Exercise is Medicine for Anxiety and Depression

By Kevin Vondergeest ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Employee Wellness Supervisor at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial

Hi health enthusiasts! Earlier in the year we discovered that 150 minutes of exercise a week or 30 minutes a day can act as your one cure all for managing or preventing all chronic illness such as heart disease, and some cancers. Being the closest thing to a magic pill, physical activity can also help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Both anxiety and depression are not just debilitating for those suffering, but can also be debilitating for their families as well, which ultimately affects everyone’s quality of life. It raises their risk of dying, lowers self-esteem/motivation, and can even interfere in relationships and drive us to isolation. In other words, depression makes everyday life harder. The medical cost of depression is the highest out of all chronic medical healthcare costs since many other illnesses and addictions are associated with depression. This also affects the companies we work for in terms of lost dollars at work from absenteeism (being absent), and presenteeism (being present at work but not productive); however, there is good news.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) through the Exercise Is Medicine ® (EIM) campaign even just one exercise session can lower anxiety and make you feel calmer in minutes. The effect is similar to meditation or taking medication. For depression, research shows that regular moderate and particularly vigorous physical activity improves mental well-being and other symptoms of depression. For example, active people are 45% less likely to develop symptoms of depression. The effects are similar to those seen after drug therapy. Research shows that exercise intensity of all sorts will reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, but as we know with medications there is a dose response and exercise works the same way. As you move to a more vigorous form of exercise this will give you maximal benefits. For those who are interested in learning the science behind exercise and depression, here is a short video by Dr. Rhonda Patrick who lays out the latest scientific evidence for depression and exercise https://youtu.be/1-U5OX3sbA8.

So does the type of exercise make a difference? Whether it’s aerobic or strength they have benefits for both anxiety and depression. The best choice for you, is doing whichever physical activity you enjoy most. When you first start, you may only be able to endure short bouts of exercise, so all you need to do is walk at a pace that feels like a moderate effort for you. 10 minutes of exercise 3 times is an easy way to make that 30 min a day more manageable. I would recommend doing your 10+ min of exercise after your meals to make it a part of an already established routine. The benefit of post meal activity is to reduce the blood sugar response to the meal to help further protect from the development of diabetes or pre-diabetes. As you get stronger and your endurance improves, you would want to increase the length of your sessions until you are doing 30-60 minutes of moderate activity continuously. To do this, you could add up to 5 minutes of additional moderate physical activity to your weekly routine.

For those who are more advanced and have worked through the steps above, you should consider doing 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week which can include strength training, running, intense cycling, or interval training for your maximal dosage/effect of exercise on anxiety and depression and many other medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician before starting a new exercise routine and I strongly advise seeking the advice of a certified exercise professional before starting at a higher level. This will help prevent injuries and guide you through any medical challenges you may have.

Exercise is medicine and the more consistently you take your daily dose, the less pharmaceutical medicine you may need. It will increase your likeliness to experience an uplifted quality of life with greater mental focus, energy, strength, balance, and so much more. We were made to move, be social, lean on one another, and be a community as we do life together. Grab a family member, a friend, or a neighbor to go get some vitamin D outside or go to a safe indoor environment at your local community gym such as Adventist Health Fitness and start today!

Information credited to EIM and ACSM https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/rx-for-health-series/

Trying to get healthy? Get support from your community

get help with weight loss

By Jonell Steckman, Certified Health Coach

With nearly half of Americans looking into ways to lose weight each year, an often under-utilized, yet very effective tool in the weight-loss journey is all around us: Community.

Losing weight is challenging because it requires changing both your habits and mindset. Often, when we make the decision to lose weight, we decide to do it alone. We are reluctant to share our decision with others or have others be a part of our weight loss journey. Maybe we are worried about being judged, maybe this isn’t our first try at weight loss and we don’t want others to know we are losing weight “again,” or maybe it just feels taboo to talk about weight loss with our friends and family.

Whatever the reason is, attempting to lose weight quietly and on your own may not be the best approach. Study after study shows that your weight loss journey will be most successful and long term if you have support from other people. What does that mean, and what should that support look like? Here are three ways community support can help you along your weight loss journey:

Find A Mentor

Finding a mentor can be the easiest and best first step you can take. Why reinvent the wheel for your weight loss journey? Your mentor should be someone you look up to for their own commitment to being healthy. A good mentor can coach and guide you as well as help surround you with like-minded people who are on the same journey you are.

