The Georgia Straight - - Contents - Char­lie Smith

If you google the word ex­er­cise along with men­tal health, more than a mil­lion links be­come avail­able.

That’s be­cause there’s a tremen­dous amount of re­search show­ing how work­ing out, run­ning, and even danc­ing can en­hance peo­ple’s well-be­ing and help ward off de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

“While struc­tured group pro­grams can be ef­fec­tive for in­di­vid­u­als with se­ri­ous men­tal ill­ness, life­style changes that fo­cus on the ac­cu­mu­la­tion and in­crease of mod­er­atein­ten­sity ac­tiv­ity through­out the day may be the most ap­pro­pri­ate for most pa­tients,” sev­eral re­searchers wrote in a 2006 pa­per pub­lished in the Pri­mary Care Com­pan­ion to the Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Psy­chi­a­try. “In­ter­est­ingly, ad­her­ence to phys­i­cal-ac­tiv­ity in­ter­ven­tions in psy­chi­atric pa­tients ap­pears to be com­pa­ra­ble to that in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.”

But newer re­search only con­firms what one Van­cou­ver fit­ness pi­o­neer, Ron Zalko, has un­der­stood for al­most four decades in the in­dus­try. The owner of Kit­si­lano’s Ron Zalko Fit­ness & Yoga spoke to the Straight in his of­fice just af­ter fin­ish­ing a 40-minute work­out.

“I do up­per-body weights for strength,” he said. “Also, I do core, and I do 25 min­utes of car­dio. I’m very happy with it.”

He ex­plained that as a younger man train­ing for triathlons or marathons, he would ex­er­cise for four hours a day. Nowa­days he prefers shorter ses­sions to keep his mind and body in shape. It helps re­duce any anx­i­ety, which has been linked to in­som­nia.

“If you don’t sleep well, it cre­ates other prob­lems,” he noted. “You gain weight be­cause your body thinks you are un­der at­tack. You start pro­duc­ing more fat.”

He rec­og­nizes that de­pres­sion can sap mo­ti­va­tion, and this re­duced mo­ti­va­tion causes some peo­ple to avoid ex­er­cise.

His ad­vice is to start with “baby steps”—maybe a fiveminute walk around the block, build­ing up to longer pe­ri­ods of ex­er­cise in the fu­ture. And he rec­om­mended that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ev­ery­day stresses from work and other chal­lenges eat prop­erly.

“Those who take my ad­vice tell me it has helped them im­mensely, as we live in a very stress­ful time as tech­nol­ogy ad­vances,” he said. “Keep away from your smart­phone and your com­puter and start think­ing about your­self—and start to ex­er­cise!”

He even sug­gested that work­ing out can as­sist those hop­ing to re­turn to the work­force.

“If you start get­ting in shape, you’ll find a job,” Zalko said. “You start look­ing af­ter your­self and you’ll find a job be­cause you’re go­ing to change. You start think­ing more pos­i­tively.”

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