By Alpine North Clinic Director Angela D. Listug-Vap, DPT, FAAOMPT
I recently saw a commercial for a new drug that reduces bladder incontinence. The commercial ended with a litany of horrible and scary side effects. As a physical therapist I thought, “compare that drug with the side effects of pelvic floor strengthening”.
So I did. In addition to improved bladder control, you might experience a more satisfying sex life and decreased lower back or pelvic pain. And if you combine pelvic floor exercises with diaphragmatic breathing, you might even improve oxygenation to your tissues. Ultimately, you would have to deal with quicker healing time.
Actually these side effects are not horrible and scary. In fact, descriptors like healthy, great, and AWESOME are more accurate. If we applied this same concept to general exercise, beware because the following side effects may occur!
A Healthier Heart
The four modifiable risk factors for coronary heart disease and heart attacks are 1) cigarette smoking, 2) high blood pressure, 3) high cholesterol, and 4) physical inactivity. Exercise positively effects 3 of 4 of these risk factors. It reduces high blood pressure, improves your cholesterol, and cancels out physical inactivity. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
A Better Mood
Exercise has been shown to successfully treat mild to moderate depression and to reduce anxiety and stress. It only takes as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 5 times each week. We often give credit to the release of endorphins, which is a chemical in our body that produces positive feelings and reduces pain. However, other side effects of exercise may contribute to a positive mood including the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, the release of muscle tension, improved self-esteem, and better sleep.
A Better Fitting Wardrobe
The secret to weight loss is (drum roll please)………………Exercise (and nutrition). Research has shown that changing your diet actually results in weight loss faster than exercise alone, but studies show no difference between diet and exercise groups in the long term. Even better news is that people who exercise regularly shift toward a healthier diet. For moderate exercise you need to work at a target heart rate (THR) of greater than 50% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). A quick calculation for MHR is 220 minus your age. For vigorous exercise you need to work at a THR between 70-85%. If you’ve plateaued in your weight loss, try changing the intensity, frequency, or type of exercise.
A Better Night’s Sleep
Research has shown you will fall asleep faster and sleep longer by adding 30 minutes of moderate exercise 4 times per week. However, people in this study did’t experience improved sleep until after 16 weeks of consistent exercise. The take home message is KEEP IT UP! Do not stop at the end of February when the health clubs empty out. This is the best time to continue because you do not have to wait for a machine or drive around for a parking space You still have so many side effects to experience, so KEEP IT UP!
In conclusion, the side effects of exercise are continuously being uncovered. We know resisted exercises increase bone mineral density to fight osteoporosise. Exercising improves the way our body uses insulin to fight diabetes. As a physical therapist, I use exercise daily to alleviate peoples’ aches and pains associated with injury. There is an endless list of positive side effects of exercise.
If exercise were a pill, everyone would take it! The key is to start slowly; don’t overdose! If you have a medical condition or have not exercised in a while, make sure your physician is in the loop. After that try brisk walking (or biking or hiking or swimming, etc). Start out with 15 to 30 minutes twice a week, and gradually increase from there. Your heart will thank you. Your jeans will thank you. And the dark circles under your eyes will thank you!