How and Why to Get Moving - and an Introduction

 In my post titled How My journey Began - Part 1, I mentioned a number of outstanding CAM specialists that I had the good fortune to consult with about treatment, nutrition, supplements and lifestyle changes necessary for good health and healing.

One of those practitioners is Dr. Moshe Frenkel, who is the founder and  director of Integrative Oncology Consultants.

He is a clinical Associate Professor at the University of Texas and board-certified family physician with extensive experience in complementary and integrative medicine. In addition, he serves as the Chair of the Clinical Practice Committee of the Society of Integrative Oncology and is faculty of the Center for Mind Body Medicine.

Prior to directing Integrative Oncology Consultants, Dr. Frenkel was the medical

Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas. Dr. Frenkel founded the first Integrative Medicine clinic in this center.

My phone consultation with him was preceded by filling out a form that gave him insight into my feelings, my goals, my fears and my current state of health. In other words, he was going to speak to me as a whole person, not as an illness. That fact alone raised my faith in the relevance of our dialogue.

Dr. Frenkel's clinic is overseas, but he still does phone consults.  If you know anyone facing treatment for cancer, please consider leading them to his website.  There are instructions to initiating a consultation there.  He was kind, thorough and generous with his time.
Feel free to mention that I, Hoda, referred you.
The following advice if directly from Dr. Frenkel's website.  I can't encourage you enough to get moving.  God knows I struggle with getting out of the house, but am thankful I did every single time I finish my 25 - 30 minute walk.

People touched by cancer or a chronic illness are often advised by their doctor to avoid physical activity and rest as much as possible. But for cancer patients and survivors, regular moderate exercise can be a key in improving their quality of life. Recent research shows that exercise can benefit survivors throughout the cancer continuum.

It is important for a person with cancer to remain as physically active as possible. Not enough movement can result in loss of strength, function, and range of motion of the body. Exercise will help keep muscles functioning as well as improving energy levels and quality of life.

Exercise can also help during recovery from chemotherapy. While it may not be the first thing you want to do after chemo, research has shown that exercise helps battle cancer related fatigue.

The Dance

Use the following tips to help you get started and keep you going.

  • Choose an exercise you enjoy.It’s easier to stick with a program if you enjoy it. Enjoy the outdoors? Start walking in parks around your neighborhood. Like to dance? Register for a ballroom dance class that gets you moving several times a week. Even if you can’t imagine yourself enjoying the exercise itself, do the exercise that has other rewarding attributes. For example, work out with friends so you can enjoy the social aspects of exercise.

    Girls Swimming Underwater 5
  • Start slow. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most (5 or more) days of the week. Moderate intensity is the intensity of a brisk walk. Your heart rate is elevated and you’re breathing faster than usual, but you’re not working so hard that you get worn out after a few minutes. When doing moderate intensity exercise you should be able to talk, but not sing.
Don’t begin by exercising for 30 minutes all at once. Start with shorter exercise sessions and work up to longer sessions gradually. You start with sessions as brief as 5 minutes. As you get stronger and develop the exercise habit, 5 minutes can easily become 10 minutes, then 15, and so on.
  • Break it up. If you feel like you don’t have time or energy for your full exercise session, divide it into shorter bouts. Three 10-minute exercise sessions are just as beneficial as one 30-minute session, and may be easier to fit into your schedule. Once you start though you may surprise yourself and want to continue going
Sawbo weekend 2
  • Set short term, specific, and realistic goals. Remember that it takes many steps to get to the top of the mountain, and everybody has to do it one step at a time. Set realistic short-term goals for yourself, like exercising for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday this week. You can use these short-term goals to build up to longer term goals.
  • Monitor your activity. Many people find that it helps them to monitor their progress in writing. This can be as simple as keeping track of the days you exercise on a calendar posted on your refrigerator, or creating a graph of the amount of time you exercise each week so you can view your progress.
  • Don’t forget to reward yourself!  But lay off that ice cream as your reward. (Unless it's my recipe for Ashta Ice Cream!) As we listed exercise has numerous benefits, but many of them are longer term so they don’t reinforce behavior change right away. Identify some rewards you can give yourself when you accomplish your goals.
It’s probably easy to think of things to buy as a reward – you could put off buying that new CD, book, or new exercise outfit until you achieve your exercise goal. But your rewards don’t have to cost money. For example, you could reward yourself by taking time to call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or setting aside time to do an activity that you enjoy.
  • Don’t give up if you miss one or two session. Starting an exercise program, or increasing the amount of exercise you do, is an important step in developing a healthier lifestyle. However, making a lasting change in your life isn’t easy. Some weeks you will make your goals; others you might fall short. It is important to be persistent; if you don’t make your exercise goal, don’t se e that as a sign that you are not an "exerciser."