Find A Group

A good mentor and coach can also help you find the tools to support your success. Examples of support might be an online group (such as a Facebook Group or a Meetup Group) or group meeting. These groups are a great support system, full of people who share their weight loss successes, questions, recipes and more with each other, as well as provide support for any setbacks along the way.

A community that gives support and guidance will increase your chance for success in achieving your weight loss goals. It can help keep you accountable and celebrate with you as you strive to reach your optimal weight and, sometimes even more importantly, stay at that optimal weight long term. Community is an important asset to weight loss success.

Find an Accountability Partner

Being accountable to someone can be very powerful in creating new habits and achieving goals. Your accountability partner can be a mentor, coach, friend or colleague who is also on their own weight-loss journey. Accountability partners share goals, deadlines, weight loss wins and losses. They will also hold you responsible to your commitment to your health as you make the changes necessary to overcome the obstacles and push past the challenges that make weight loss difficult.

While making the decision to get healthy is easy, putting the decision into daily practice is not so simple. Afterall, if getting healthy were as easy as a choice, most people would be healthy all of the time. It’s the daily struggle, challenges and obstacles that can stand in our way of achieving good health. Having the accountability of your peers is an excellent tool in achieving your weight loss goals.

Choose your health. Then let your community help.

7 Ways To Take Control of Your Health

By Teri Spring, Registered Dietician

You have more control over your health than you may know. Taking charge of your health will result in a better you, both physically and emotionally. Here are a few tips you can use to take control of your health:

Fluids. Are you getting enough?

A general rule of thumb is to drink 50 percent of your body weight in ounces. If you think you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. Flavor it with fruit and/or vegetable pieces in a pitcher if you don’t like plain water. Fruits and vegetables are full of water, so you get fluid credit from these foods. About 3-5 cups of produce daily provides about a quart of water (32 oz).

Sugar. Are you getting too much?

Sugar is very inflammatory to the body, leading to chronic diseases, and increases your daily calorie load, leading to weight gain. We should all make every effort to minimize or avoid sugar in our daily diets. Most of the added sugars are from sugar sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, but reading the nutrition label is the only way to know where it is and how much you’re getting. The labels will soon all have a select line for “Added Sugar” because it has become such a wide spread threat to our health.

Watch out for sodium.

Sodium remains a contributor to heart disease. The American Heart Association advises 1500-2000 mg for everyone over 50, all African Americans regardless of age, and anyone with high blood pressure. The problem is not so much with using a salt shaker as it is from processed and cured foods. Avoiding processed, salted or cured, pre-made, restaurant foods and trying to eat “clean” makes a big difference. Read food labels to see how quickly this number adds up.

Eat more fiber.

Our fiber goal is 25-35 gms daily. Fiber foods fill us up and keep waste moving out of the body. Think plant foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and legumes, pulses (such as lentils), nuts and seeds. Getting fiber from food is much better than fiber supplements, because you not only get important nutrients, but you also get a variety of types of fiber. A supplement will only have one kind of fiber, but foods have them all. If you’re not a fan of these foods, unprocessed psyllium husks (products such as Metamucil or generic versions) are your best bet to help keep your colon balanced.

Increase your potassium intake

Potassium is an important part of healthy blood pressure, heart function and fluid balance. Current guidelines call for about 4000-4500 mg daily (unless you have kidney disease. Check with your doctor if you are unsure.). The average American eats only 2000 mg of potassium daily. Good sources are fruits and vegetables.

Reach for healthy fats

Healthy fats from plants such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and oils from these foods should be part of every meal. A little goes a long way, so aim for one serving per meal (1-3 tsp of healthy oil; ¼-1/3 avocado; 8-10 olives; 10-20 nuts; or 1 tbs nut butter).

Maintain a healthy weight

Work diligently (yes, it is hard work but has big pay offs) for a healthy body weight. Reduce portion size, choose low sugar foods, lots of plant foods, and exercise daily! Move your body, work your muscles and get your heart pumping. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Start slow if you’re de-conditioned and build up. It doesn’t have to be at one time, so three, ten-minute sessions count. It can happen if you make it happen. Try not to sit for more than 30 minutes at one time. Even getting up for a few minutes helps.

