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I wish I had knew how important exercise was earlier in my life. Since I found a love for tennis, my whole life has improved. I play several times a week, travel to watch matches, have a whole host of tennis friends, am fitter and stronger than I have been in twenty years and I am much happier.

As a psychiatrist practicing for 20 years, the single best advice I can give is to find a sport you love and make it a regular part of your life. As a brain scientist, I know that not only am I secreting endorphins to lift my mood, I am also secreting BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates new brain cell connections so I am actually getting smarter. It makes sense when you think about our ancestors and how our brains are wired. When we were running to catch dinner, we had to remember how to get home so our brains released special chemicals to ensure we would remember our way!

If you think you don’t have time to work out, think again. You don’t have time not to work out. Gravity and the aging process are fighting you every day. Make sure you fight back as often and as hard as you can. Believe me it’s worth it!

In addition to all the benefits already mentioned, studies have shown that regular exercisers handle stress better. We know we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, so how wonderful that we can inoculate ourselves from its deleterious effects by exercising daily.

My younger daughter Gigi began rowing at age 14. The transformation in her body was amazing but what surprised me most was the change in her personality. She became calmer, happier, more confident and able to handle frustrations more maturely. (Let’s not forget that kids who work out regularly don’t have time to get into trouble!)

Find something you love and make it part of your life. Some love running, swimming, martial arts, dance, pilots, yoga, biking or hiking. If you aren’t in shape, start with walking and build up from there. Most of us are not in shape unless we have a passion. Find a passion. I go to the gym just to make sure I can continue to play tennis for years to come.

Most very successful people exercise regularly. Every recent US president has been an avid athlete making time to work out while running our country. If they aren’t too busy to make exercise a priority, how can we be?

Exercise lifts your libido, helps you make good food choices, and is the number one beauty secret to maintain your best appearance as you age. If you work out regularly, I applaud you. If you don’t, go buy a great pair of walking shoes and get out there. At first you might notice that you are tired but try to give yourself the rest you need.

Try different activities until you find something you love and can continue doing. Mix it up. And most importantly – have fun!

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Dr. Ritvo is vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She is an Associate Professor in both the Departments of Psychiatry and the Department of Dermatology at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Ritvo completed her residency training at New York Hospital Payne Whitney Clinic/ Cornell and received undergraduate and medical degrees from University of California, Los Angeles and spent time at Harvard and Tuft’s Universities.

Dr. Ritvo has written and lectured extensively in the US, and internationally on the “Science and Beauty”. She is co-author of The Beauty Prescription.

She is an expert in family therapy and is the lead author of the Concise Guide to Marriage and Family Therapy and has written the chapters as well. Dr. Ritvo makes frequent public speaking and TV appearances on local news channels and has appeared on the TODAY show and a special segment on EXTRA called “Beauty and the Brain”. She had a long running TV segment called “Real Relationship”. She is often quoted in the Miami Herald, and has also been quoted in the New York Times, New York Times magazine, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, WebMD, SELF magazine, Allure, Ladies Home Journal, O Magazine and others. Dr. Ritvo is a blogger on Dr. Ritvo maintains a psychotherapy practice at Mount Sinai Hospital on Miami Beach.

She is a mother of two daughters. Her oldest daughter has hemiparesis a form of cerebral palsy. She is a board member of United Cerebral Palsy Foundation and launched the Marissa Nestor Tennis Invitational in honor of her daughter to raise money for children with Cerebral Palsy and other developmental issues.

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