I’ve been a psychiatrist in Palm Beach, Florida for the past 30 plus years. Being that Palm Beach is all about beautiful people and seeing and being seen, I have a constant stream of patients worrying about their their image. Botox, fillers, face lifts, tummy tucks…the list goes on and on, but there’s only so much a plastic surgeon can do, especially when it comes to the appearance of the body. Obese patients can have a lap band or gastric bypass to lose a lot of weight, but not everyone requires such drastic measures. A lot of patients complain of being just a little heavy, a little out of shape, and they come to me asking what they can do to lose some weight and get in better shape. The first thing I do is ask them about alcohol intake and smoking habits, and how much they indulge in these activities. Then in order to get an idea of how physically fit they are- or aren’t- I ask them to tell me their activities of a single weekday, from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. What I typically hear is that they get up, shower, go to work (often skipping breakfast), eat something quick for lunch at work, go home from work, make dinner, eat, and relax in front of the television until they fall asleep. Most never include any physical activity.
I then educate them in terms of diet and physical activity. I explain that while a minimum of 30 minutes a day is ideal, even spending 15 minutes a day exercising is beneficial. I’m generally concerned with three areas: stretching, cardio, and strength/resistance training. Stretching really should be done each and every day prior to exercising to improve flexibility and decrease the chances of hurting yourself. Cardio and strength training are also important to your workout regimen if you want a fit, lean body. These can be done on alternating days. 30 minutes of cardio increases your heart rate and pulmonary capacity, building endurance. Strength training using weights builds muscles and definition. Along with a healthy diet, all of these things are key components of a fit body and healthy lifestyle.
But don’t think that you need a gym membership to start down this road. I always tell patients to start at home. Why? There are always persuasive excuses that win the “going to the gym” battle: too far away, too nice out, too cold, too tired and so on. Working out at home makes it easier to incorporate a workout into your daily routine. It makes excuses to not work out much harder to find. It’s really only upside: the commute time to the extra bedroom only lasts 14 seconds, you can blare whatever music you want, you can watch last night’s show on Netflix, and you don’t have to wear those rubber shower shoes for your post-workout shower. Bonus!
So what kind of a workout can you get at home? If you’re intereated in fancy toys, you can buy the latest state of the art exercise machine. If you use it, it’s a great workout, but it seems to me that it ends up being a very expensive clothes hanger. What can you do without any of that. The answer: everything you need to. There are even exercise programs on demand from most cable companies. These are great if you need more guidance to work out at home. But when you get down to the basics, you can still get a good workout at home with little or no gym equipment. I suggest that after stretching, go for cadio; try running in place and jumping jacks to increase your heart rate. Then do some floor exercises like squats, pushups and situps. These are erecises that strengthen your core and define muscles. I’ve found that those stretch bands are great to incorporate into floor exercises. Tou can pick them up on Amazon. While there, check out my book, Tales from the Couch. It’s a great read, and full of interesting and educational patient stories I’ve gathered in my 30 year career.
We all know that exercise is beneficial, but in case you need extra motivation, I want to discuss a few of the benefits of exercise.
Heart health: The heart is a muscle like any other. Cardio strengthens the heart and helps protect against heart related illness. By getting your heart pumping at a faster rate on a regular basis, you’ll keep it healthy and in shape.
Good vibes: Workouts release positive endorphins. These “feel good” hormones have considerable impact on your overall health. They help alleviate the symptoms of depression and fatigue as well as releasing hormones that will suppress your appetite. These stress-relief hormones can be extremely beneficial to your overall outlook on life, simply because of the positive effect these hormones have on the system.
Better sleep: Half of the world’s population suffers from some sort of sleep disorder. A study published by The National Sleep Foundation found that individuals who performed cardio exercises at least 3 times a week fell asleep 54% faster and slept 37% longer than individuals who did not. Most of us know the importance of getting enough sleep at night. It’s iimportant for productivity, mood, and overall health. So getting your sweat on during the day should make for a much easier lights out.
Metabolic boost: Not only does cardio speed up your heart rate, but it also increases the rate of different processes throughout the body…your metabolism being one. The more intense your cardio session is, the more noticeable increase you’ll see in your metabolic rate. An increased metabolism also means an easier time maintaining your weight or losing weight.
In general, people who exercise regularly are more mindful of their health and their bodies. They tend to smoke and drink less and to live longer, more functional lives.
I subscribe to the KISS method when starting out a new exercise program. Keep it Simple Stupid. Don’t think that a boot camp type workout is a good place to start. You’ll just end up pulling something and hurting yourself, and that will set you way back. The number one rule in exercising is not to get hurt. KISS would be the number two rule. If you break the number one rule, then see number two.
So if you want to get in better shape or to lose a few pounds, start a little program at home. Start slowly and take baby steps and you’ll surely see a return on your physical investment.