Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

A rocky road to realizing exercise as relaxation


by Barbara Hopperstad, MA, CHWC

As a health and wellness coach, I work with individuals in the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s pre-hospital program. Individuals preparing for an upcoming surgery or procedure work with me to learn techniques to relax and feel more in control before, during and after their hospital stay.

I always ask my clients: “What do you do to relax?”  I explain that our immune system works best when we are relaxed, and we want it working at its best when we recover from surgery.

The answers I have heard over time ―everything from listening to music to following politics to exercising have shifted my understanding of what relaxation is.

I love that exercise is relaxing for many people because it sure hasn’t been for me. My relationship with exercise has been pretty rocky.  I used to tell people that whenever I got the urge to exercise, I would lie down until the feeling passed.

As I have aged, I have become much more aware of the importance of exercise.  And yet I have still struggled to maintain a regular exercise program.

Something changed for me, though, when I heard a news story that said the key for keeping physically healthy is to “move your body throughout the day.” I said to myself, “I think I can do that!”

So now, I run up and down stairs as I make my way through the hospital or my condo building. I walk as briskly as I can when I’m by myself. And I frequently stand and walk around my office when I work with clients over the phone.

The idea that these periodic bursts of energy add up to that dreaded word “exercise” makes me happy.  It is a great example of how we can improve our lives by changing our minds, not our circumstances.

I walked through the hospital before – but now every time I do, I think of it as good for my health.  And dare I say, I find that relaxing.

So for those of you who struggle to maintain a regular exercise program, consider the movement you do each day.  Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator?  Can you speed up your pace when you walk?  Can you wear a pedometer to get feedback on how many steps you are taking per day?  Notice what you are carrying – lifting and carrying a toddler qualifies as strength training.  Every movement we make can contribute to our health and wellbeing.

8 thoughts on “A rocky road to realizing exercise as relaxation

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