Examine your goals to make sure the

Running morning

y are realistic, then make a plan for the next week. Whether you want to do a 5-minute walk or a fifty-minute walk, one of the most important habits you can acquire is planning when this walk will occur.

How much should I exercise?

The more intense an exercise, the shorter amount of time you need to exercise to get the same benefits. Similarly, you can do a lower intensity exercise for a longer amount of time to get the same benefits.

The table below lists some common exercises, their intensity level, and how many minutes per week you would need to engage in that activity for good health. If an activity is not listed, the average amount of time to spend Marathon Rotterdam 3on a moderate intensity activity is 150 minutes per week.

Activity Intensity (how hard) Duration (how long per week)
Walking About 3.5 mph 150 minutes
Jogging Light (about 5 mph) 90 minutes
Swimming General (not lap swimming) 90 minutes
Dancing Ball room 180 minutes
Dancing Fast, modern 110 minutes
Aerobics Low impact 110 minutes
Water aerobics Regular 135 minutes
Stationary cycling Light effort 180 minutes
Cycling Outdoors (about 10-11 mph) 90 minutes
Tennis Regular doubles 80 minutes

Exercise: Repair the Effects of Stress

Exercise can be a 4 letter word for some people. Sometimes I just can't get moving.

A sure way to unplug that brain-cork of mine... is to TURN ON THE MUSIC!  I love to dance, rock, belly dancing, swing, you name it.  A tune with a good beat gets me out of a chair in seconds.

In the Middle East children are encouraged to get up and belly dance to entertain the family.  Hand clapping accompanied my Uncle Yusef playing his Oud and singing, or the radio.
Belly dancing is fun, it touches every muscle group, and is a real workout. It is sensual, so it will elevate your mood too.  (You can look up a few how-to's on YouTube to kick things off.)

If you get into it, you might even put together a belly dance outfit!  I purchased a purple coin embellished scarf to tie around my waist.

In an earlier post I discussed the importance of getting outdoors and allowing Nature to help take care of your stress.  Walking is another way to get your exercise.  A moderately paced walk for 30 minutes a day will do the trick. You can go alone, or invite a neighbor or friend.

I'm not big on joining classes, I seem to drop out after a few sessions. I would rather have a walking buddy to chat with.  But whatever motivates you to get that body shakin' is great.

Below are excerpts from an article on this topic.

Exercise: Improve Your Mood and Repair the Effects of Stress - By Karyn Hall, PhD

Emotionally sensitive people are often advised to exercise to calm their anxiety or to help overcome depression. Grandmothers, psychiatrists, friends and even strangers often suggest, “Exercise. You’ll feel better.”

In our recent survey, 71.4% of the emotionally sensitive have found exercise helpful in managing their mood. Turns out the research, as reported by John Ratey, MD in his book Spark, shows exercise has a strong effect on mood as well as other important functions of the brain.

Exercise is effective in treating anxiety and panic.  Getting active provides a distraction, reduces muscle tension, builds brain resources (increases and balances serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all important neurotransmitters involved in mood), improves resilience by showing you that you can be effective in controlling anxiety, and breaks the feeling of being trapped and immobilized.

The effects can be equal or even better than medication. The problem is that when people are upset or depressed, they don’t want to exercise.

Establishing a regular exercise program, one that you could maintain when your mood was unpleasant, may be part of the answer. Continuing a routine when you are emotionally dysregulated is easier than starting a new activity.  Regular exercise would also help prevent relapse.

Exercise improves the ability to learn. When you are working on learning new coping skills, new ways of responding, the ability to take in information is obviously important. Dr. Ratey describes an American high school whose students participated in a physical fitness program. They finished first in the world on science and sixth on an international test to compare science and math abilities.  As a whole, US students ranked 18th in science and 19th in math.

Studies have shown that better fitness means improved attention and improved ability to adjust their cognitive performance following a mistake.

How does that happen? Exercise reportedly spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus. Perhaps most importantly, exercise is believed to increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), the master molecule of the learning process. Low levels of BDNF are associated with depression.

Exercise increases cognitive flexibility. Ratey defines cognitive flexibility as being able to shift your thinking and to be creative. Cognitive flexibility would be to apply new strategies to solve problems and use information in creative ways rather than rote memorization of facts. Memorizing coping skills may will not be as helpful as being able to able the information in different situations.

Exercise helps relieve and repair the effects of stress on the body. When stressed, the body releases cortisol. Ratey notes that high levels of cortisol make it difficult for the prefrontal cortex to direct the hippocampus to compare memories, like to determine that a stick is not a snake. Thus when cortisol is high it’s difficult to decide what is a threat and what isn’t a threat, so just about everything seems scary. You can’t think clearly.

In addition, high levels of cortisol kill neurons in the hippocampus (where memories are stored), causing a communication breakdown. This result could partially explain why people get locked into negative thoughts–the hippocampus keeps recycling a negative memory.

