(Adapted from an article written by Paleo Mom)

With fall darkness coming upon us, there is a great tendency to go home at the end of the day and not go for a walk or to the gym, and just simply to move less. This is an important time of year to try to find some activity that you enjoy, and push yourself to do it even if you are mentally fatigued at the end of the day.

Don’t think of it as exercise, think of the other more important reasons to be active. We know exercise by itself will not lead to any great amount of fat loss, although we will be more fit, strong and agile (and healthier). It’s important not to ignore exercise. Think of it as hormone management rather than calorie burning.

Hormones are chemical messengers in contact with virtually every cell in your body. They are sensitive to the demands of your cells; sensing changes in your body’s chemistry, and responding rapidly to ensure that these cells get everything they need to stay healthy. Exercise has a profound effect on every hormone system in your body. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, be it: aerobic or anaerobic, cardio intensive or strength training, low intensity or high intensity and short duration or long duration.

Let’s look at some of the effects of getting regular exercise:
• Appetite and Weight Control – Exercise is known to regulate key hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin and may even promote healthier digestion through hormone regulation. It is not necessarily true that exercise makes you hungrier. For many people it makes it easier to naturally consume fewer calories in an entire day.

• Metabolism and Insulin Sensitivity – Exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity through a direct action on the glucose transport molecules in the individual cells of your muscles. It accesses stored energy and regulates how that energy is used.

• Body Composition – Muscles get stronger and this contributes to an increase in resting metabolism.

• Stress Management – Exercise is very effective at modulating cortisol levels and increasing serotonin in the brain. It can be a potent way of normalizing cortisol levels and makes it easier to burn stored energy (especially fat) while improving sleep and reducing stress.

• Mood – Beyond the effect on stress hormones, exercise releases endorphin like compounds in the brain which has a direct effect on several key neurotransmitters that are related to mood. It helps fight depression and anxiety. There is a key release or increase in BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which can help neurones and memory.

We must look at exercise differently. There should be no question of whether we do it or not. For the sake of our physical and mental health, we must do it. It matters not the intensity. It only matters that you move. Ideally as we get older we would add strength training to regain muscle mass and protect our bones; but right now it’s simply important to include movement into our daily lives.

Even though it’s dark at the end of the day, there are many good DVD’s we can purchase that will motivate us to exercise even in the confines of our homes. Try to build in some form of exercise this fall and winter; daily if possible. It will give you energy and improve your mood and concentration.

You can do it. Find simple things you can start with and work to increase the duration if you can. Just keep trying, and never ever give up!

Dr. Doug