Healthy Habits: How exercise influences mental health

healthy-habits-yudofskyTaking care of your health is a priority and nobody knows that more than physicians and healthcare providers. It can sometimes be difficult to find ways to stay healthy, so we’ve asked members of our Baylor College of Medicine community to share what they do in their daily lives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Stuart Yudofsky, chair of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor, tells us how exercise and therapy go hand-in-hand.

Q: What is your go-to healthy breakfast?
A: Since I often swim very early in the morning, I rarely eat breakfast. When I do, it is fresh fruit, non-fat yogurt (plain), and ice tea.

Q: What is your favorite type of exercise?
A: Until I was about forty years old, I enjoyed running, biking, and playing just about all sports—especially basketball.  Around age forty, however, I began having problems with my knees and switched over to swimming for at least an hour every day. On weekends I would both swim and ride a bicycle with a group of triathletes. Over the last decade, however, because of safety and time demands, I have replaced bicycle riding with taking a brisk 4 mile walk almost every night—often with my wife, Beth.

Q: What keeps you motivated during your workout?
A: When I swim with a Masters Swim Team, the group process in sufficient motivation (i.e. being passed or otherwise humiliated by the others in my swim lane or reprimanded by the Masters’ swim coach when I ease up).  When I swim alone, I time each set.  (I swim 3,000 meters per swim, broken up into five, 600 meter sets).  That way I can measure my effort and stay motivated.  (Positive reinforcement has never worked well for me, unfortunately).

Another important (and more mature) motivation is my practice of psychiatry. Regular, vigorous exercise has been proven to have profound therapeutic for many psychiatric symptoms and disorders—including anxiety and depression. In some outcome studies exercise rivals medications. I have to be a good role model and practice what I preach.

Q: What activities do you do when you can’t fit in a full workout?
A: I try to work out every day of the year without exception or excuse. I have found that—barring an illness or injury—planning far in advance (with alternatives very early in the morning) can obviate missing my daily swim workout.

Q: What is your favorite healthful snack?
A: Fresh fruit, nuts, carrot sticks, and, especially, frozen non-fat yogurt.

Q: What hobbies do you have to help you relax?
A: Reading and writing.  Museums. Collecting American Decorative Arts. Fishing.

Q: What is your go-to Houston restaurant for a healthy meal?
A: Beth and I love the broiled salmon at Yia Yia Mary’s on San Felipe.

Q; Do you use a pedometer or Fitbit and what is your daily step goal?
A: I use the pool pace clocks for swimming and the Nike+ running app on my cell phone to time and measure the distance of my walks.

Additional Resources

For Dr. Rajani Katta healthy habits mean vegetables

Healthy Habits: Dr. Adam Kuspa shares his motivation

See how Baylor stays fit with more healthy habits from members of our community

See how Baylor promotes a culture of healthy living and wellness

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