By Juli Kagan, RDH, M.Ed.
Nike has a great campaign: "Just do it." I think RDHs should start a campaign called "Just Get Moving!" We work all day sitting in dental chairs, drive home sitting in our cars, eat dinner in seated positions, and often sit in front of computers or lie down watching TV. Getting active is the first step toward better health and fitness.
To begin, park your car farther away than normal. Walk briskly. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk up the escalator if you can't find the stairs. Look for exercising opportunities. Activity adds up over the days, weeks, and years.
If you aren't used to routine exercise, gradually begin walking. Go when the sun rises or during the evening when the sun sets. Promise yourself you'll only go out for about 15 to 20 minutes. (Once you're out, 20 minutes will seem too short.) My girlfriend Kathy said to me the other day, "I used to think I needed to make time to go on the Stairmaster. Now, if I have just 20 minutes, I'll jump on and get it done. I feel better afterwards."
The same idea may be applied to walking or popping in an exercise video. Exercising your body and mind don't have to be Olympic events — just do it. Get moving.
I know, you're giving me excuses already. But here's the deal — make exercising the excuse that will convince you to want a higher level of health. Make health the reason to walk farther, step more frequently, and stand with better posture. Set a date with yourself to exercise. Make "me time." Better yet, find an activity you like or can do with others. There is nothing like a little peer pressure to get you motivated or to stay on track.
For three years during the late '90s, I did Kenpo karate with two girls who became my dear friends. Jody, Marlene, and I knew that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we would meet for about an hour to work out. It was great — we felt fit, maintained or lost weight, and were committed to being there for each other. We still cherish our friendship and reminisce about the way we felt physically and mentally while doing karate.
So what's holding you back? We're all tired sometimes, may not feel like moving sometimes, and we just don't want to sometimes. That's all right as long as your excuses are only sometimes. Make it a point to move and be active most of the time. You choose to be active or inactive, and you know better. You've taken anatomy and physiology; you've read about exercising in every magazine; and the best-selling books are diet- and exercise-related. Knowledge is just knowledge when it's not put into action. What you do makes all the difference — not what you say you'll do.
You already know the benefits of exercise: bone strengthening (which inhibits osteoporosis), improved heart and lung function, better muscle tone (which assists with posture and positioning), increased physical stamina, enhanced mental acuity — and more than everything else — a greater sense of self that can only be achieved from "doing the work." You feel better about yourself after exercising.
Get moving! If you choose not to, then accept the consequences. Here is the kicker: When your back aches from doing dental hygiene, you aren't sleeping restfully at night, you feel more agitated than you should be, or you just can't keep your weight in check, exercise might cure your troubles. Which brings up dieting. Weight loss and fighting the battle of the bulge is a mind game, isn't it? We often eat for emotional reasons — to hide pain or feel pleasure. The diet industry knows this, and wow, do they play into it! Let me tell you a secret: Diets by themselves don't work. Figuring out the reasons why you eat and creating a lifestyle that is conducive to healthful eating and improving your health is imperative. Exercise is the No. 1 reason dieters feel better about themselves. Did you notice the first three letters in the word "diet?" Don't you think eating well should be about living, not dying to be thinner?
Getting started can be challenging, but after about 21 days of consistent training you'll start feeling "in shape."
A recent study found that women do not need to engage in vigorous exercise to reap weight-loss benefits, provided they also watch what they eat.1 As reported in the Sept. 10, 2003, issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association," if women exercise 30 minutes a day and reduce calorie intake by 20 percent, there is a reasonable reduction in weight. The same study showed that if women increase the exercise increment to 60 minutes, weight loss is dramatic.
How easy is it to reduce calorie intake by 20 percent? A serving size is the size of your palm, not the size of a dinner plate. Limiting calories to 1,200 to 1,500 a day and fatty foods to less than 20 percent to 30 percent of the diet can make a difference. Make a normal plate of food, then reduce that by 20 percent. To help even more, be mindful of serving sizes.
Another study in the same journal showed that weight reduction reduced the risk of breast cancer. The study of 74,000 women, using a daily brisk walk as the benchmark, noted that walking 75 to 150 minutes a week reduced the risk of breast cancer by 18 percent. The reason for such a strong relationship was that "weight reduction favorably alters estrogen levels in the body and affects insulin and growth factor levels," as stated by Dr. I-Min Lee, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The report also shows that starting early in life gave the most benefit, but women of all ages benefited. The greatest benefits were found in the thinnest women — another reason to keep weight safeguarded. The study provided proof that exercise at any age is good.
The evidence is clear and the benefits of exercising are plentiful. Go ahead — put down the magazine and do it.
Just get moving!
Juli Kagan, RDH, M.Ed., is an instructor at Broward Community College and Nova Southeastern University School of Dentistry in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. She is a certified pilates instructor and has fitness certificates including spinning, personal training, and mat science. She may be reached at [email protected].