You know the type.

One of my patients – we’ll call her Elaine – gets up every morning at 5:45 and hops on the treadmill for a 45 minute power walk before she shows up at her high-stress job running the HR department of a large law firm.

Her consistency and commitment to health are admirable. And she looks pretty trim for someone of her age.

But repetitive cardio exercise isn’t enough. Elaine needs to get more creative with her exercise regimen. She’s missing out on at least five of the benefits that regular physical activity could bring her.

First – she’d get much more bang for her buck if she incorporated some intense interval training into her daily workout. Instead of maintaining a steady treadmill pace, she needs to include some short, more intense bursts.

Second – aerobic conditioning isn’t enough. To maintain a healthy weight as well as minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, you also need resistance training to build muscle.

Third – you can also work your brain while you’re working your body. Learning new movement patterns – t’ai ch’i, tango, racquetball, etc. – is a cognitive challenge the brain thrives on.

Fourth – exercise is also an opportunity to develop better body awareness. While you exercise and throughout your daily life, pay attention to your alignment, breathing rhythm, pattern of abdominal support, or the presence of unnecessary muscle tension.

Fifth – exercise can also be a social experience. Take time to enjoy a hike with friends, a competitive (or friendly) game of tennis or badminton, an evening of bowling, or whatever you enjoy.

We can all admire Elaine for her dedication and commitment. But to enjoy the wider benefits of physical activity – get off the treadmill.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


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