As I have identified before, I am a runner. I run to keep physically fit, to keep weight off (I am also an eater), and to clear my mind of extraneous materials as I dodge cracks in the sidewalk. I ran a race today and although it was unseasonably warm I did all right.

To set a race up takes a lot of effort and infrastructure. This particular race benefited the L’Arche community.  People volunteered willingly to help control traffic, hand out water, offer band aids and fruit to the runners, and in general make the runners feel welcome and supported. Turns out that racing itself is not nearly as important as training for a race. The act of training provides an opportunity to participate in “vigorous intensity aerobic activity.” For adults, in addition to strength training the CDC recommends:

2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week or an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

In addition the CDC points out the the more time you spend exercising, the greater the benefits are.

Human beings are designed to be physically active. People who are physically active get fewer heart attacks,have less hypertension, less diabetes, less colon cancer, less depression, and less anxiety. At these races, there are very few people who do not routinely participate in physical activity and they look healthy for the most part. In my clinical practice, on the other hand, I see a lot of folks who have led sedentary lives and are often afraid to begin exercising. The CDC recommends that those starting a program do so in doable chunks, 10 minutes or so at a time. In additions, they recommend a gradual increase over time:

If you want to do more vigorous-level activities, slowly replace those that take moderate effort like brisk walking, with more vigorous activities like jogging

For those of you who are physicians seeing patients with chronic illnesses, instead of adding another pill try an exercise prescription. Exercise prescription involves a planned or structured physical activity regimen given to an individual or group that includes specific recommendations for the frequency, intensity, and type of exercise. Write it out as you would a pill to lower cholesterol (it is almost as effective).

I often offer may patients the opportunity to begin a trial of exercise rather than adding another pill or potion and write them a prescription. Sometimes, it even works.