Exercise helps prevent the damaging effects of stress and can reverse damage that has been done.  All with very few side effects.


Ratey, J.( 2008).  Spark. New York:  Little, Brown and Company.

Let Nature be Your Therapist

It was a little more than a handful of years ago that we were talking to our plants...playing music for them...encouraging them to grow. Studies back then showed that plants responded to human voice and music, that happy plants produced abundantly. What that study didn't include was the benefit to us from interacting with and being around those happy plants. Simple little flowers peeking out of a vase lift the energy of the space they're in and coax a smile out of us. Indoor plants like Philodendron, Peace lilies and Spider plants clean the air of chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene.

It is only in the past 10 years that I have been able to grow orchids and violets, and have them bloom year after year.  I love them and they know it.  I compliment them on their beauty and I dust off their leaves so they can breathe properly.  Every once in a while, I will change the tablecloth they are sitting changing the sheets!

In my modest garden I have a wonderful patch of mint that is now thriving after the rain.  It's fragrance surrounds us as we come in or leave the house.

They offer me visual and olfactory pleasure as I crouch down to pull the weeds that try to quietly infiltrate their camp.  I notice that I breathe more deeply and feel calmer as I wander from area to area, watering...picking fruit...admiring the blossoms...listening to the birds... and watching squirrels chase the ever elusive things they chase!

The dogwood is beginning to show off its creamy yellow buds with the promise that we'll find it is an exquisite addition to our yard.

It takes an act of Will to get us out of the house sometimes.  But we can't but be happy one we make it outdoors.  Train yourself to notice the little things on your walk or drive.

Our family home was surrounded by very tall pine trees. Mom said they had healing energy.  I think many old trees do.  After chemo one day, I wanted to be in a forest setting, so my boyfriend and I drove to a grove of tall trees, that included Redwoods, in the Berkeley hills and took a short walk.  It helped me relax, connect and feel 'larger' than what I was going through.

I think that is a key... to have some way to remind yourself that you are 'larger' than anything you experience.  When we identify ourselves with pain or hardship, we limit our ability to rise above it...letting it define who we are in that moment.

Allowing the grandeur of creation to remind us that this 'condition' is temporary and 'small' in the scheme of things is helpful.  Even if your energy is low, try to get outdoors, weather permitting.  A drive to a park or through hills will work if you can't take a walk.

I was born under the sign of Pisces, and love being around water. If you are lucky to live close to or within driving distance of a lake or river, pack a light snack, a blanket, and go!

We pay therapists to help relieve stress in our lives, when the most competent, compassionate and unerring therapist is just outside our door. The cost? Our willingness to join it.

~ Be Well.

The Gifts of a Neighborhood Walk

Yesterday was a balmy 88º so I had to wait until after 7:00pm to take my walk.  Armed with my iphone which I use as an ipod while walking, off I went. I am fortunate to live in a quiet, lush area of this suburban city of ours. I have 5 large trees on my property... two are the rather messy but wonderfully shade-giving mulberry trees, and one is a pine that is over 20' feet tall.

Our home is on a corner lot, so we've planted flowering shrubs against the house...camellias, azaleas, baby's breath, and Hydrangea that are a gorgeous purple blue.



Here are the gems I am treated to as I take my the seasons change, so do some of the sights of course...on this warm day and after a heavy rain last week, nature was basking and blooming and boasting!

Tiny white, yellow, purple and pink ground cover flowers poked their heads out of the greenery along the street, beckoning to bees and color-loving creatures...I discovered I was one of them.



Some of the yards sported amusing mailboxes.  Here two of them...









This is one of my favorite front yards.. it's full of whimsical sculptures and this wonderful water pump and tub.

Makes me want to replace the grass that covers our yard and get busy with rock creations and stuff from a flea market sale!


Tiny bushes huddled together, commenting on the passersby, command ones respect like flat, green, you-can-step-all-over me grass never can.






And then I came upon this striking orange puff of flowers...actually there were about 10 of them hugging posts that outlined a corner lot.


I am partial to white flowers, and this tree charmed me...bending branches to allow us shorter creations to better admire its loveliness.








I can't remember the name of this powder puff flower! ?

Talk about show-offs! Red leaves, green leaves and a sprinkling of white frost... doesn't this look like Christmas in April?  Luscious!


And of course what garden is complete with roses?










Well it's almost the end of my walk.  I didn't see the orange tabby that usually comes running to me as I pass her house, and walks part way down her street with me.




Maybe we'll meet tomorrow.


Giving our attention to the abundant attractions that the Universe has laid out for our pleasure and enchantment is a meditation. What an easy way to lift our spirits and rejuvenate our connection with Mother Earth.


~ Namaste!