Monday, February 11, 2008
Hate exercise? Read this.
By A. Chris Gajilan
Senior Medical Producer

I simply hate exercising. There is nothing I dread more than feeling like a trapped rodent at the gym. I have never experienced that mythical "runner's high." I am confounded by people who make time to exercise every day. In truth, I kind of think marathoners and triathletes fall on the freaky side of the spectrum.

Apparently, I'm not alone. In fact, one out of four Americans doesn't exercise at all according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest numbers. But a growing body of research is finding the benefits of exercise are even more wide reaching than the already-exhaustive list of collateral good: improved metabolism, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis, just to name a few.

"Exercise may be as beneficial as antidepressants for patients with moderately severe depression as well as mild depression," says James Blumenthal, a researcher and medical psychologist at Duke University. "Without a doubt, exercise is directly associated with improved quality of life and self-satisfaction."

Blumenthal's team recently published a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine comparing the effects of exercise with antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder. The researchers took 202 depressed adults and separated them into four groups: group exercise; home-based exercise; antidepressants alone; or placebo pill. The antidepressant used was the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline (brand: Zoloft, Lustral).

The team's findings: Exercise may be just as useful as a pill in some, but not all cases. (It's also noteworthy that those who exercised in a group fared better than those who exercised at home alone.)

Blumenthal emphasizes, "We're not saying to stop taking antidepressants, but you can consider exercise as a viable option."

If you're asking why exercise has such a sweeping effect on depression and health overall, just look at the groundbreaking research in the field of neuroscience. Study after study details how exercise can actually change the structure and function of your brain.

Arthur Kramer, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found a 15 percent improvement in memory and attention in older people who walked just three days a week for six months.

In fact, several studies have shown that fitness is related to increases in the brain's gray matter and white matter. To be clearer, exercise can help you create new brain cells, thereby improving memory at any age. The dramatic effect can be attributed in part to neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adjust and adapt. "When someone practices something over and over again, the structure of the brain actually changes," says Richard Keefe, a Duke University sport psychologist. "Synapses and neurons connect with one another and brain substances fortify the connection. Neurons that fire together, wire together."

Just in case you're wondering whether I manage to get past my hatred for exercise, I do. Sometimes. I've found that working out with a friend or family member - and adding a little friendly competition works for me. What works for you?

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I tend to agree that exercise improves mental/emotional health as well as physical well-being. However, most severely depressed people lack the motivation to exercise. How do you fix that?
I always feel better after a 30 to 40 minute run on the treadmill. ALWAYS!

My husband bought me an iPod and I filled it w/ some good 80's hard rock music and that keeps me running.

I also have a bowflex at home ...
and it's fun to work out w/ the hubbie. We listen to podcasts and workout.
i hate to exercise too, but i must admit, that when i do, i feel so much better. not only is it good for your body, it is good for your mind too, it relieves so much stress.
I once despised exercise and lately I can't live without it. My secrete is to tie exercise to a reward I want. I'm a big beer connoisseur so I choose a good pub that's a good 5 mi away and bike to it. If it push myself and go 8 - 10mi then I can have a couple beers ;-) Of course, alcohol can have a dehydrating effect so you need to be extra careful to stay adequately hydrated using this strategy. Also, I live in a city with lots of bike paths so I'm not out on busy roads when I do this.
Rewards seem to always work in our household... and not just "I felt so much better", though that is the eventual result.

We have healthy rewards, like music gift cards, a new entertainment source (Rock Band anyone?), or another thing we have wanted for a long time (at three months I get a spa day).

Also we are doing it gradually. For the first two weeks we needed to go the gym 50% of the time, for the following month we bumped it to 60%, etc. This gave us time to get used to our sore muscles and new 6:00am schedule (we have to work out in the morning or it will not happen).
I tried Pilates recently not only do i get to work out and not sweat like a dog but i get time to myself!!
Depressed people might feel better after exercising, but anxious people like myself sometimes literally feel sick (it's called postexercise malaise). No doctor ever believed me, but I feel sick for about 2 days after I exercise.
I have always hated gyyms and group sports too. But not exercising makes me horribly grumpy, so much that my husband after a couple of days would push my out of the door for my 15 minutes of running mood buster.

When I started working closer to home I started using my bike as transportation. The 10 minute ride is enough to put a smile on my face without breaking too much of a sweat. It was great becuase it didn't feel like exercise, but rather a commute. A smart one that is, because it was faster than riding my car, parking and taking the bus from the parking lot to work.
After a couple of months I missed the ride whenever it was raining and I sat in the bus with all those miserable grumpy morning faces around me.

Last year a friend of mine needed someone to do a triathlon with her. I freaked out-this was way out of my league. But I signed up for a triathlon beginners class and started training for a mini triathlon: biking, running and swimming once a week. It felt great to have a goal; it made the boring exercse much more bearable. Plus I was just frigthened to collapse in front of a 1000 people. I finished my triathlon in a much better time than I expected and became 8th among the novices.

I ran some 5k's after that and am now training for a 10k. Mu husband has tsarted training too and even my 7 year old participates in running, triathlon and duathlon races (he kicks by butt so bad it is pathetic).

It is amazing how we went from a mostly sedentary family to extremely active in just 1 year. We have now surrounded ourselves by active families, and it is a great moytivator. I biked for 4 hours with my 5 year old son last weekend and was just awed by how easy it felt. We enjoyed going trhough streams and over rocks as well as racing up hills.

