Everyone would agree that a healthy diet and exercise are the building blocks of good health. When it comes to exercise, we usually think in terms of “calories burned.” However, exercise does so much more than burn calories to help us achieve a healthy weight, prevent disease, and promote good health.
First, let’s examine the more known benefits of being physically active. Exercise is essential for building muscle and bone (lean body mass). And, these tissues increase our metabolism so we can consume many more calories from foods and maintain a healthy weight. That is a huge motivator! How many middle-aged folks claim to gain weight if they put a bite of food to their lips? Well, that is the result of loss of lean body tissue that accompanies age and decreased physical activity. The key is to get moving again, incorporate some resistance training, and gain back muscle that has been lost. Your metabolism will return!
Exercise is also vital for reducing stress, lifting mood, improving sleep, and increasing energy. Sounds like the key to improved quality of life! Exercise reduces the effects of stress by lowering cortisol and burning off some of those blood sugars which become elevated as a result of mental stress and physical inactivity. If your blood sugar control is impaired as a result of many years of this lifestyle, exercise is the quickest way to begin to reverse the damage. Exercise also raises chemicals in our blood called endorphins which improve our neurotransmitter function in our brain to reduce pain and lift our mood. It’s like a very healthy and natural shot of morphine. Who’s complaining? In addition, with all of this reduced stress and exerted energy, the physically active sleep more soundly; and finally, as exercise increases our cardiovascular capacity, our blood is more easily oxygenated and our energy levels increase as well.
Finally, I would like to address more hormonal benefits of exercise. I cannot imagine that after knowing this, anyone would not be motivated to adopt the habit! Regular exercise decreases inflammation in our bodies by lowering levels of inflammatory chemicals that our fat cells produce, and increasing levels of the hormone adiponectin which promotes fat burning. Not only, does this promote a healthy weight, but it prevents heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic inflammatory conditions. WOW! True, all of these effects are increased when exercise is combined with a healthy diet; however, rarely does anyone exercise regularly and remain unmotivated to eat healthier. I often encourage my clients to begin with exercise. The improved sleep, increased energy, and elevated mood they will experience helps to empower the dietary changes that support their goals.
And, here is another huge bonus! Exercise does not have to cost you anything but a pair of sneakers, and a few minutes of your time. Included here is a link to some terrific walking plans designed by Prevention Magazine. CRD Prevention Walking Guide Getting outside will help boost your vitamin D as well! I also often recommend You Tube for some terrific workouts you can do at home or work with very little space. My favorites are by a company called Fitness Blender, Pilates Anytime, and Yoga with Leslie Fightmaster, though many other good workouts are available.
I hope this information has increased your desire to exercise. It’s the perfect time of year to begin. Start slow and enjoy it! If you are under the care of a physician for heart disease or other health concerns, please consult with them and follow their guidelines for safety. Just a few minutes a day can help you regain your energy, your joy, your health and your life! Remember, it doesn’t have to cost anything but time; and you, my friend, are worth it!