By Maliea Cartagena
Fitness Specialist, Therapeutic & Recreational Activities Program
As fitness specialists at Sierra Tucson, we often witness fear preventing many residents from stepping outside of their comfort zone. We’ve heard statements like, “The reason I don’t exercise is because I feel lost in knowing how to exercise.” Many residents are fearful of being judged, as well as struggle with negative body image. We encourage them to share the things that are within their comfort zone environmentally, and which mode of resistance (i.e., free weights, machine weights, or core-based modalities by use of physioball, BOSU®, and medicine balls) they are willing to use in order to challenge their bodies and their minds.
Building a Rapport
A common question we ask residents is, “What has your relationship been with exercise in the past?” If the resident responds with feedback that it has been a negative one, we then explore how we can work together to integrate exercise into his/her life to promote increased accountability and re-frame the overall experience. The intent is to provide positive exposure to exercise that creates a helpful behavioral tool and, most important, incorporates fun while getting healthy.
Next, residents are invited to take action by setting their own realistic short- and long-term goals. When residents have more buy-in with goal setting and being a part of creating their own path, their commitment to induce permanent change is fueled.
A Body In Motion
Our body is a magnificent machine. For example, we can use our own body weight as resistance to increase lean muscle mass and develop functional movement for daily life. We try to emphasize to residents that good health allows us the ability to enjoy functional living, endurance, and strength. Right outside our door, the world provides an environment in which we can enjoy recreational activities like walking, biking, or even social interaction. Meeting up with a friend is a great way to incorporate positive support and accountability with exercise.
What holds many of us back from engaging our bodies in movement? What prevents us from setting goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle? As the saying goes, “Sometimes the answer is right in front of you.” The reflection we see each day in the mirror is our best tool toward developing wellness.
Exercise Is Medicine
Exercise helps to fight depression and decrease stress threefold.
- Movement is encouraged approximately three to five times per week, 45 minutes per workout, upon waking up in the morning. Studies have shown that willpower decreases throughout the day, so the tendency to exclude movement increases. Mental capacity has also been shown to increase when movement is implemented first thing in the morning.
- Exercise has purpose from a physiological standpoint as well: it increases one’s heart rate, which then induces a “fight or flight” response that triggers the brain to release brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and endorphins. BDNF helps to protect memory neurons, clear the mind, and promote positive decisions.
- Endorphins are responsible for blocking pain, thus minimizing discomfort and producing feelings of pleasure.
Exercise has remarkable effects on the human mind that is free of cost and only requires a minimal amount of time in one’s week. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently introduced the Exercise Is Medicine® (EIM) initiative to encourage health care providers to assess and record physical activity during patient visits. At the conclusion of each visit, an exercise “prescription” and/or referral to a certified health fitness professional or allied health professional for further counseling and support is provided. Exercise Is Medicine also advocates for fun to be incorporated into exercise.
Of course, movement therapy is not limited to residents of Sierra Tucson. We encourage you to explore resources in your area to facilitate a new beginning with your body and uncover your own potential.
What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? -Robert Schuller