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Health & Exercise Forum

Start the new year with a "runner's high"

Jan 2, 2017

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumHAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR 2017!


The number one New Year’s Resolution in the United States is to lose weight. A close second is to gain control over one’s life. One of the best ways to lose weight is thought diet and exercise. It can also be a very effective method to begin taking control of one’s life. This is especially true for those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. This year make your New Year’s Resolution to “Get a Runner’s High on Life!”

Specifically, aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, elliptical & stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to “runner’s high.” This exercise euphoria is not limited to runners alone, but all who engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience high energy, positive attitude, and mental wellness – not to mention burn calories.

Physical activity, specifically aerobic exercise, while well known for its importance to one’s physical well being has also been scientifically proven valuable for preventing and easing stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have found improvement in mental health for groups that engaged in aerobic running, jogging or walking programs, 30-45 minutes 3-5 days per week for 10-12 weeks when compared to a control group and a group in counseling.


  • Loss or Maintained Body Weight
  • Reduces LDL /Raises HDL Cholesterol
  • Improves Circulation and Blood Pressure
  • Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
  • Prevents Bone Loss
  • Reduces Stress/Muscle Tension
  • Lowers Risk of Depression
  • Improves Sleep Pattern
  • Improves Strength and Flexibility
  • Improves Balance/Reduces Risk of Falls
  • Improves Immune System
  • Improves Pain Threshold


  • Helps a person gain control over their lives
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Diverts attention away from worry, concern or guilt
  • Improves mood – with visible signs of improvement in physique & body weight
  • Increases sense of pleasure and satisfaction
  • Anger management – release pent-up frustration, anger and hostility
  • Increase in brain serotonin (natural mood elevator chemical in brain)
  • Increase in beta-endorphins (natural mood, stress & pain control chemical in brain)
  • Improvement in natural sleep patterns



  • Consult your primary care physician. Be sure that your symptoms are not related to other health problems. Also, if you are using antidepressant or other medications discuss the impact it may have on your exercise program with your physician.
  • Recognize and fight stress, anxiety and depression symptoms that are contrary to or prohibit physical activity such as: fatigue, lack of energy, slow motor skills. Work hard to recognize and overcome these symptoms to begin an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.
  • Be realistic. Expect that aerobic exercise will take time to have a noticeable benefit. Do not get overly ambitious and set yourself up for failure.
  • Begin with an aerobic exercise program that is practical and destined to succeed. For example: inactive and deconditioned people should begin walking 5 minutes per day, 3-5 days per week for 1 week. Then, add 3-5 minutes each week until you attain 30-45 minutes per walk 3-5 times per week. Younger and fitter people can begin to walk for 15 minutes and continue until they attain 45-60 minutes per walk, 3-5 times per week. Remember, what seems impossible today will be easier and routine in 3-4 weeks so JUST DO IT !
  • Find a pleasurable environment: a beautiful park (Nay Aug), a scenic lake (Lake Scranton), quiet countryside (rural farmlands of Dalton). Use a mall in inclement weather.
  • Find a friendly, uplifting group or individual to walk, talk and exercise with. This may be more appropriate for people feeling isolated or withdrawn. Others may enjoy the peace and quiet of exercising and meditating alone.
  • Be specific and compliant! Make a serious commitment. Keep a journal or exercise log. Mark a calendar. 30-45 minutes, 3-5 days per week – NO EXCUSES! Get and exercise buddy you can count on and help keep you compliant!
  • Make it fun! Mix it up. Walk 3 days, swim or bike 1-2 days, some days alone, some days with a buddy.
  • BE RELIGIOUS! Be religious about exercise BUT don’t get too compulsive!

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (formerly The Commonwealth Medical College).