WELLNESS

Getting a healthy start

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, a good time to set up an action plan

Man checking his fitness tracker outdoors

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

This information is made available to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with CareFirst.

May marks both Mental Health Awareness and National Physical Fitness and Sports months.

Support your own mental health by taking advantage of resources and a curated series of live webinars sponsored by Johns Hopkins' mySupport onsite clinical team. And keep in mind how physical health can play a major role in your mental health. Regular physical activity can not only help you achieve a healthy weight and reduce the risk of numerous health conditions, it can also help reduce stress, boost and stabilize mood, and improve sleep and self-esteem.

All movement matters

It's a common belief that physical activity and exercise are interchangeable terms, but here's how the American Council on Exercise defines the two: "Physical activity is movement that is carried out by the skeletal muscles that requires energy; in other words, any movement one does is actually physical activity. Exercise, however, is planned, structured, repetitive, and intentional movement intended to improve or maintain physical fitness; exercise is a subcategory of physical activity." Both types of movement contribute to overall health and well-being.

Benefits of being physically active

Whether you follow a planned exercise regimen or practice more-spontaneous physical activity, there are four important benefits to maintaining a regularly active lifestyle.

  1. Improve mood. Physical activity releases endorphins, which can be known as "feel good chemicals," in your brain that can improve mood and overall outlook, leaving you feeling much better after a bout of activity.

  2. Increase energy. Regular activity helps train your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and organs more efficiently. This can leave you feeling more energized, not just after a workout but throughout your day.

  3. Reduce risk of chronic conditions. Exercise can help reduce one's risk of developing several types of chronic conditions (see below for details).

  4. Help with weight management. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle can help prevent weight gain and/or help with weight loss.

Reducing health risks

Some health risk factors—such as age, sex, and family history—are out of our control, but exercise is one way to help combat those risk factors and help reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Many types of cancer
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis

A regular exercise routine can even help manage many of these conditions and health concerns, if diagnosed.

How should I start?

First and foremost, before beginning any new exercise plan, talk with your doctor to make sure it is the right fit and approach for you.

Second, start slowly. Begin with low-impact activities and a duration that you are comfortable with and build from there. By starting slowly, you will reap the health benefits and reduce your risk of injury. As strength and endurance build, begin to add more time and more movements to the routine that will continue to push and challenge you.

Finally, make it fun. Choose an activity that you genuinely enjoy. This can be the key to a long-lasting, physically active lifestyle. Exercise does not have to be a certain amount of time spent in the gym; it can be anything that moves your body and makes you feel good.

Fitting in fitness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week for adults. Completing this activity in 15-minute segments is just as effective as in hourlong ones, so you can work activity into your schedule however is best for you. For example:

  • Take a morning or midday walk
  • Use stairs more often than necessary
  • Walk around while on phone calls
  • Do squats while watching TV

Make it social

Find someone in your friend, work, or family group who enjoys the same activities you do. Check in with each other regularly, schedule times to meet up (virtually or safely in person), and set goals together to stay motivated. Practice your favorite activities together and even try something new.

Hopkins resources to get you moving

Virtual wellness classes
It's not too late to join JHU's spring wellness classes, which run through June 18. Visit the JHU Wellness Programs webpage to view and register for free classes in yoga, mindfulness meditation, dance cardio, and more. If you are working from home, you must have your VPN set up (go here for directions).

Webinar: Get Outside—the Benefits of Outdoor Training
Scientific evidence shows that the more you get outside, the less stressed you are. As outdoor temperatures warm up, it may be time to take your workouts outside. Join this live Zoom meeting to learn the benefits of outdoor training. Meeting ID: 997 9946 7566. Passcode: 200275.

If you have questions about the wellness classes or webinar, email wellnessprograms@jhu.edu. Additional information can be found on the Benefits & Worklife website.

Posted in Health+Wellness

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