As I write this blog and reminisce, I cannot help but to think, “What an unprecedented year 2020 was for many Americans.” To say the least, if I could describe the year 2020 with one word, that word would be “exhausting.” I also find it amazing what things people tend to remember. Such as, I can remember when I heard the breaking news report about the accidental death of Kobe Bryant along with his daughter and seven others, in a helicopter crash. Not soon after, we all started hearing about a “novel” coronavirus called COVID-19. Next, daily news reports about the negative impact of the COVID-19 virus, which soon turned into a pandemic that led to social isolation & distancing, home schooling, working from home, zoom fatigue, rises in unemployment, and the many reports of illnesses and losses of friends and family members. Before we could fully wrap our minds around the pandemic, incidences of racial and social unrest erupted around the world and finally, the presidential election. Just pondering over all these events can be emotionally exhausting and it is understandable why so many of us find it difficult to stay motivated to keep active.
However, there is NEW HOPE with this New Year, which leads me to why I wanted to write this blog. I am always happy to share with anyone who is willing to listen that “more physical activity or movement can be like taking a medicine.” In fact, being physically active is one of the best things that people of all ages can do to improve their overall physical and mental health.
Physical activity has so many great benefits. It has been proven to help with successful aging, it can reduce the burden of many chronic diseases, and it may prevent early death. Research also shows that active people generally live longer and are at less risk for serious health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. So, if you could take a medicine that was free of charge and could provide you with excellent health benefits, would you take it? Sure, you would!
More Movement is like taking a Medicine!
For just 30 active minutes a day for 5-7 days a week, you could:
- manage your weight better
- have a lower blood cholesterol level
- lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- have lower blood pressure b
- have stronger bones, muscles and joints and lower risk of developing osteoporosis
- improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls especially among older adults
- decrease arthritis pain and stiffness
- recover better from periods of hospitalization or bed rest
- feel better – with more energy, a better mood, feel more relaxed and sleep better.
- reduce depression
- may block negative thoughts
- delay the onset of cognitive decline
- extend years of active life
- enhance your sex life
- increase your chances of living longer
Doesn’t reading this list just make you want to get up and move around? 😊
In addition, physical activity is NOT just for weight loss, it can make your whole body feel better. I am delighted to share this information with you because I have personal and professional experiences with using physical activity. Even though I function in a variety of roles, such as a healthcare provider, a nursing instructor, a researcher, a church member, a parent or a friend, I truly believe in the benefits of engaging in regular physical activity to improve and maintain one’s overall wellbeing.
Personally, I started engaging in regular physical activity approximately 12 years ago. During that time, I was in school, I experienced the loss of my brother from a chronic illness, I went through a divorce, and my family responsibilities doubled because I was now a single parent. All these events are classified as stressful on the “Life Change Index Scale.” I could have come up with so many excuses to NOT be active, but the key is to come up with solutions. Instead of feeling deflated, I used physical activity as a coping mechanism. For example, when my child had soccer practice, I would use that hour to put my headphones on, listen to my favorite gospel music, and walk and talk with God while enjoying the outdoors 2-3 times a week. This one change in my regular routine greatly improved my mental health with the added benefit of improving my physical and spiritual health. I still use physical activity as a medicine. Just try it! Physical activity (especially walking and moving in a wheelchair) is free. Just always remember to start slowly and make small healthy changes in your daily routine, which in the long run, can make a big difference in your life.
Movement is Medicine but Consistency is the key!
Pamela G. Bowen, PhD, FNP-BC, BBA
Bowen is an Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She is an advocate for vulnerable and underserved populations and personally and professionally believes that everyone regardless of status deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. She likes to share with others that healthy living is a lifestyle change! There are no “quick fixes” for living healthy. Just making small changes in one’s diet and activity level can make a big difference in one’s overall health (physically, mentally, and spiritually).
On a personal note, Bowen is the proud mother of one and she really enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, attending weekly spin classes, and traveling for fun and relaxation any place that is warm and have a body of water (all before COVID of course 😊)!!!