disease deaths occurring in the U.S. each year, a quarter of them—or 200,000—could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes.
Those lifestyle changes include cutting down on sugar—to as little as 15 to 25 grams a day—exercising regularly, eating less and paying attention to environmental and dietary toxins, including BPA (bisphenol-A), a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic, food cans and paper receipts).
Here’s the secret: sticking to an exercise regime is not easy—for anyone. It requires discipline and commitment. But you can do it! This winter, I challenge you to begin (or keep at) exercising at least four days a week. Your activity can be something as simple as taking a walk or riding a stationary bicycle—anything that elevates your heart rate. How much depends on your age. (Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.)
Don’t let the cold weather dampen your enthusiasm. I took up cross-country skiing to force me outdoors in the cold, and I plan to try snowshoeing for the first time this winter. We have tremendous resources for outdoor recreation, including Crystal Lake Ski Center, profiled on page __. Joe Rebar leads Sierra Club hikes all winter at R.B. Winter State Park, in Mifflinburg. Other options can be found inside this issue and at SusquehannaLife.com. And if you need encouragement, enlist an exercise buddy—a friend, co-worker or family member—and motivate each other.
As we begin a new year, it’s a good time to turn over a new leaf and make a commitment to an exercise routine. It could mean the different between health (life) and disease (death). I urge you to get started and share your success stories and photos with me! I’ll be with you, every step of the way.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,
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