In general, to help you accomplish this goal of improved health eat a variety of plant-based foods as the cornerstone of each meal and snack. Aim for 3-5 cups of produce every day. Use the USDA’s “Plate Method” of meal planning and make half your plate vegetables, ¼ whole grains and ¼ lean protein. Have a meatless meal at least once a week (the DASH and Mediterranean diet plans are still thought to be healthy plans to follow if you need a guide). Drink up before your body says, “I’m thirsty” because by then you are slightly dehydrated. Get enough sleep and avoid eating close to bed time — it may disrupt your sleep as your body processes the food.

Because I have spent my 35+ year career working mainly with folks who have diseases, I will tell you again and again that food is the most powerful medicine. Taking prescription medication is not the answer to “fixing” our health — it treats the symptoms of disease and may help us live with disease, but who wants that? Save money, improve quality of life and save your future by giving your body what it truly wants — basic foods from “nature’s wrapper,” daily exercise, and adequate sleep. Let’s raise our next generation with these principles to spare them the epidemic of lifestyle diseases that plagues this country. If you want to feel as good as you possibly can, this is a proven way to help you do that.

Making change is always a challenge, but taking one day at a time and making any movement toward healthier lifestyle habits is a step in the right direction. Just start somewhere and build on that — a little more each day, week and month. You’ll feel better in a relatively short period of time, and will be taking more control over your own health.

Looking to the Blue Zones to increase health and longevity

blue zones

By Jill Borth, R.N. Adventist Health, Lodi Memorial

Throughout my 32-year nursing career, I’ve heard many comments from people in various stages of health and illness and noticed a common theme: People who are well, often state when it’s their “time to go” they’ll be ready. Yet most seriously-ill people are willing to do just about anything to buy more time. In the end, most of us wish to live long, healthy, happy lives. How is Lodi doing in fulfilling this wish? One litmus test is the lifestyle and wellness evidence found in the book, The Blue Zones.

“The majority of the US is approaching the idea of a long, healthy life the wrong way,” according to National Geographic writer and explorer, Dan Buettner’s latest book, The Blue Zones. The book focuses on five locations around the world – Greece, Loma Linda, Sardinia, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan — with either the highest percentage of people living to 100 years or longer, or the locations with the lowest rate of mortality. In the book, researchers debunked the health myth that a person’s genes largely contribute to health, weight and longevity.

“Only 25 percent of how long you live is dictated by your genes,” Buettner said. “The other 75 percent is lifestyle and environment.”  

The Blue Zone team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists found nine lifestyle similarities in the zones that noticeably differ from our local lifestyle tendencies. These “Power 9” lifestyle factors are:

  1. Daily natural physical movement (gardening, house work, yard work, walking);
  2. Having a purpose or reason to wake up in the morning (adding up to 7 years of life);
  3. Stress-shedding routines (Okinawans remember their ancestors daily, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour);
  4. The 80 Percent Rule – stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full. People in Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat any more the rest of the day;
  5. Plant-focused diets. Beans, including soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month and serving sizes are about the size of a deck of cards;
  6. Wine at 5. Blue Zone populations (except Adventists) drink moderately (one to two glasses per day) with friends and/or with food;
  7. A sense of belonging or community. All but 5 of 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Research shows attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years to your life;
  8. Loved ones come first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby (lowering disease and mortality rates of children in the home, too); committing to a life partner (adding up to 3 years of life); and investing in their children with time and love all contribute to longevity;
  9. Surrounding yourself with the right tribe. The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious. The social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

What can you do to add years to your life and start moving Lodi closer to a “Blue Zone?”

How does Lodi compare to the Blue Zones?

Buettner worked for a decade with National Geographic to locate places that not only had high concentrations of individuals over 100 years old, but clusters of people who had grown old without health problems such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. The locations identified in his book are:

  1. The Barbagia region of Sardinia, which has the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians;
  2. Ikaria, Greece, with the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia;
  3. Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, home to the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality, and second highest concentration of male centenarians;
  4. The Seventh Day Adventists, most highly concentrated in the Loma Linda, CA, area, live 10 years longer than their North American counterparts; and
  5. Okinawa, Japan, whose female population over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

By contrast, here are the sobering facts about the state of health in Lodi:

  • San Joaquin County is the third highest county in the state for diabetes. People with diabetes have a two- to four-times greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Depending on which census tract you live in Lodi, your life expectancy ranges from 57.93 years to 80.68 years.
  • The leading causes of death in the county in 2016 were: 1) heart disease; 2) cancer; 3) stroke; 4) Alzheimer’s; 5) lung disease; 6) accidents; 7) diabetes; and 8) liver disease.

