By Cat Sterrett
A friend of mine pointed out to me recently, “Nowhere is it written that I have to exercise.” I was shocked into silence for a few moments because I have:
- Lived a fitness lifestyle for 36 years
- Worked as a personal trainer for 35 years
- A master’s degree in exercise physiology
I celebrate fitness in everything I do. I was startled to realize that I “drank the Kool-Aid” so long that I no longer questioned it. So, let’s unpack the exercise dilemma for some people and look at other “truths” that may not be true.
You really don’t have to:
- Brush and floss • Get an education
- Get regular oil changes • Save for retirement
- Pay bills on time • Keep a good credit score
- Load antivirus computer software • Maintain your property
- Bathe and do laundry • Pay all your taxes
But doing all these things is a good idea. Perhaps one or more prompted you to think, “But if I don’t, all sorts of bad things happen and then I can’t do other things I want to do.”
For example, failure to your pay bills on time results in a bad credit score. This can prevent you from buying a house, a car, or getting a low-interest-rate loan. If you don’t maintain your vehicle, it will lead to engine failure or may switch you to an “all Uber” lifestyle. Dentures are ahead if you don’t follow dental hygiene.
Joy of Good Health
So, we could focus on all the awful things that happen if you “exercise your freedom” to not take proactive steps. Instead, let’s emphasize on the joy that accrues when you take positive action regarding your health.
Regular exercisers know the elation of awakening each morning after a good night’s sleep feeling energetic and hopeful for the day. They’re often pain-free, move easily, and know they’ll have enough vitality to get through even the most rigorous activities of the day.
People with strong bodies don’t have to wait for someone else to buy, haul, and use that 40-pound bag of fertilizer, garden soil, or pet food. Fit people can also book that hiking trip to Scotland or visit the ancient Greek ruins and not fret about climbing to the Acropolis in Athens.
While your tax accountant or car mechanic can provide you with a list of the benefits concerning financial and vehicle maintenance, health and fitness experts can also cite major studies proving that exercise is good for you!
I researched some of the most respected medical websites—such as the Mayo Clinic, American Medical Association, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC)—and other health authorities for the benefits of regular exercise. The results are in the following sections.
Exercise helps you:
- Reduce your risk of a heart attack
- Manage your weight
- Feel better—with more energy, sleep, and a positive mood
- Recover quicker from sickness or hospitalization
- Develop stronger muscles, bones, and joints
- Lower your:
- Blood cholesterol level
- Risk of diabetes and some cancers
- Blood pressure
- Risk of falling or developing osteoporosis
There are many studies and expert medical opinions linking exercise to helping people with depression. Sustained exercise:
- Blocks negative thoughts or distracts you from daily worries.
- Provides increased social opportunities if exercising with others.
- Lifts your mood and improves sleep patterns.
- Changes levels of chemicals in your brain (serotonin, endorphins, and stress hormones).
- Improves body image, feelings of improved self-efficacy, and independence
Exercise improves sexual satisfaction indirectly by preserving autonomic flexibility, which benefits cardiovascular health and mood. Long-lasting exercise also projects a positive body image and increases your sexual well-being.
Men who engage in a high level of physical activity report better erectile and sexual function. For women, improvements in physiological sexual arousal following acute exercise appear to be driven by increases in sympathetic nervous system activity and endocrine factors.
Several renown business publications (including Money and The Wall Street Journal) report significant savings that fit people experience. According to studies large and small, people who routinely exercise and are physically active spent less on health care than those who don’t.
The difference on health care costs often reached $2,500 or more annually. Over a lifetime, that really adds up!
Weekly Exercise Suggestions
The CDC recommends that adults age 18–64 should accomplish at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. At a minimum, this group should do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
You should do both cardiopulmonary and weight-training activities. Cardiopulmonary exercise includes:
Healthy adults 65 or older—who don’t have physical limitations—should try to be active daily, says the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. They should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as walking or cycling) weekly and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles in the legs, back, shoulders, and arms.
See Your Doctor First
It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor before starting your physical activity program, especially if:
- You’re over 45 years old
- Physical activity causes pain in your chest or breathless
- You often faint or have spells of severe dizziness
- You’re at a higher risk of heart disease or heart problems
- You’re pregnant