The best exercise is the one you do! Exercise can be therapeutic or harmful, depending on the dose. We live in a culture that elevates exercise and honors those who partake. But why do you want to exercise? That is the question that you must ask yourself.

I’ve exercised regularly for three decades. My motives for doing so have been fluid throughout the years. For the greater part of my adult life, I used exercise as a method of weight control. Now I exercise for the joy of movement, to mitigate stress, and for the cognitive benefits it affords me. Research has shown that exercising to maintain or lose weight is not as effective as we’d like to think. You can never out -exercise a bad diet and the calorie in calorie out model has been debunked. Our bodies are not a chemistry lab. Have one night of bad sleep or lack of sleep and you may as well not even put on your tennis shoes if weight loss is your motive. If you’re stressed, your cortisol level prevents you from losing weight too.

For exercise to be part of the long game, it has to be enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be regimented, boring or difficult. Too much chronic exercise can actually be harmful. Long distance runners get myocardial fibrosis of their heart muscle particularly in the right ventricle which eventually leads to arrhythmias and congestive heart failure. Intense, exhaustive exercise causes oxidative stress by creating free radicals. Moderate exercise stimulates an antioxidant effect that protects the body from free radicals. Find something that you love to do. For me, in this season of my life, that is bootcamps at the YMCA. It offers me a challenge for my competitive streak and it’s different every time. In my boot camps, high intensity interval training with resistance training seems to be the best way for me to maintain my body composition. My goal is to maintain lean muscle in order to be metabolically efficient. It is sustainable for me because it’s fun. I can only do two or three of these a week because overtraining is a definite possibility. So many people don’t realize that gains are made on rest days. When I’m not doing HIIT I try to make movement a part of my lifestyle. Riding my horses and their daily upkeep brings me pure joy. So many people are searching for the way to happiness, happiness is the way.

Whatever you decide to do, listen to your body and intuitively exercise. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. We now know that exercise increases a substance in our bodies called BDNF, brain derived neurotropic factor. BDNF circulates in our brains and produces antidepressant effects. Exercise is the drug free way to stave off depression! A study from 2018 showed that women who were physically fit at middle age were 90% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease decades later. There’s no pill that can deliver those kind of results!

The best kind of exercise is ultimately the kind you choose you do. So, just do it!

Lisa Caprio

Lisa Caprio

MD

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