DR. WALLACE: I’m ready to get on an exercise routine. I’m a 17-year-old girl who could use a little more fitness and stamina — well, maybe even more than a little! After thinking about it and getting some encouragement from friends, I’ve decided to hit the road with some regular aerobic exercise. So, my question is, what do feel is better: jogging or walking briskly? My father says I should run, but at a modest pace to start with. My mother holds the opposite opinion. She is encouraging me to begin taking brisk walks with her and her lady friends who walk together about five days a week. — Ready to Hit the Road, via email

READY TO HIT THE ROAD: Most fitness consultants agree that walking briskly gives you roughly the same benefits that jogging does; it just takes a little longer. Walking also has other distinct advantages. A brisk walk burns about 300 calories per hour and builds endurance while simultaneously toning muscles — especially legs, hips and buttocks. Additionally, walking is virtually injury-free due to less impact and lower speeds.

I extol the virtues of walking. I briskly walk 2 to 3 miles or so every morning — even if I’m out of town. In fact, I find it quite enjoyable to take a brisk walk through a new area when things are relatively quiet in the morning, as that is often a great time to soak up the scenery and the unique vibe that each place offers.

I agree with the idea of joining a group, no matter which activity you ultimately settle upon. You’ll enjoy the social aspect of exercising together, and you’ll likely be much more consistent if you face the expectation of meeting regularly. Then, once you become a more seasoned and experienced aerobic walker or jogger, you’ll be happy to participate in both group events and those you opt to enjoy on your own in solitude.

DR. WALLACE: Lately, I’ve been having spells of anxiety. I know this is most likely because I’m concerned about how I’ll do in college next year. I’m a high school senior who just graduated during these surreal times of COVID-19. My routines have been interrupted, and I have a hard time falling asleep at night and have recently lost my appetite as well. I also have become very moody and irritable at times, even toward good friends and loving, valuable family members who always support me.

Is there anything I can do to get rid of these feelings? If so, please tell me, as I sure could use a new way of thinking and a new perspective on a lot of areas in my daily life. Should I see a doctor, or maybe even a psychiatrist? — Apprehensive and Grouchy, via email

APPREHENSIVE AND GROUCHY: Anxiety over a big event coming up in your life is normal for some individuals and can sometimes be beneficial, because it increases alertness and pushes you to do your very best. Many performers use their anxiety as fuel for that extra spark to succeed. But the key is to not feel helpless or controlled by it. When anxiety lingers, it is time to take action. Here are some excellent recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:

• Talk about your problem. Tell a friend or relative about your concerns. Sharing your burden will often lighten your load. Acknowledge your own personal limitations, and strive to do your personal best, not to achieve an unrealistic standard that you may have arbitrarily created.

• Do something you enjoy. A pleasant activity, whether it’s gardening, listening to music or watching a funny movie, will help to distract your mind and make you feel more relaxed.

• Get enough rest. Go to bed early. A good night’s sleep is restorative and leaves you better able to cope.

• Exercise regularly. Physical exercise can relax you and help you to get to sleep promptly in the evening when the time comes to turn in.

• Eat properly. Good nutrition may be a buffer against anxiety. Caffeine, chocolate and alcohol may worsen anxiety.

• Plan your time. A day with too much or too little to do may aggravate anxiety. Have a step-by-step plan for your day, and be flexible as you navigate the adjustments that will inevitably come about.

• Accept reality. It can help liberate you from worry.

• Get involved. Help yourself by helping others. Isolation could magnify your worries. Get involved with other people in worthwhile endeavors.

If none of these suggestions helps your anxiety, it’s time to consider discussing the situation with your doctor, who may refer you to a psychotherapist. There are many wonderful, caring professionals in this field who can be great resources for those individuals requiring more personalized attention with anxiety.

Dr. Robert Wallace will answer questions from readers in this column. Email him at rwallace@galesburg.net.

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