When we think about the pillars of good health, diet and exercise are some of the most significant self-care measures we can take that lower our risk for multiple serious conditions, support our vitality, and improve our mental health. I introduced Transylvania Regional Hospital’s (TRH) clinical dietician, Lori McCall, MS, RD, DN in our March column. She talked about what a healthy diet looks like, as well as a healthy attitude toward food, especially seeing it as fuel and something to enjoy, rather than something to limit or feel guilty about (especially when we partake in a cookie or two).
I’m following up in this month’s column with a conversation about the essential role that physical exercise plays in supporting our health. I’m also pleased to highlight resources we have here at TRH and in our community that offer exercise opportunities for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Like diet, exercise is often seen as “torture” or a chore, especially within the context of our busy lives, full of family, work, and civic responsibilities. There’s a lot of good news to share about exercise, actually. The recommendations for how much activity you should perform each week is doable, and you don’t need to be a triathlete to incorporate enough movement into your day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical exercise per week that’s of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes worth of vigorous intensity activity. Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, water aerobics, and bike riding on flat ground, while vigorous intensity activities are running, playing basketball, or swimming laps. Both of these levels of activity raise your heart rate and make you break a sweat.
Then you should combine this with two days per week of muscle strengthening activities, which include lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing exercises like push-ups and leg lifts, and even some types of yoga.
When you imagine that you can divide your 150 minutes up, for example, between five days, that’s just 30 minutes per day. Everyday activities count for exercise too, including walking your dog, gardening, and mowing the lawn.
The health benefits of exercise are truly abundant and far-ranging. Being physically active lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. Additionally, physical activity strengthens your muscles and bones, boosts brain health, and helps you keep your weight in check.
Movement also figures significantly in supporting our mental health. Getting outside and moving helps our mood anytime, but especially so during the last two years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Coordinator of our Fresh Start Behavioral Health Structured Outpatient Program, April Pryor, MS, LPC, notes that getting outside is both soothing and builds our sense of wellbeing. “The pandemic has left us so emotionally dysregulated, and getting fresh air and the dose of mindfulness that can accompany exercising outside is profoundly valuable. For example, when I walk around the beautiful greenway and bike trail that surround the hospital, I take in the soothing sounds of children playing, enjoy looking at trees and blooming flowers, watch dogs play in the new dog park, and interact with others enjoying the outside too,” she says. “This type of physical activity is a needed escape and relieves our stress by distancing us from the constant pings and beeps of the many devices in our lives, too.”
Pryor also shares that these activities don’t cost a cent and aren’t complicated to do. People can also combine enjoying the outdoors with a mindfulness technique, like being aware of our breath as we walk, for example. “It allows us to reconnect with reality, essentially,” says Pryor, “and that’s incredibly important.”
TRH also offers the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. TRH Disease Management and Clinical Cardiology Manager Teri Redmond explains that the resource is well equipped, and used by recovering cardiac rehab patients and other patients managing conditions like diabetes. “The Cardiac Rehab gym offers aerobic exercise machines, including NuStep recumbent steppers, stationary bikes, and treadmills,” she says, “and for strength training purposes, we have weight equipment as well.”
As a community presence, TRH is intent on helping not just patients, but community members get needed exercise for optimal health. Our facility, team members, and surrounding grounds are benefits we refer to when we say we strive to deliver the best healthcare, close to home.
Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.