If in your head you undertake hatha yoga as a form of exercise or body building, you will end up with just what you reached for ... a more beautiful body. On the other hand, if you undertake hatha yoga as a form of yoga then it will, in a relatively short time, bring about a profound metamorphosis in your body calmness, sensitivity, and lightness ... all of which will facilitate your sadhana. - Ram Dass
This section links to resources for exercise and for using light therapy. Exercise is an absolutely key component of what this website is primarily about - achieving improvements in our stress, health and wellbeing. Try, for example, clicking on this exercise tag to see a series of relevant blog posts. The gains from exercising more are so huge that they have major implications for government health budgets - unfit populations get sicker and cost much more to look after. It's no surprise then to find that there are many excellent, nationally developed, internet sites giving high quality exercise information.
Exercise, readiness - the vast majority of people can exercise perfectly safely, and the overall physical and psychological gains achievable are much greater than any likely costs. However, especially if one hasn't been exercising for some time, the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) is a useful brief 7 item screen available from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. They write: "If you are planning to become much more physically active than you are now, start by answering the seven questions ... If you are between the ages of 15 and 69, the PAR-Q will tell you if you should check with your doctor before you start. If you are over 69 years of age, and you are not used to being very active, check with your doctor." The short, associated, general Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination (PARmed-X) and more specific Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination for Pregnancy (PARmed-X for Pregnancy) provide helpful advice for health professionals assessing patients' exercise readiness, and the downloads may also be interesting for general readers. See too the blog post "Exercise 1: checking it's safe to start".
Exercise, how much - the Department of Health for England & Wales have published the GPPAQ, a quick screening assessment. The General Practice Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPPAQ) takes less than a minute to complete, is well researched, and has clear recommendations on its use. It classifies adults into four categories of physical activity - Inactive, Moderately Inactive, Moderately Active, and Active. You can download the full 22 page GPPAQ booklet (updated in May 2009) which contains GPPAQ details (on page 13) and also gives background information and advice about appropriate health professional response to the answers elicited by the questionnaire. See my post "UK Department of Health, resources of assessment and advice" for more on this.
Actually overlapping and, for me, even more generally useful are the 2008 "Physical activity guidelines for Americans" - see my post "US Department of Health & Human Services, resources for assessment and advice". Also the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) - the ACSM has listed a series of "position stands", academic reviews, on a variety of useful topics including "Appropriate Physical Activity Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults", "Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults" and "Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults".
We tend to underestimate the importance of resistance/strength training. It's not just for muscle-builders. Strength training seems important for improved life expectancy (over and above the effects of aerobic fitness) as well as improved function. See my blog post "The recommendation to do strengthening exericises" .
Here in Scotland, the government's Take Life On website has a good section on Being Active. Another excellent Scottish resource is the Active Scotland site which allows one to search for local exercise groups and facilities anywhere in the country. I'm also a fan of Paths to Health and the way one can search there for a local walking group. All these websites have good links to networks of other useful exercise-related resources - for example Cycling Scotland, JogScotland, the Physical Activity & Health Alliance and the more broadly geographically focused Swim4Fitness and Green Gyms.
For the UK as a whole there is a rich set of resources & links on exercise & health at the "British Heart Foundation". "Green Gyms", "British Swimming" - the even more broadly geographically focused "Swim4Fitness" - the "Bike List", the "Ramblers", and more locally to England, the "Walking for Health" initiative (with its local walk finder).
And extending further afield, the many resources include - in Europe, the "European heart network" and the "European network for the promotion of physical activity"; in Australia, the "Healthy and active Australia" campaign and the "Australian sports commission"; in Canada there's "Health Canada" and the "Canadian physical activity guides"; in the USA, "National coalition for promoting physical activity" and the "2008 physical activity guidelines"; there's the "Asia Pacific physical activity network", the researchers' "International physical activity & the environment network", and the World Health Organization's "Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health".
Pedometers - the Paths to Health site has a useful section on pedometers (little gadgets for counting the number of steps you take). See my post "Pedometers can help us walk more". Good research shows that pedometers are successful at encouraging people to exercise more and that they are one of the most cost-effective strategies for doing this.
Exercise for depression research - here's a four page article I wrote on this subject back in 2005.
Exercise, four week record sheet -
Exercise, resources for depression -
Light therapy, background information -
Light therapy, self-assessment mood scale -
Light therapy, diary form -