The Benefits of Exercise and Fitness

I never was one for exercise until recently. Like many women, I had a million excuses why I didn’t exercise. It was boring, I didn’t have enough time, and I didn’t have enough energy. I wanted a “buddy” to exercise with, it was too hot, or it was too cold. I had little kids, I’d rather be reading or writing, and I wasn’t going to look like a “fool” trying to work out in a health club – the list could go on.

Last fall, I received my motivation via e-mail. An online friend, whom I’d never met, was coming to a nearby city for a conference, and wanted to meet me. Naturally, my first thought was, “I’ve gotta lose some weight!” I started walking every day, and within two months, I had lost 15 pounds. Just from walking! Besides the obvious fact that my body looked better, I felt better, too. I had more energy and self-confidence. Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D., author of Building Self-Esteem says, “You can’t ignore your body and expect to feel good.” Aerobic exercise, whether it be hiking, swimming, cycling or in-line skating, increases the endorphins (natural mood-elevators) in your blood.

Winter set in and walking outdoors was no longer appealing. I wanted to keep up my fitness routine, so I joined a local park district’s health club (which wasn’t intimidating – everyone is busy worrying about themselves and their own workouts). During the winter months, my routine consisted of 30 minutes of working out on the treadmill, Stairmaster and/or exercise bike; and three times a week, I would work the full circuit of strength training on the Nautilus machines. Now that the weather is warming up again, I walk and jog in a local State Park for aerobic exercise, and go to the health club for the strength training. I’ve lost another five pounds, and am down almost two clothing sizes. I’ve found I have more energy and strength for everyday tasks. That’s important to me considering I work with young children, and have two of my own to keep up with!

If my testimony isn’t enough to motivate you off the couch, consider other proven facts of the benefits of exercise:

  • Boosts the immune system (according to David Nieman, D.H. Sc., Chair of the Department of Health Science; Loma Linda University in Southern California)
  • Falling asleep is easier
  • Improves the quality of sleep
  • Boosts basal metabolic rate (the rate the body burns calories while at rest)
  • Increases sexual desire and pleasure
  • Reduces risk of heart disease (the nation’s leading cause of death)
  • Reduces risk of breast cancer (per a study in the May 1997 New England Journal of Medicine, women who exercise at least four hours per week have about a 1/3 lower than usual risk)
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis, a major health problem for women over age 50
  • Reduces risk of stroke (the nation’s third leading cause of death)
  • Helps manage arthritis (moves the major joints through their full range of motion, which helps keep them pain free)
  • Prevention of lower back pain
  • Reduces risk of colon cancer
  • Reduces or improves symptoms of menopause, PMS, and diabetes
  • Helps people quit smoking (exercise helps replace the nicotine high of smoking)
  • Increases life expectancy

According to a recent Surgeon General’s report, physical inactivity is a serious, nationwide problem. Its scope poses a public health challenge for reducing the national burden of unnecessary illness and premature death. Sixty percent of adults do not achieve the recommended amount of regular physical activity and 25% are not active at all. Inactivity is also higher among women.

I no longer need external sources of motivation to keep me moving. The way I look and feel are incentive enough to keep me active for life. Won’t you join me in the quest for better health? All you have to lose are pounds and inches.