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Intuitive Beauty + Wellness: Movement

Written by Dr. Katie Takayasu


Philosophy on Exercise

I am a big believer in exercise being a key to successful stress management. Exercise is my favorite feel-good pill. I realized this personally while in college, finding that the days I prioritized movement were the days I was more productive and felt happier (and noticed that it made my monthly menstrual cramps almost disappear). Now I recognize that exercise is my number one tool to regulating my mood, so I prioritize space in my life every day for some kind of physical movement.

Exercise has been directly connected to reducing risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) as well as a direct decrease in body-wide inflammation1, but I tell patients the number one reason to exercise is the production of feel-good hormones called endorphins. In fact, multiple studies show that moderate exercise like walking is just as effective as using SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in the treatment of depression and anxiety.23 And it’s not a lot of exercise that gets the job done: walking as little as three times per week is meaningful enough to make an impact on mental health.

There’s also extensive research to show that exercise influences our sleep and regulates our circadian rhythms. One of the best ways to get your motor started in the morning (regardless of how you slept) is exposure to sunlight outdoors in combination with a little movement, otherwise known as a morning walk. I advocate waking the same time every day, so follow your 6:00 a.m. wake up with a twenty minute walk. In my life, exercise gets a priority time slot almost every single day.

Little by little throughout the day, and standing helps

Exercise doesn’t have to happen all at the same time, so if you find yourself with five minutes to take the stairs before work or ten minutes to take a walk after lunch it all adds up. Your goal is about 150 minutes per week of gentle aerobic exercise, but the more active you are the better.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Sitting is the new smoking.” American adult desk workers can sit up 15 or more hours per day, and recent evidence from epidemiological and experimental studies makes a persuasive case that too much sitting should be considered a stand-alone component of calculating future risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.4 Did you know you burn an additional 50 calories every hour just by standing?

When it comes to dedicated exercise, sometimes I only have time for a 12-minute walk before work, so I make up the time on other days when I have more flexibility. Instead of beating myself up for slacking off, I acknowledge that I did the best I could and enjoy those minutes as “me time.” In fact, I encourage you to think about the time you reserve in your schedule for exercise as a deposit in your bank account of energy so that you can fully live and give back to others in your life.

Gentle, joyful movement

I want to emphasize that gentle exercise is the way to go. I find that some of my patients exercise way too intensely, fueling hormonal imbalance, sparking appetite, and actually increasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Your goal with exercise is at a level of 6-7 out of 10 on the exertion scale that just makes you a little breathless, so that if you were having a conversation with someone you wouldn’t be able to nonchalantly speak sentence after sentence. If you feel like someone should mop you up off the floor after completing your high-intensity interval training or have significant fatigue several hours later, then maybe you’re working out too hard.

I also encourage you to exercise with friends, even if they live far away. One of my favorite things to do is a “walk and talk” with friends and family by phone. Walking and talking is a beautiful, healthy way to catch up with those who are important to us and sure beats a happy hour where we’re sitting and drinking alcohol.

Lean body maintenance

It’s also important to work on balance and strength, especially if you’re at risk for osteoporosis. While weak bones can inherently cause a fall, most osteoporotic fractures happen because people are not as strong or stable as they could be and find themselves in unsafe conditions like slippery showers or icy garage floors. Do yourself a huge favor and start your muscle building as soon as possible.

Lean body maintenance and balance is also the way that we stay independent as we age. When I’m doing squats, I’m not thinking about how great my butt is going to look in my swimsuit. I’m thinking about how when I’m 90 years old, I’m still going to be able to squat on my own toilet just like my 93-year-old independent grandmother. Our independence as we age is directly related to our ability to retain our muscular strength and function.

I encourage you to do at least two sessions per week of something that builds strength. I personally like light weights and lots of repetitions like in a barre or pilates workout or by using body weight in the form of planks or squats. If you want to multitask your movement endeavours, I recommend yoga because it involves building strength, balance, and recenters the spirit.

Meaningful change

There are many entries into living a full, authentic life, and this was a quick primer on how to build fertile soil with meaningful lifestyle choices. Obviously, exercise is not the silver bullet. I coach patients to understand, however, that the tiny changes you make to move your body more joyfully, prioritize rest, fuel with nourishing food, and connect to the real You is a pathway to bringing meaningful change.

Try a yummy recipe from Dr. Katie's Life Kitchen blog: No Bake Yum Yum Bites


4 Dunstan, D. W., Howard, B., Healy, G. N., & Owen, N. (2012). Too much sitting--a health hazard. Diabetes research and clinical practice, 97(3), 368–376.

1 Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E. et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med 25, 1822–1832 (2019). 2 Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M. A., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Waugh, R., Napolitano, M. A., Forman, L. M., Appelbaum, M., Doraiswamy, P. M., & Krishnan, K. R. (1999). Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression. Archives of internal medicine, 159(19), 2349–2356. 3 Clin Psychol Sci Prac 13: 179–193, 2006


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