Tag Archives: exercise

The ‘Miracle Drug’ for Everyone


Suppose there was a miracle drug that could boost your mood and energy, reduce your weight, prevent serious illness, and even help you sleep better. Would you take it?

Good news: The miracle drug is real. It’s called exercise.
Your body needs regular physical activity to work right and feel good. People who are active tend to have fewer health problems. But people who spend most of their time just sitting weaken their bodies. And if a sedentary lifestyle is compounded with overeating, smoking, and too much alcohol, you greatly increase your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other serious issues.

More good news: You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Something as simple as a brisk daily walk gives you physical and emotional benefits. When you head out for a walk, or any other type of moderate exercise:
• Your heart pumps more oxygen throughout your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack.
• Your body releases immune cells that find and destroy dangerous intruders (such as viruses) and defective cells (that can cause disease).
• Your brain produces more dopamine, a chemical that improves your mood and makes you feel more relaxed.

Regular exercise strengthens your heart, muscles, and bones, leading to overall better health. It also provides these other benefits:
• Increased ability to focus, as well as better memory and decision-making.
• Better moods: Increased levels of dopamine produce a greater sense of well-being, as well as reducing anxiety and worry.
• Improved sleep. Exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Sound good so far? It gets better
• Exercise helps you manage your weight or lose pounds. It causes your body to burn more calories, and the more you burn the easier it is to control your weight.
• Helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Exercise can lower your blood sugar level and make your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for type 2 diabetes, or if you already have it, exercise can help you manage it.
• Reduces your risk of some cancers. Studies show that regular physical activity can lower the risk of colon cancer 17%-30% and breast cancer risk 20%-30%.

How to get started
It doesn’t take much exercise to start boosting your health. Even small changes can help. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk down the hall to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email. Wash the car yourself. Park further away from your destination.
For most people, your goal should be to work up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, like a brisk walk. You could split that into 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
The resources below can help you get started. And if you haven’t been active for a while, it’s a good idea to consult with your health provider first.
10-Minute Workout (video)
How to Start a Walking Program
Ways to Exercise If You Hate to Work Out

Jose Zarzuela, M.D.Dr. Zarzuela is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians partner and is certified by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons for Internal Medicine and Sports Medicine. He sees patients in MPCP’s Pasadena office.

A Good Night’s Sleep in Anxious Times

By: Michael Volker, CRNP

During office visits, it’s not unusual for patients to tell me they’re experiencing stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, and it’s spoiling their sleep. This is normal, I tell them: COVID-19 messes with our lives in many ways, including our ability to sleep well.

Getting a good night’s sleep is more important than ever in these troubled times. If you’re well rested, you lower your risk of getting sick, reduce stress and depression, and generally feel better.

Here are some tips I give my patients who are having trouble sleeping. They’re designed to put your mind at ease so you can get restful, healthful sleep.

Understand what makes you anxious
Think about why your anxiety is bad at bedtime and what you can do to ease it. Do you watch TV news at night? Spend time on social media? Worry that you’re going to get the virus? All these can raise your anxiety level and increase sleeplessness. While it’s impossible to shut off all worry, it helps to avoid things that make you anxious, especially at bedtime.

Exercise during the day
Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes five or more days a week can help you relax and fall into a deep sleep. Moderate exercise could be a brisk walk where you can still carry on a conversation. Vigorous exercise, like running, is also good, but do it at least two hours before going to bed.

Limit nap time
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you do nap, limit yourself to 30 minutes and avoid napping late in the day.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Both of these can mess up your natural sleep rhythms and cause wakefulness. Stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before bed, and try not to drink caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m.

Instead, try herbal teas in the evening to relax and unwind. Popular choices include chamomile and lavender, available in many stores.

Develop a bedtime routine
Having a regular bedtime routine tells your mind and body it’s time to slow down and prepare for sleep. Tailor your routine to your own needs, but it could include:

  • Keep to a sleep schedule. A regular bedtime helps maintain your body’s internal clock.
  • Prepare your bedroom. At night, you want a dark, quiet and cool room to fall asleep. Try adjusting your thermostat to a lower temperature, changing to cotton or bamboo linens, or taking a shower/bath before bed.
  • Wash your sheets regularly. Clean linens can also help you fall asleep faster.
  • Quiet your mind. Before you go to bed, empty your worries and anxieties. For example, write down what you have to do the next day and then put it in a drawer. Or write down your anxious thoughts, then crumple the paper and throw it away to let your worries go.
  • Turn off your TV, phone and other electronics at least one hour before bed. Using devices in the bedroom leads to higher insomnia, a later wake-up time, shorter sleep duration, and greater fatigue. If you are watching TV or using your phone at night time, turn on the blue light filter or wear blue light filtering glasses.
  • Find relaxing bedtime activities. Calm your mind by reading a book, listening to soothing music, deep breathing, or meditating.

