The Canadian Naturopathic Foundation

Do I really have to exercise?

Home Page  |  Do I really have to exercise?
 Article Details:
Author: Dr. Kelly Wallace, ND
North Bay ON

    Find a ND
•  View More Health Articles
•  Make A Donation
•  Learn About The CAND
•  Visit Our Sponsors

Do I really have to exercise? 
The simple answer to the above question is, of course not, it’s your life and you can choose to do whatever you like with it. However, let me give you a few reasons why perhaps you might want to exercise.

Picture someone in their 60’s, or their 70’s. How about an 80 year old? Or a 90 year old? What do you imagine? Now, imagine yourself at that age. When we think of aging, we often picture some very common conditions that tend to occur as we age. Arthritis, forgetfulness or memory loss, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, loss of hearing or vision, heart disease, strokes, cancers… all of these things are more or less accepted as a normal part of aging. What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be that way? That you can stay fit, healthy, active and sharp well into your 80’s and 90’s? That you don’t need to live your life in pain or take handfuls of pills? Sounds pretty good, right?

When we are young, we have constant hormonal and chemical signals in our bodies and brains sending messages for growth and development. We have lots of energy, our minds are sharp and we recover very quickly from illness or injury. After about the age of 30, those signals change and the predominant messages decay and breakdown. You’ve all seen what happens, if we just accept this and let it happen. Guess what? The hormones and chemicals released after a session of exercise are the same ones that are present in large amounts when we are young. These chemicals and hormones tell our bodies and our brains to repair, to build more muscle, to decrease chronic inflammation, to strengthen the bones. They elevate the mood, decrease blood sugar and improve circulation.

In fact, research is showing us that regular exercise can help you avoid up to 70% of the “normal” problems associated with aging, and can eliminate up to 50% of illness and injury. Read that sentence again, because those numbers are huge! In Ontario we always hear about growing health care costs… Imagine what would happen if more than half of the people out there seeking medical care didn’t need it anymore? (I’m talking diabetes, heart disease, COPD, cancer, arthritis, broken hips, strokes, dementia, depression…) Think about how much money would be available, and how wait-times would come down. All this, if we would just get off the couch and get more exercise!

So how much exercise is enough, and how do you get started? Well, the truth is that you need to make a commitment. The evidence shows that we need at least 45 minutes of moderate to hard exercise, every day. If you want to slack off a bit, we’ll say 6 days a week – that gives you a flex day for when things go awry – but you need to stick to those 6 days, and commit for the long term. This doesn’t work if you do it for 3 months and then go back to your old habits. You need to think of daily exercise as a job, you have to show up. And, surprising to many people, walking is not the best form of exercise to slow the aging process. Unless you are really out of shape and find walking very challenging, or unless you are walking very hard, it’s usually not enough. You need to break a sweat, and get your heart rate up when you exercise, in order to release all of the beneficial hormones and chemicals. So, if walking around the block gets you out of breath and sweating, that’s fine, keep it up! If not, read on.

The type of exercise that you do is also important. “Cardio” exercise (the kind where you get your heart rate up, and can maintain it for 45 minutes or more) is really important. This includes power walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing squash/tennis, paddling, skiing etc… This should be your base, as this type of exercise is what will help you live a long and healthy life.

The other key is not to forget strength training. Strength training is not usually as much fun, unless you are one of those rare people who actually like lifting weights, but it is just as important. Strength training is what keeps your muscles, bones and joints strong. It helps prevent osteoporosis and falls. It improves your balance and co-ordination and ultimately, your quality of life. Strength is usually lifting weights, but certain types of yoga and Pilates can be strength workouts and climbing stairs is a great strength workout. There are many options.

So, to sum up – EXERCISE! Yes, daily, for at least 45 minutes, hard enough to sweat. Do strength training at least 2x/week, and cardio the rest of the time. If you don’t currently exercise and you have some health concerns, check with your health care professional before you start. Almost everyone can and should exercise, but you may need to start more slowly, or focus on specific things depending on your health. Our bodies were meant to move, so get out there and do it!

Health Tip

Make a commitment to yourself to exercise regularly. This means at least 6 days a week of 30 minutes or more. Put it right in your schedule every day to make things official. To make it count you need to break a sweat and feel your heart rate rise a bit. To get optimal results, mix it up, most days do some cardio (power walk, run, bike, swim, ski, snowshoe, play squash…), and at least 2x/week, do strength (weights, yoga, Pilates…). It won’t take long for you to see the benefits, in your energy, your weight, your blood pressure and cholesterol, your sugar levels, your sleep, hormone balance, your joints and more!

Must Read

“Younger Next Year; Live Strong, Fit and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley & Dr. Henry S. Lodge

This book is available in two versions, one for women and one for men (the information in both is the same, the women’s version just has a flashy pink cover and talks about menopause, osteoporosis and other “women’s” issues in addition to all of the other stuff). It provides excellent, common-sense solutions to look and feel younger than your age. It backs everything up with science, and gives you steps to take to start getting “younger next year!”

To learn more about Dr. Kelly Wallace, ND please visit her website at
20 Holly Street, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M4S 3B1
Tel: (416) 496-8633   Toll Free: 1-800-551-4381