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Bariatric Focus: Reap The Rewards!

by Anita Klima, RN, CPT

Okay, so exercise is a chore. But chores are necessary. And many times, once a chore is done, you feel much better for having completed it! Physical activity (i.e. exercise) has similar feel-good benefits, plus so much more!

First and foremost, physical activity makes you feel good. While exercising, our brain releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that elevate mood and improve self-esteem giving you a more positive outlook. Endorphins are responsible for reducing pain and decreasing fatigue. All this benefit leads to being motivated to continue to exercise. Even a small amount of moderately intense (hard enough to sweat) physical activity can bring on the endorphin release!

Another huge benefit to regular physical activity is that it helps control weight — preventing excess weight gain or helping to maintain weight loss already achieved. The only way to lose weight and keep it off, as we all know, is to have an “energy deficit” (calories = energy) every day – either decreased calories taken in or increased calories burned. So with exercise, the more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. When people hit “plateaus” in weight loss, increasing intensity and duration of exercise will sometimes push you off the plateau to keep moving toward your goal.

Walking is an excellent and easy activity to work into your day – a dedicated, challenging and calorie-burning walk. Walking on a track can be boring so trekking through your neighborhood or nearby trail or park may be more appealing. Recommendations are for 30-60 minutes for beginners at a brisk pace (about a 20-minute mile), three times a week. Increasing the activity intensity and time spent will increase the calorie burn exponentially! Tracking your mileage is an easy way to stay on top of achieving your activity goals. Pedometers and other devices are available (smart phone users have apps like My Fitness Pal or Map My Fitness) to help you stay on track.

No matter what your current weight, physical activity helps improve health conditions and diseases. Being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, and decreases unhealthy low density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides, decreasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. In addition, your heart is a muscle; physical activity will make it stronger. A strong heart pumps blood with less effort, producing less stress on arteries, and lowering blood pressure. Exercise and physical activity help the heart deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily activities.

Physical activity should be a fun way to spend some time. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Choosing a fun physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a social setting – kickball teams or softball games. So, take a dance class, find some local hiking trails or join a sports team. Find a physical activity that is enjoyable, and just do it!

The bottom line on exercise is this — it is a great way to feel better in both body and mind, improve your health and have fun. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of dedicated physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you will need to weave more and more physical activity into your day, being more active than sedentary, helping make those goals a reality.

Remember to check with your physician or nurse practitioner before starting a new exercise program. Your health and fitness are your responsibility so making sure that you are able to participate in moderate exercise is important. Some patients may be limited to the amount of cardio they will be allowed to do. Some may have injuries that need to heal or have other health issues that require attention. Starting in with a clean bill of health will help to maximize your efforts.

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