Many chronic diseases could be prevented, delayed or alleviated through simple lifestyle changes. The CDC estimates that eliminating just three risk factors — poor diet, inactivity and smoking — would prevent 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: http://www.healthylodi.com or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.

Take the Steps to a Healthy Workplace Program

By Mona Shulman, Pacific Coast Producers

Health statistics rank San Joaquin County as the third worst in the state for potential chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The Healthy Lodi Initiative is specifically asking Lodi’s employers to consider implementing employee healthy-lifestyle programs to help turn this statistic around.

Much has been written about the effectiveness of workplace wellness plans, and some of it conflicting. The Rand Corp in 2014 concluded that targeting only employees at high-risk of chronic disease reduced health care claims. On the other hand, General Motors in 2004 found that moderately active and very active employees had lower annual paid health care costs than inactive employees.

With all the conflicting information, an employer must decide what tools work best for their own workforce and budget.  Employers wanting to implement a successful workplace health initiative should follow these steps:

Wellness programs should be promoted by the company’s leadership

No matter what the result of the study, it seems clear that the decision to implement a wellness program must begin with the leadership, and that commitment must be real in order for any program to be effective. That means the company’s leaders must actively promote and encourage a culture of health at their workplace, including taking advantage of community resources and partnerships to support healthy lifestyles.

Know your employees

To be most effective, an employer must understand their employee population as a whole.  An agricultural employee will have different challenges and risks than an office employee, and the same program will not work for both.   We must understand the jobs our employees perform and how their tasks do or do not contribute to healthy habits. A program should be designed that fits the specific needs of our own workforce.

Assess your workforce

A health assessment survey is a good tool to get started in evaluating your employees’ specific needs. Employers can conduct an assessment of their company to determine where opportunities and barriers exist.  There are several assessment tools, including:

  • The Workplace Health Professionals Alliance – its Health Improvement Care assessment gives individuals an idea of how healthy their habits are.
  • The Center for Disease Control – its Workplace Health Promotion website (https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/initiatives/index.html) offers a variety of tools to assess your workplace. The CDC also has a Worksite Health Scorecard for employers to assess how they are doing on health promotion. Not only does this assessment seek to determine what employers are doing, it also offers insight into many options for employers to consider.
  • The California Department of Public Health also offers a Fit Business Kit with an assessment, and framework for putting together a program – https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DEODC/OHB/Pages/OHB.aspx.

There are barriers outside of surveys as well. Does your employee demographic include cultures that are not inclined to regularly visit their physician, if they even have one? Is language an issue? Are there providers that speak the language of the employee? Are there healthy options for cooking the type of ethnic food that the employee eats at home?  All of these are relevant factors to consider in designing your plan to make it most effective.

Decide on a workplace program format

Once an assessment is completed, and you have a better idea of your needs and tools, there are many types of programs to choose from. Here are some ideas:

  • Self-Initiated Educational Programs – The simplest for employees are educational programs that deliver health-related information. These programs rely on employee initiative to seek out or read information and maintain their own interest in the program. This works well for those who are already attuned to healthy behaviors or wanting to become healthier.
  • Community and Social Participation – A program that is designed to foster community participation, and therefore healthier feelings of belonging and connection to community, include sports-related teams, clubs, interest groups and other community activities that can be encouraged by the employer.  This not only improves social connections, but also encourages physical activities.
  • Employer-Supported Programs – Employers can also motivate healthy lifestyle improvements. In this type of program, the employer provides changes in the workplace. Some examples are providing healthy food (and removing unhealthy food); subsidizing gym memberships; creating walking trails; holding walking meetings; or offering yoga classes. More targeted programs can include preventive care, such as screenings and biometric assessments.  These programs have the advantage of detecting risk early, and helping employees manage their conditions, usually with the assistance of the employee’s health care provider. Some employers have become even more active and promote disease management programs.  Where employees have significant health problems, healthcare professionals and counselors actively monitor and manage the employees’ treatment. Often, these programs can be implemented with the employer’s health insurance company.
  • Employee Incentives – The question remains, what is it that will motivate the employee to improve their health and lifestyle?  Financial incentives can lead to improvement based on a specific target. For example, an employee could earn $100 for losing 40 pounds or walking 30 miles in 30 days. Employee incentive offers, however, may not work for a long-term change of lifestyle.  In short, the employee must decide that the change in behavior is beneficial to them.

