FRIDAY FEBRUARY 15
CAROL JONES

Believe it or not, gardening or yoga could save your life. It sounds slightly exaggerated, but if you read the series of articles on this site about taking steps to improve well-being, exercise comes up in almost every one of them. Solid research prescribes exercise as a solution to so much of what ails us, from depression to heart disease. Green exercise – exercising outdoors – is particularly effective in preventing disease and fighting stress.

The great thing about exercise is that it is accessible to just about everybody, excluding the severely ill or handicapped, because it can be undertaken at any level of intensity or pace. Thirty minutes of exercise a day is ideal, 15 minutes is enough to make a difference, and even five minutes can make you feel better. You don’t have to be an athlete or a superjock to engage in most activities. Walking and gardening count as exercise –both are enjoyable and relaxing. It’s low-effort activities just like these that can help you unplug from work in the daily recovery process that helps prevent burnout. If you want something a little more strenuous but not high-impact, try swimming or yoga, both of which are easy on the joints. Exercise also qualifies as a social activity, which is therapeutic on many levels.

Finally, I’m so happy to see how popular exercising at work has become, as more and more employers realize that having a healthier team means having a more productive team. Some companies encourage workers to take time off midday to work out, and even organize classes during work hours. Exercising outdoors can be especially effective – jogging or walking around the block at lunch time can make a big difference. Just like kids at school need recess, workers need a break to them focus better for the rest of the day.

Here are just a few great reasons to exercise.

  • It helps beat stress and fight burnout. The number-one strategy for overcoming burnout is restoration – giving yourself time to recover from mental fatigue. Being physically active takes your mind off the worries of the day and can give you more energy.
  • Exercise fights fatigue and helps you sleep better. Sleep deprivation can contribute to the development of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and poor concentration. It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you are tired, but doing so will increase blood flow and supply more oxygen to your body and brain, which will actually energize you.
  • Exercise releases hormones called endorphins, which are the body’s natural opiate. They have the power to improve your mood, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones and boost the immune system. Exercise is therefore a great non-medical way to relieve the symptoms of depression.
  • It helps to boost the immune system, which helps fight disease, so you will live longer. Physically active people have a lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension and colon cancer.
  • Staying active and exercising reduces the effects of aging. It can affect blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular performance, central nervous system health, cognitive functioning, muscle mass and blood chemistry.
  • Exercise improves and maintains muscle strength, which can stave off the effects of arthritis and lower the risk of falling, a particular problem among older adults. This means you can remain independent for longer, without risk of injury.
  • Since exercise burns calories and helps you sleep better, you will look better because you will be healthier.

To learn more about improving your physical health and diet