During an outstanding edition of the McLean Hospital Mental Health Webinar Series, Dr. Chris Palmer provided a mini-master class on behavior change for individuals who are sedentary, which I highly recommend (watch video: 6:16-17:46).

Some takeaways

  1. If you’re deconditioned or injured, have a chat with primary care before starting a physical activity regimen. Be safe and reasonable.
  2. Love this succinct quote: “Start with something. Anything. Anything you can do. Start slow. Try to make it something you might enjoy.”
  3. For mental health benefits, it’s best to work up a sweat and breathe hard. Of course, only if it’s safe and reasonable.
  4. Start slow. Work up to where you want to be.
  5. Be social. Friends will keep you accountable.
  6. For an individual who is metabolically compromised, energy is not a matter of willpower. Resist shame and blame. Being compromised causes lower energy levels so, yeah, it will be hard to get started, but it WILL get easier.
self care isn t selfish signage
Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Why It Matters

  • Physical activity can lead to better mental health
  • A person struggling with mental health may find it more difficult to begin a physical activity regimen, so counseling patients on safe ways to begin a regimen, including the behavior change principles mentioned above (e.g. start slow, try something you enjoy, include friends, resist blame) is important for success
  • In general, all healthy and safe movement provides health benefits, but working up a sweat (when safe to do so) is optimal for achieving mental health benefits

Key Definitions to Know

Metabolic Syndrome –

Three or more of the following traits:

  1. Large waist
  2. High triglyceride level (a type of fat found in blood)
  3. Low HDL cholesterol levels (i.e. the good cholesterol)
  4. High blood pressure
  5. High blood sugar

For a more detailed definition, check out Mayo Clinic