With a goal in mind and lost of support exercise is now part of our family life and I can't imagine it being different anymore. If we can do it so can you. Sign up for a race and start training with a friend. It makes all the difference!
I wish I would have tried something, ANYTHING, besides antidepressants. I've paid a high price for the quick fix I sought in these pills. Years of flat-lined emotions, erratic behavior, weight gain, decreased brain function and concentration. And then devastating withdrawal that lasted over 6 months. I've since started exercising regularly and it seems to be working much better and popping a pill.
I can exercise only if I am in a good mood. When I am depressed or stressed the only thing I want to do is to rest. In these cases exercise wouldn't help me at all.
I have suffered from depression for a number of years, but exercise always helped me deal with it. Going to the gym and lifting weights or going running allowed me to clear my head and constructively work off stress.
Hello A. Chris Gajilan....

I exercise during my lunch break, 5days a week in the gym for an hour or for one and a half hours. Exercising in the gym is stuffy and boring to me, but I can not avoid it because I don't have time to exercise outdoor. I make it a rule to exercise daily life. In my experience, regular exercise not only relieves stress but also makes me active. Also exercise helps relieve depression and increase people's general sense of well-being. I think, if there are severe depressed people around us, we should help him or her. We have to take him or her out even by force in order to be exposed to the sunshine and then we make him or her to exercise even though it is not so hard exercise. Then it helps to treat depression. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, take care always!!
I have had type 1 diabetes for 38 years, and depressioin for 20. Needless to say, it got harder and harder to motivate myself to exercise. I got a dog, and although I live in Anchorage Alaska, I have walked her at least twice a day for 3 and a half years. When it is 0 degrees and the wind is blowing, it is hard to get up and put on my boots, parka, hat and gloves, but I do it, and I am glad, because I know for sure that many days I would just stay in bed if I didn't have a reason like a smiling dog to get up!
I figured out that I don't hate the act of exercising - in fact, I love how I feel afterward - but I hate the act of GOING to exercise. Changing my clothes. Getting in my car. Driving to the gym. Getting my iPod ready. I hate doing all of that. If I could be sitting on my couch one moment and suddenly find myself engaged in the middle of a vigorous workout, I'd exercise every single day.

So, sometimes, just getting yourself out the door and into the gym is the major hurdle, so to speak. I'll often tell myself that I don't feel like working out, but I'll put on my gym clothes and suddenly I find I want to be on the treadmill... and I go work out.
It kind of surprises me to hear that some people don't get the runners high. Its sad, its one of the most amazing highs there is and doesn't have a hang over. I wonder if in our very sedentary world the ability to feel the runners high now correlates with high life expectancy? I'll never forget the first time I felt it, oddly never felt it as a kid, only once I hit my mid 20s.
I gave up exercising years ago. All I got from it was shin splints, sore muscles, exercise-induced asthma, sweaty clothes and hair (and I HATE to sweat!), and grumpy.

Truth be told, I'd rather be fat than torture myself that way. Latest stats say I'd live to 84 if I was thin, 80 if fat. Sorry, but 4 more tortured years is not worth torturing myself for all the years between now and then.
I always made excuses in the past. Too busy, not enough time, just had a baby (they're 2 & 4 now) etc. I am the type of person who needs some one there pushing and guiding me through a work out. I joined a gym a few years back. Signing up included a free hour session with a trainer. I absolutly LOVED that hour. I couldn't back down and walk away from this guy! I felt I had to prove to myself and this perfect stranger I was up for the challange. I wanted badly to sign up for a trainer package but they are very very expensive! I continued to go on my own for a few months with less and less guidance and motivation...then stopped all together.

Fast forward three years and another child (the 2yr old) later. My employer is opening up a Health & Wellness Center in a few days. This is a full on private gym facility for this company's employees only. The monthly fee in nominal and automatically deducted from our paychecks. Signing up gets you nutrition counseling a fitness evaluation, personalized excercise planning and access to a personal training during all gym hours. I am thrilled! I now have the time, the money, the easy access and NO MORE Excuses to accomplish what I've been wanting to for years. I can't wait to get started.
I specialize in helping people enjoy exercise (as a fitness trainer I even wrote a eBook about it). Most people can enjoy exercise, four typical recommends follow.

First, get a positive mindset. You CAN enjoy exercise. Be willing to experiment, keep an open mind, and don't give up easily.

Second, set some goals. Don't go at it blind. Furthermore, write out what you want from exercise and write with feeling.

Third, consider interval training. If you're a healthy non-obese adult, forget spending an hour or two working out every day, life's too short. Interval training, when done correctly, has a greater impact than long-boring workouts, and it takes less time too.

Finally, be aware of the people around you. Communicate with the negative people who might be threatened by your workouts. Surround yourself with supportive people.

To the person with the shin splints and other pain: exercise doesn't need to be torture—ditch running and find an exercise you love. Hey, you shouldn't exercise if you don't enjoy it.
I can't say I hate exercising as much as I hate making it to the gym.

I work out three (3) times a week, and I do admit that I feel much better after the workout.
I was heavily into sports as a child and in college, but as med school and residency got me into 120 hour work weeks, that went by the wayside, and it was hard to motivate myself to get up after a long shift and get to the gym. I was just so tired already. And I was grumpy.

However, once I started exercising regularly again (running and weight-lifting), I noticed I was in a much better frame of mind, and I had much more energy for working the long hours.

I think we have to remind ourselves...exercise doesn't TAKE energy, it GIVES energy.

It's a lot harder as an adult to find these outlets, because there aren't all these organized sports in which to participate. The structure and support aren't there. _Especially if you are a woman._ And honestly, spending an hour running and another hour lifting weights every day just gets boring as hell.

Maybe the combat to our nation's obesity epidemic is more community support for adult athletic leagues. I know that even after a 36 hour shift, I would NEVER say 'no' to a pick-up basketball game.
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