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Run the Mile You're In

"Ugh. Do I really want to get out of bed and go for a run?" I've never been the type of person who just loves to exercise. I know that it's good for me, and I know that I always feel better afterwards, but I admit that in the moment, it's sometimes hard to get motivated.

There are always a million excuses not to exercise. I'm too tired, I don't have enough time, it's raining, I'm just not motivated enough. But then later comes regret - feeling lethargic, lazy, unfit, and guilty for not doing what you know to be important for your health.

Just how important is exercise? We all know that it's great for cardiovascular health, obesity prevention, and type 2 diabetes. But did you know that women who exercise have a 30-40% lower risk of getting breast cancer? Women who continue exercising after a breast cancer diagnosis reduces the risk of death by 64%, and reduces recurrence by 40-50%.[1-3] This makes exercise one of the most important things that you can do for prevention and while in treatment for cancer.

Moderate exercise not only activates your immune system and improves physical health but also does wonders for your mental health. Exercise relieves anxiety and depressive symptoms by increasing endorphins and serotonin, and by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. This makes you feel happier, gives you better focus, mental clarity and improves your memory.

Exercise also releases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) a fertilizer for your brain, creating new brain cells, increasing brain capacity, resilience, and neuroplasticity which can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease.[4]

Convinced yet? It doesn't have to be hard. Run the mile you're in. And if you can't run, walk.

We all start at different levels. If you're not used to exercising, the key is to just start. Set a specific goal which you know you can accomplish. For example, "This week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I will walk for 10 minutes". The point is to not overdo it, so that you're sore and want to quit. Initially do less than what you know you can do, so that you want to do more. And then, scale up from there. The following week you might set a goal for 20 minutes, or add a different activity like tennis or a bike ride on the weekend. Once you start, you will likely feel like doing more. When you're comfortable walking, try running. The eventual goal is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise - at a level where you can still talk but not sing.

Running the mile you're in is great exercise advice - but it also applies to life and getting through the tough patches along the way. We all undergo different journeys with various stressors and experiences. And while you cannot compare what you are going through with someone else’s experience, we can all move forward to create a healthier, better life for ourselves.

I don't exercise because I necessarily want to every day, and if I waited to be motivated, it just wouldn't happen. I exercise because it's consistent with the person I want to be.


[1] JAMA 2005 May 25:293(20):2479-86

[2] Med Sci Sports Exerc 33:S530-S550, 2001 (suppl)

[3] J Clin Oncol 26:3958-3964

[4] eLife 2016;5:e15092.

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