You probably have a friend who does yoga. Odds are, they’ve probably subjected you to hour-long rants on how wonderful the classes are and how great they feel after contorting themselves into a pretzel But you’re not so sure. After all, isn’t yoga just glorified stretching? Wouldn’t you be better off hitting the gym or doing just one more lap around the track?
Well, while those fitnesses choices are valid and good for you, I wouldn’t advise dismissing yoga before you’ve joined your friend for a few classes. When practiced regularly, yoga can provide a whole host of long-term physical and mental benefits that other avenues of exercise simply can’t match. Join your friend for a few classes and try it out! Who knows – after a session or two, you might be the one giving the pro-yoga speech.
Improved Physical Health
Taking up yoga is a fantastic way to boost your physical health. When practiced regularly, it can hone your muscle tone, boost your cardiovascular health, improve your flexibility, and increase your respiratory capacity. However, many people flock to yoga because of its positive reinforcement it provides the body as it ages. Normally, our bodies stiffen as we age; we become less flexible, weaker, and slower than we used to be. However, some studies have found that the movement and weight-bearing exercises yoga demands actually retains flexibility and keeps our bones healthier for longer.
Regular practice could help you lose weight – but not for the reasons you might think! Yoga boosts a practitioner’s sense of attunement to their own bodies. Thus, they are better able to separate cravings from actual hunger and can more easily regulate their eating habits. Researchers for one study even found that after practicing yoga once every week for years, practitioners are less likely to gain weight than their non-yogi peers.
Yoga could serve as another pain management strategy for those suffering from chronic pain. According to an article published by the Osteopathic Association, “Yoga can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and many other chronic […] conditions.” Some research further indicates that a weekly practice could increase patient mobility and lessen pain as or more effectively than standard medical care.
Yoga is famous for its capacity as a stress-reliever. For many, a yoga class offers the chance to ease out of an otherwise fast-paced working life and take a deep breath. The breathing exercises and mindful activities taught in yoga can help people develop effective coping skills and ultimately resolve some of the problems caused by stress, including: back pain, sleeping problems, headaches, and concentration difficulties.
How many times have you struggled to work through just one more mile on the track or make just a few more reps at the gym? Working out requires a constant self reassessment of your capabilities and boundaries, and it can sometimes be difficult to see where the line falls. Are you letting yourself breeze through easy workouts? Or worse – is your fitness craze pushing you to risk your health for the sake of one more mile, one more rep?
Contrary to popular belief, working out doesn’t need to be painful; in fact, it shouldn’t be. Pushing yourself beyond your capabilities can lead to serious consequences such as adrenal fatigue, exhaustion, injury, and even mental burnout. Take care of your body! If you start experiencing any of the below, you should reassess your workout intensity and consult a doctor to make sure that your trips to the gym aren’t hurting your health.
As Dr. Jim Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University, commented in an article on the subject: “Being in peak condition is one step before dropping off the cliff to problems.” Your workouts should push you – but they should never, ever exhaust you. If you feel as though you can’t perform basic daily tasks or socially engage after a trip to the gym, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard. Left unchecked, workout fatigue can have serious emotional consequences such as depression, sleep irregularity, and irritability. A workout isn’t worth your mental health!
Elevated Resting Heart Rate
Your heart rate might tick up after your third cup of coffee or during a horror movie, but it shouldn’t stay elevated throughout the day. Having an elevated heart rate is completely normal during a trip to the gym, but you should consult a physician if you notice the fast beat continuing after you leave. Without proper rest and replenishment, over-exercising can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances – both of which can contribute to an unusual increase in heart rate.
We all expect to be sore now and again – but pain should never be considered as a “price” to pay for physical fitness. If your body always feels sore, you aren’t giving it enough time to recover between workouts. Rest days are vital to overall fitness; you need to give your nervous system and muscles the nutrients and time they need to strengthen. Try scaling back your high-intensity workouts to twice a week, and stagger lower-intensity workouts in between. Don’t forget to give yourself a rest day now and again! Eat well, hydrate, relax – and take the time to enjoy your time away from the gym.
About Robert J. Winn
Robert J. Winn is a family physician based in Philadelphia, PA. For over fifteen years Dr. Winn has worked to provide care to vulnerable populations that face barriers to healthcare access. As a medical professional, Dr. Winn understands how important fitness is to one’s health. On a personal level, he also understands what it’s like to be overweight, so he is able to empathize with patients who struggle to live healthier lives.
Robert J. Winn’s fitness journey started relatively later in life. Although he helped other people become healthy and stay that way, Dr. Winn had fallen victim to a situation that many busy professionals find themselves in. At age 45 he was overweight and didn’t make time for daily exercise. Toward the end of 2014, Dr. Winn realized that something had to change. He had trouble fitting into the clothes he owned, and activities like walking up a flight of stairs exhausted him. Dr. Winn made the decision to turn his health around by devoting himself to fitness.
One of the most important aspects of being a physician is making sure that patients are taking the necessary steps to remain healthy. However, Dr. Winn was not following his own recommendations. In order to remedy this situation, he joined Unite Fitness, a local fitness studio. The Unite Fitness philosophy of “Heart, Muscle, Mind” resonated with Dr. Winn. With the help of Coach Gavin, the founder of the studio, Dr. Winn was able to shed 50 pounds over the course of six months.
Although Robert J. Winn started his fitness journey by attending a fitness studio and receiving instruction from the staff, he realizes that many people, including the majority of his patients, may not have the resources to purchase a membership or home fitness equipment. It’s important to remember, though, that getting in shape does not have to cost an exorbitant amount of money. In fact, you don’t have to join a gym or purchase anything to get started. Dr. Robert J. Winn recommends that patients begin by walking 30 minutes each day. Also, on the internet, you can find numerous free resources like exercise tips and guides that you can use to workout at home in your living room.
One way that Dr. Winn stayed motivated in the beginning of his fitness journey was by sharing updates on social media. His friends and family saw his progress and encouraged him along the way. Plus, patients were able to witness the transformation take place firsthand. As a result, many patients were inspired to get in shape themselves. Sharing his fitness journey on social media also encouraged Dr. Winn to work harder to lose weight because he didn’t want to let his patients down. He wanted to show them that it was possible for anyone to get in shape and become healthier as long as they are dedicated and work hard.
Being overweight leads to many health issues such as depression, high cholesterol, and diabetes just to name a few. Exercising on a daily basis can prevent or eliminate these types of difficulties. Dr. Robert J. Winn uses his personal fitness journey as an example that patients can relate to. Today he feels stronger, healthier, and happier as a result of his active lifestyle and healthy diet. He continues to encourage his patients to take small fitness steps so that they can live life to the fullest with fewer health issues holding them back.