Removing the Barriers That Block Exercise

A Kaiser Permanente physician expert recommends improving your total health by exercising consistently.

Interview by Mindy Boccio

Todd Weitzenberg, MD, chief and developer of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa’s Sports Medicine program and coach of the Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine Regional Peer Group

If you want to be healthy, you can run but you can’t hide from exercise. It prevents chronic disease, improves your mood, helps you sleep better, decreases depression and gives you more energy. But it takes time and a can-do attitude to move it to the forefront of your life. Todd Weitzenberg, MD, chief and developer of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa’s Sports Medicine program and coach of the Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine Regional Peer Group, shares tips that make fitness fun and do-able. Hear more on this topic on his Kaiser Permanente Health Talks podcast.

How do you advise people who feel so over-scheduled they can’t exercise?
Anchor your whole exercise regimen in your life. That means deciding what you’re going to do, how you’ll do it, and having any gear and equipment on hand. Next, start slowly so you don’t get injured. Then aim for consistency, so your exercise becomes part of your everyday routine.

How do we get our mind to support our body’s need to move?
I believe in setting goals, in this case an ‘event horizon,’ which is just something you’re striving toward in the future. You determine what this is, such as eventually fitting into a now too-snug outfit or completing an athletic event. Also, declare it. Tell your friends and family you’re exercising, or bring one of them along to motivate you. You can even put a note on your refrigerator or bulletin board to remind you of your goal.

What is an ideal exercise goal?
I recommend 45 to 60 minutes of exercise five to seven days a week. But start out with 30 minutes. If you’re really scheduled, then try three 10-minute or two 15-minute walks. Conduct a walking work meeting, or walk after dinner. Rather than waiting all week and exercising a lot on the weekend, which can stress your body, you want that daily stimulus. Train your body to do what it was designed to do — move and exercise every day.

For the novice, that might seem like a lot of exercise.
Yes, but if you take care of your body, you are better able to do all of those things you need to do each day, from succeeding at your profession to being an engaged family member. And exercise does get easier. Catecholamines and endorphins are chemicals that are released in your body after you exercise, making you feel good. Painkillers are actually modeled on their same structures!

Okay, so what constitutes exercise?
Every bit of consistent movement counts. Hula-hoop, dancing, Zumba class, walking your dog! In fact, people who own dogs are 67 percent more likely to get the daily dose of exercise they need.

For the ‘exercise resistant,’ make the case for exercise.
When people get home at the end of a long day, they think, I’m too tired to exercise. My response is always, you’re too tired not to exercise. Try this today: When you feel tired, get up — whether you’re at your office desk or just pulling in to your driveway — and go for a 10-minute walk. Then tell me how you feel after that. You won’t feel more tired. You’ll feel more energized.