What if there was one medication that could address a wide range of illnesses and conditions while also improving your mental health? As it turns out, there is – but you won’t find it in a prescription or over-the-counter.
Research shows that movement is a proven way to prevent, manage and in some cases, reverse certain conditions – and you don’t have to spend hours at the gym every day to get the incredible health benefits of exercise.
“Movement is any kind of motion of the body,” says Tyler Murphy, MD, board-certified internal and lifestyle medicine doctor at Holland Hospital. “We need to be broad in thinking about what exercise is – any movement is going to give you health benefits.”
The physical and mental health benefits of exercise
Exercise helps with a wide range of conditions, including obesity, type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Many of the benefits of movement come from elevating your heart rate. For example, exercise addresses high blood pressure by making the body’s blood and lymph vessels more healthy and flexible.
Exercise also helps with disorders like anxiety by consuming negative stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and replacing them with hormones like serotonin and dopamine that bring about a state of calm and peace and reduce pain levels.
Dr. Murphy recommends that patients who are managing anxiety do vigorous exercises to get their heart rate up. “It only takes two or three minutes to expunge the body of distressful hormones and flood it with positive hormones,” he says. Normal aerobic exercise, resistance training or even a walk help improve mental health as well.
How much exercise do you need?
“The evidence is very clear that it doesn't matter what you do on a daily basis; it matters what you do over the course of the week,” says Dr. Murphy. The data shows that three and a half hours of moderately aggressive aerobic exercise once a week has the same benefits as 30 minutes a day. He encourages people to distribute exercise throughout the week based on their ability and schedule.
Where do I start?
“Almost anybody can exercise no matter their abilities and it doesn't require expensive, fancy gym memberships,” says Dr. Murphy. He recommends picking an exercise that brings you joy, starting slow and increasing intensity over time. “Most people are going to have a hard time being motivated to do an exercise that doesn't bring them joy,” he says.
Dr. Murphy recommends that people who want to implement movement as medicine check out Holland Hospital’s Lifestyle Medicine Program, which can help people adopt healthier habits, including exercise. They can also access exercise fitness trainers like Tina Vande Guchte, CMES, CPT, a certified medical exercise specialist with Holland Hospital’s Health Life Programs.
“Data shows you get health benefits once you're doing more than five minutes of exercise a day,” says Dr. Murphy. “All physical movement is good for both your body and mind.”
Holland Hospital’s Lifestyle Medicine Program implements a personalized approach that incorporates nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress reduction and decreasing environmental exposure to empower people to adopt healthier habits and live their best life.
To book an appointment with Tyler Murphy, MD, or any of the other doctors on the Lifestyle Medicine Program team, call (616) 494-8387.