Thanks to social media in particular, at this point it really should not be breaking news to anyone that exercise is good for you. Yet, the number of people who break a sweat while exercising, let alone actually exercise, has quite a bit of room for improvement.
Although I will break down the reasons more in depth in a later blog on why people do not exercise, I am going to briefly cover a handful of excuses (aside from being lazy) right now before discussing a few reasons you could benefit a great deal from popping the magical pill of exercise regularly.
1. Time - "Ain't no body got time for that," but really... doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, moms, dads, etc., no one has time. So feel free to discontinue saying, "I don't have time." Exercise does not have to take a lot of time IF you get your heart rate elevated enough to break a sweat. If you are someone with a busy/constantly on the go schedule - make a plan and execute.
2. Naivety. Whether this be that people do not know what exactly to do or the fact that the vast majority of people do not understand you really can benefit from just 20 minutes of intense exercise daily... a lack of knowledge most definitely plays a part on why people start and give up or even worse - never try at all.
3. Lack of confidence. So many people are afraid of what others will think of them when they are first starting. "Everyone is going to see how out of shape I am." Truth is, everyone is starting over every day, while I can do more today than what I could do yesterday... there is always going to be a point where I feel "out of shape." #bringon100burpees
4. Money. While you do not need a gym membership to workout, there are certainly perks to having one including accountability and camaraderie. What I will say though, is that on average a gym membership is about $1.50/day. Oh hey, that's cool if you take the money you spend on pop and put it towards a membership you could hit two birds with one stone... stop the pop and cut down on your muffin top! :)
No matter how bona fide your reason may seem for not exercising, you are a talented person - you can come up with a solution and maybe it is just a better understanding of why/how you will benefit from doing such. Regardless, exercise just needs to become a priority, period. And once you start understanding the benefits (which I have so graciously listed a chunk of them below) you will eventually find yourself coming up with every reason to exercise as opposed to avoiding it.
The Benefits of Exercise
By exercise, I mean actually getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat. No doubt that having a job you walk at all day is going to be much healthier for you than sitting at a desk, but you STILL need high intensity exercise/resistance training to reap the benefits for your health.
Ultimately, being metabolically fit should be the goal of exercising for all ages. Metabolically fit means having lean muscle mass as opposed to large amounts of body fat as well as having your blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol all at healthy levels. When you are metabolically fit, you reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc.
Here are three categories (of many) that directly benefit from exercise:
Body Fat Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone naturally released from the pituitary gland in the body that improves lean muscle mass and decreases body fat. The best way to increase GH naturally (and decrease body fat) is through high-intensity interval training.
Although resistance training and HIIT do not burn the same high number of calories that cardio may during a workout, the caloric expenditure that occurs during the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) phase offset the difference by essentially providing your body with a greater ability to burn calories at a faster rate long after you have left the gym.
Not to mention, when you have muscle tissue, it requires the body to burn more calories while at rest, helping lower your body fat; the lower your body fat, the easier it is on your body to move, making it much easier to reach your fitness goals faster than by just doing cardio alone. Hence, all the reasons why incorporating resistance/strength training is one of the best decisions you could make!
Bones/Aging When you perform resistance training, your muscles are essentially pulling away from your bones as they contract and relax. When this happens, you are strengthening the bone structure and helping offset osteoporosis.
Resistance training not only helps to reduce body fat and strengthen bones as you age, but also improves balance and flexibility which can prevent falls and breaking bones... making resistance training ever so important as your age starts to climb.
Mind This is my favorite topic to cover, as exercise is not only important for your physical health but also your mental health and emotional well-being. Resistance training has the ability to improve your central nervous system (CNS) by generating new nerve cells in the brain, increasing neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit nerve impulses across motor synapses), and by creating new blood vessels in the brain for oxygen transport... which all improve cognition.
Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is a protein your body naturally produces to assist with having a good mood, mental clarity, and overall cognition. BDNF is not only critical for protecting your brain cells from damage, but also in strengthening and aiding in growth... helping to offset Alzheimer's disease and dementia. BDNF increases in your body with exercise!
In addition to BDNF contributing to mental health, when you exercise your CNS also releases endorphins or "happy hormones" which help reduce appetite, anxiety, stress, and levels of depression while improving self-esteem... providing you with a more clear, positive mindset.
If you are already exercising - great, just look at what all you are doing for your body! If not, start now. It will be easier tomorrow if you start today.
NEXT BLOG: My Race with Fitness
Resources: Hamer, M., Lavoie, K., & Bacon, S. (n.d.). Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy ageing: The English longitudinal study of ageing. Retrieved September 12, 2014. O'Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. (2010). Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.