Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exercise Really is a Cure-All!

Alright, it's a bit of an exaggeration. But not by much.

According to Marilyn Moffat, a professor of physical therapy at New York University, exercise goes a long way toward healing what ails you ("You Name It, Exercise Helps It," New York Times, 4/29/2008).

If you suffer from an ailment such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, dementia, depression, cancer or erectile disfunction, exercise can help.

Congestive heart failure? Multiple sclerosis? Diverticulitis? Yep, you, too.

It's not a panacea, and you do not leap off the operating table to land at the marathon starting line. Moffatt is much more restrained than I would be. Moderate exercise, as much as one feels comfortable doing, is the key.

A lot of times, would-be athletes are self-conscious about their body shapes — which might make them less inclined to go to the gym, the pool or wherever else exercise might include stretchy pants.

Others may not think themselves athletes, or have not felt strong enough to consider themselves capable of athletic activities. The thing is, they are. Everyone can be an athlete. Remember, you don't have to run a marathon to be a "runner."

There are lots of reasons to not exercise — such as when the physician recommends against it, or when you truly do not feel capable. After my shoulder surgery, Dr. Thal told me I could start running as soon as I felt like it. I took off two weeks, which I would have fought against had the good doctor said that very thing. And it was heck starting again, but I didn't give myself a choice. Not running, for me, was worse than re-starting.

Exercise is not easy, especially when athletes are starting a new regimen. However, even a beginning athlete knows the difference between sore muscles and their illness. They also know the difference between "not feeling like it" and being unwell.

Always consult with a physician before starting an exercise regimen — but start one. Do it for the endorphins, do it for the muscle tone, do it for the confidence it will give you. But do it. Your body will thank you.

- Chris

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