The Best Medicine: Exercise

By: Michael Holzman (Correspondent)

There is a potential treatment which has the ability to prevent and in some cases cure obesity, heart disease, certain forms of cancer, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and a plethora of other mental and physical health disorders and diseases. It has been around forever, yet many choose not to take advantage of it. But what is it? Exercise.

More and more, scientists are realizing the multitude of benefits that come from regular exercise. So if it truly has these healing powers, why is it that so many men and women opt not to take advantage of it? There really is no good excuse. Disabled men and women that have trained and became olympians, yet some fully able adults would be more content to sit on their couch and order a pizza than go for a walk around their neighborhood. The duration, frequency, and intensity of workouts necessary to reap these benefits is debatable, yet some activity is most certainly better than none. To many, exercise is a lifelong habit that they are more than happy to encourage others to do, Sharon High School has many faculty members in that group: including but not limited to Mrs. Ronde Gassman, Mrs. Barbara Munden, Mrs. Jennifer Feldman, Ms. Allison Jones, Ms. Erin Regan, and Mrs. Lesley Reardon.

Social studies teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Feldman has adopted running as a way to stay mentally and physically fit. “I exercise for both physical and mental benefits.  I like the feeling of accomplishment after I do challenging workout… It’s nice to set goals and see what I’m able to do (I hope I can do it!). Mentally, exercise is vital in reducing any feelings of stress I may have.  When I don’t exercise, I can feel the difference. Overall, it just makes me feel happy,” said Feldman.

Acknowledging that it is mentally healthy to spend time with others and to be outdoors, librarian Ms. Allison Jones calls attention to the pros of cycling in groups. “I enjoy riding because I love being outdoors and biking gives me a chance to explore pretty rural areas. I usually ride with friends or family so it is a very social activity – a rolling party!” said Jones.

Jones adds, “Being outdoors in the fresh air and bright sunlight is restoring and somehow, it’s hard to focus on worries or stress when you’re working really hard athletically.”

Ms. Erin Regan, school counselor, speaks to the benefits of exercising alone and in groups, as she’s had experience with both. “Seeing the progress is amazing, but now working out with other people has become a focus.  Training for the triathlons and half marathons was frequently a solitary activity, so this is more fun,” said Regan.

Health and Wellness teacher, Mrs. Ronde Gassman understands that exercising is always important even if you don’t always feel like doing it; the benefits outweigh the dislike of the exercise. “From experience, I can tell you, it’s definitely also a mind game. You feel better, whether you like doing it or not at the moment, you will feel better,” said Gassman.

A strong promoter of regular exercise, Health and Wellness teacher Mrs. Barbara Munden explains a few benefits of being active and also calls attention to the fact that nutrition also plays a very important role in overall health. “I exercise primarily to maintain my physical health, muscle tone, and to just feel better and stronger. I feel more energetic when I start the day with exercise. It also helps with mental health as well. Exercise also helps to maintain a healthier weight although as the saying goes, ‘Weight is lost in the kitchen and health is gained in the gym,’” said Munden.

Math teacher and someone who still participates in team sports Mrs. Lesley Reardon highlights how someone might get involved in an exercise regimen: through youth team sports. “Once I began Middle and High School, organized sports became such an integral part of my life, you had to be ready & fit before the season even started or you wouldn’t even get a chance to play. So during the summers, I would be training – running, bicycling, attending sports camps, etc.  I played three sports in high school and really only played basketball to stay in shape in between soccer & softball seasons,” said Reardon.

Reardon who suffered a treatable knee injury wasn’t able to workout for some time and speaks on the difficulty of that experience. “I never really thought about exercising as benefit, until I injured my knee 7 years ago and all of sudden I couldn’t exercise.  I just took it for granted that I could workout whenever, that it was such a stress reliever and that exercising also afforded me the opportunity to eat whatever I wanted, because my metabolism was running at a higher rate,” said Reardon.

Feldman who gets inspiration from her active brother points out the fact that healthy lifestyle choices are in a way contagious. Feldman says, “I have not been a big distance runner in the past, but I actually decided to sign up for my first 10 mile race with my brother this spring (he is inspiring- he has run 2 marathons and a few half marathons).”

Happily practicing what she preaches Munden actively sets goals and does activities similar to the students she teaches in gym class. Munden says, “In PE, we assign a Fitness Plan project for students where they have to choose 2 areas of fitness to work on improving so I am doing that also. My 2 areas I plan to improve on are flexibility (measured by a sit-and-reach test) and upper body muscular strength (as measured by # of push-ups without stopping).”

Occasionally falling into periods where she doesn’t exercise as much as she would like to, Munden accepts that it is important to get back on track. She also endorses its importance for people as they age. “Even though sometimes I get off track and stop for periods of time. When that happens, it’s hard to re-motivate but it feels so good to get back into the routine again once you recommit to it…and I very recently recommitted to exercise. It’s very important to me to all that I can to maintain my health as I get older,” said Munden.

Variance in type of exercise is key to a high level of overall fitness. Jones adds, “In addition to biking, I also try to lift weights twice a week (sometimes that’s hard to achieve but that’s my weekly goal.) I added the weights to my routine only in the last few years and I find it really helps keep me stay fit and strong enough to do other things that I enjoy, such as cross country skiing or hiking.”

Regan humorously comments on the fact that exercise can be a good way to balance out dietary choices that may not be healthiest. “I love to eat pizza, lots of pizza so it is a good balance for that.  I think that as long as I love pizza, I will continue to love working out,” said Regan.

Ultimately, the best reason to exercise is to have a better quality of life in addition to adding years it. Being able to live a long family filled life is arguably the most important thing in life, and exercise has the ability to make that happen in many cases. “In the past few years I have become more committed to exercise because I want to be healthy and have the energy to play with my kids now and in the future.  Growing up, my family was not that active, and it is something that I want my children to see as a normal part of their lives,” added Feldman.

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