Try melatonin instead of sleeping pills
Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays a role in sleep. It is available as a supplement, which some people take to help them fall asleep. Melatonin is not habit forming. Try to avoid other night time medications, such as Tylenol PM or Advil PM. These contain diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Usually they only help you fall asleep and do not promote restful sleep, and diphenhydramine can also become habit forming.

If you wake up
If worry makes you wake up in the middle of the night, try this:

  • Don’t lie there, get out of bed.
  • Remove yourself from the bedroom or sit in a chair in the bedroom.
  • Do screen-free activities to get sleepy again.

Know when to contact your doctor
During this time of COVID-19, nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night, but if your sleeplessness continues, contact your MPCP provider. We can help you identify and treat any underlying causes that may be keeping you from a good night’s sleep.

More resources for you:
9 Resources for Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety, Healthline
9 Tips for A Good Night’s Sleep, Psych Central


Michael Volker, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received his B.S. in Nursing degree from University of Maryland Baltimore School of Nursing and his M.S. in Nursing degree from Walden University, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Volker is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. He sees patients in the Arundel Mills office.


How to Exercise in Cold Weather

By: Dawn Roelofs, CRNP

There’s no reason to stop exercising outdoors when the temperature drops. In fact, exercise in cold weather has some advantages over warmer weather:

  • There’s no heat and humidity to deal with.
  • You may be able to work out longer.
  • Winter sunlight can improve your mood and help your body make vitamin D.
  • Exercise boosts your immunity during cold and flu season.

Just follow these tips for cold-weather workouts to maintain your fitness regimen this winter.

 1. Acclimate. Understand that it will take time for you to get used to working out in the cold. When you first start exercising, your body will probably need more time to warm up to perform well. Make your workouts a little lighter at first to help your body adjust.

2. Hydrate. You still sweat in cold weather, so stay hydrated. Drink water frequently even if you don’t feel very thirsty

3. Go for layers. Dressing in layers helps you manage the combination of cold air, body heat and sweat. For your first layer, choose a moisture-wicking fabric that pulls sweat away from your skin and keeps you dry. Next, add a layer of fleece, and on top put a thin waterproof garment. If you start to perspire, you can remove a layer. Avoid cotton garments. Once cotton becomes wet with sweat or snow, the moisture is trapped and will make you feel colder. Protect your hands with a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material under a pair of heavier gloves. Consider wearing thermal socks to keep your feet warm, and a hat or headband to protect your head and ears, or even a scarf to protect your face.

4. Know the risks. Being cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below safe levels, and it can kill you. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, slurred speech, cold feet and hands, shivering and sleepiness.

Frostbite happens when cold freezes your skin. Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose and ears. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation.

If you experience any symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite, get out of the cold immediately and get medical help.

Don’t forget the sunscreen as the winter sun can burn you, especially when it reflects off ice or snow.

5. Be realistic, stay safe. There’s a point when uncomfortable weather becomes unsafe. Check the weather before your workout. If the wind chill is extreme, the temperature is well below zero or there’s ice on the ground, it may be safer to work out indoors.


Dawn Roelofs, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Drexel University. She cares for patients in MPCP’s Columbia office.

A New Prescription: Treating Disease with Exercise

The next time your doctor reaches for his prescription pad, don’t be surprised if he recommends exercise instead of medication.  A growing number of healthcare providers are encouraging patients to think of physical activity as their new medication.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that exercise affects outcomes for some serious medical conditions about equally as well as prescription drugs.  For example, exercise provided better outcomes in patients rehabilitating after a stroke, and for people with coronary heart disease and pre-diabetes, exercise and drugs had about equal outcomes.

This is not to say that patients should throw their prescriptions away. Medication is necessary for the successful treatment of many conditions. However, the study supports the idea that many patients would benefit from their doctors prescribing exercise.

In general, people who are physically active tend to live longer and are at lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And since obesity is linked to serious health problems, exercise leading to weight loss can also help reduce the risk for conditions such high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

This isn’t surprising.  Our bodies are meant to move, so incorporating exercise into our day allows them to work optimally. That includes our brains: physical activity improves sleep, mood, cognition and the ability to concentrate.

Exercise isn’t the answer to every health problem, but it can play an important role in the treatment and prevention of disease. Talk to your doctor about how a “prescription” for exercise can help you.

Exercise Rx for Better Health

The CDC recommends weekly exercise and strengthening activities for adults. This can include physical activities such as labor, yardwork and housework.  Also, you don’t have to do all of your exercise at once; you can spread your activity out during the week. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day, as long as you do at least 10 minutes at a time.

The following options will give you the activity levels you need for better health.

Option 1

150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week


Weight training/muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Option 2

75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging or running every week


Weight training/muscle-strengthening on 2 or more days a week.

WPNeverdon_HHarriett Neverdon, Family Nurse Practitioner-Certified, sees patients in MPCP’s Columbia office. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Towson University and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from University of Maryland School of Nursing. She is board certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners in Family Practice.