Word on Wellness—Exercise is Key

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By Cindy Savage

Daily exercise affects our overall well-being. Nudists love to exercise almost as much as we love to eat. We’re outside soaking up Vitamin D while playing sports, running 5Ks, doing yoga, Zumba or swimming. It’s easy to see how running, biking or tennis strengthens your heart, builds muscles and stamina. In combination with a healthy diet, exercise also builds brain health by keeping your arteries clear and open and maintaining a good blood supply. Oxygen goes in, waste comes out.  This combination of whole plant foods and exercise also helps tackle blood pressure and cholesterol issues, diabetes, and weight problems, all of which affect the brain. Exercise produces BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which helps the brain grow new connections (synapses) between brain cells and protects the cells and connections you already have.

What kind of exercise do we need? Aerobic (cardio), Resistance (strength) Flexibility (stretch) and Balance are all necessary aspects of the E in NEURO. Each has its own benefits.

Aerobic exercise increases the amount of BDNF in your brain. Why do we want more of this stuff? Because people with cognitive decline tend to have less of it. Aerobic exercise clears out toxins that could lead to the loss of brain cells, boosts brain size, and has been shown to noticeably improve working memory, planning, multitasking, and other cognitive functions. It improves cardiac fitness, lowers blood sugar and triglycerides, and reduces cancer risk. We need aerobic exercise for overall health and wellbeing—about 150 minutes per week of moderate activity.

Resistance exercise is all about building muscular strength. Weightlifting, weight-bearing, resistance bands, squats, etc., strengthen your skeleton. Working your muscles also strengthens your bones. Strong bones and muscles help prevent you from falling or possibly lessen the damage if you do fall. As we say in my yoga classes—falling is really not an option. You need this two to three times per week for about 20 minutes.

Flexibility and Balance exercises improve your range of motion, joint mobility, muscle movement and decrease chronic pain. We want to be limber and have a good balance so that we can do the things we want to do whether that is other types of exercise or simply playing with a child. Balance exercises improve posture, stability, and breathing as well. Three to five times per week for at least 30 minutes is adequate.

The combination of these three types of exercise also helps us sleep better and resist illness. Since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, rather than exercise being a ‘no-brainer’, it’s a ‘full-brainer’.

So, can I eat whatever I want and just exercise to burn it off? Disappointing, but true, if you want to lose weight and think that you can do it with exercise alone, you’re mistaken. You can exercise away calories, but it would take you all day. One six-piece order of chicken nuggets—you’d have to run three miles. Add a soda—another two and a half miles. Eat a burger at your next meal—wow, three more miles. In theory, you could cancel out your calories with exercise, but you wouldn’t have time for much else. Plus, you’d be putting junk in your body. Instead, a WFPB diet gives you the nutrients you need, and an exercise regimen enhances the benefits of those nutrients. Win-win!

Next month: Unwind—Stress Relief that doesn’t stress you out.

Cindy is a registered yoga teacher/trainer with thousands of hours of teaching experience and a 2nd-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She facilitates the Vitality and Wellness programs at GE. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you’d like to join one of her yoga classes or want more information about the Vitality Plan.


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