Above all, in order to be successful, an employer should choose a program that addresses negative behaviors and lifestyle choices they’ve identified through assessments. There should be active encouragement, and no negative consequences to the employee’s participation.  Organizational leadership should express support for employees engaged in wellness activities and recognize participant’s progress toward personal goals.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: http://www.healthylodi.com or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.


With the technological advancements of our western modernization, we have moved to a chair-based society that now comes with this warning: Prolonged sitting and physical inactivity cause chronic disease and premature death. With this realization physicians and exercise professionals all over the world are taking steps to providing the right prescription for prevention — exercise.

Exercise is medicine that provides an immediate response, such as reducing blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It can also provide other benefits, such as reduced stress, improved moods, reduction of body fat, and protection from eight different cancers. So, if exercise is medicine, what is considered the proper dosage?

The most common exercise prescription is 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes a week. We all have different schedules and needs, but the good news is exercise is flexible, and anyone can get the health results they desire without letting their schedule get in the way. By splitting the recommended dose into three, ten-minute segments each day, you can easily take your medicine for lasting results.

One great way to start moving is by maximizing everyday activities, such as work breaks, chores around the house, virtual groups through devices like Fitbit, walking groups, or other activities that get you moving at a moderate intensity. In fact, most of us can agree that vacuuming can take a moderate amount of effort, and if done continuously for 10 minutes, would certainly count as exercise. Getting results requires effort, but effort can be as simple as a brisk walk. These are great ways to incorporate “informal” ways of exercising.

When designing a “formal” exercise program such as a daily walking routine, there are three key factors to consider to get the health results you want: Frequency, time and intensity. Adjusting any or all of these factors will result in improved health. Let’s go through a quick example to show the progression.

Say you started with walking for 30 minutes a day, three days a week, and want to change your routine to get better results. First, you would increase frequency by going from three days a week to five days a week. Once you’ve successfully done that, you would add more time — adding 2 – 5 minutes of exercise to each day you walk is a reasonable increase for success and will help you advance your goal.

Once you’ve increased frequency and time, all that’s left is to increase intensity. For a walking program, you can either increase your speed or, if on a treadmill, your incline. By increasing your speed, you’ll be walking a farther distance in the same amount of time. When you increase your incline on a treadmill, you’re increasing the difficulty of walking the same amount of distance for the same amount of time. Both methods will increase your heart rate and set off a hormonal cascade, which increases your metabolism for additional hours of calorie burn long after you’ve completed your walk.

Bottom line, exercise is more than a tool for weight loss and should be looked upon as the “one pill cure all” for lifelong prevention of chronic disease. The right dose for most people is as little as three, 10-minute segments most days of the week. Adventist Health Fitness and our team of exercise physiologists and trainers are here for you to prescribe a safe and effective exercise prescription. Get moving today!

By Kevin Vondergeest | Wellness Coordinator| ACSM EP -C, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial


The American Public Health Association’s Billion Steps Challenge makes it easy and fun to promote good health and physical activity in your family, neighborhood or workplace! Healthy Lodi has created a team you can join, or feel free to create your own workplace team. It’s easy and fun! To help you successfully get moving, APHA has partnered with MoveSpring to give Challenge participants free access to their fitness-tracking platform. Here’s how to join:

  • Go to: http://nphw.org/get-involved/steps-challenge and click on Get Started
  • If asked use APHA2019 as the group code. We are joining the American Public Health Association’s group.
  • Select a team, create a team or join as an individual:
  • Join your employers team. If your employer does not have a team, discuss and nominate a team captain. Choose the link “be a team captain” pictured above on the AHPA’s website and fill out the form to add your team. Your team will be approved in 24 – 48 hours. There are canned messages to send out to your team to engage your co-workers in getting started. To join as an individual, we recommend you choose team “Healthy Lodi Initiative” to represent our citywide effort.
  • Download the MoveSpring app if you have not at this point.
  • Choose sync a device if you have a device to count steps such as a Fitbit, Apple Watch, phone, etc. Some devices require you to go into MoveSpring to sync your steps occasionally. Apple Watch and Fitbit do not.
  • If you do not have a wearable device or smartphone that syncs with MoveSpring you can enter steps manually. a. Navigate to app, then profile. Select Manual Entry from device options. b. Or go to the website https://app.movespring.com/profile/settings/device. From the dashboard select the Edit icon in the top right-hand corner.

Printable instructions are here