It has long been known that the benefits of exercise are many, interrelated, and compounding. Yet a recent survey has shown that almost half of Americans do nothing to keep fit.(2) So despite the vast research that shows the benefits of exercise, many people still lack motivation to make positive changes.
Is it short term thinking that can encourage apathy? Not feeling like getting off the couch or I’ll do it tomorrow or next week syndrome drowns out the cerebral knowledge that exercise decreases blood pressure and helps high cholesterol levels because blood circulation is increased. But if people were to take a few minutes while sitting in front of the TV, computer, or in the car to map out the long term consequences of their small decision not to exercise that would be enough motivation to go for a walk or swim or to play a game with the kids. The benefits of exercise on metabolism have been proven to continue long after the exercise is done.
Perhaps if people focused less on “well it’s good for me I should or I have to…” and though more about how much better they would feel and look that might be incentive. Personal trainers know that there are different reasons people go to the gym. If you are young you go to keep you body looking good whereas older people place priority on the health benefits. Both are good reasons to exercise.
You might not care about how long you live but you most certainly care about how WELL you live. Nobody wants to live life dragging their tush around. Activity increases brain cell regeneration, gives you stronger bone density, better muscular tone, and digestion, more energy, and the physical ability to enjoy more in life. Exercise has been proven to affect the expression of your genes. Even if you have a family history of certain chronic conditions it is possible to change the course of your health’s future if you get off the couch or the chair.
Inactivity can be a self perpetuating cycle: ’I don’t feel like going for a walk/run or going to the gym.” Then you feel tired and park close to the mall door, take the elevator for 5 flights of stairs. The opposite is true too: take the dog for a walk you’ll have more energy and all that activity increases the neurotransmitters with fancy names like serotonin but who cares? You know you sleep better and are more optimistic in general.
If it were called active living instead of exercise or fitness would it be less daunting and more doable?
Studies have shown that active living helps the elderly lower their risks for dementias, and falls.
Active living has been shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers, but even better can help cancer survivors live longer and recover better.
It can also help people cope with stress and prevent depression. Can pillow punching be classified as active living? Research has also shown that exercise can cause the brain to grown new neurons, especially in the area where memory and cognition are involved. Let’s get out that Scrabble game!
Even if you don’t believe that active living will make a long term difference what price would you put on feeling better every day?
An active lifestyle along with changes in diet has been proven to reverse some chronic conditions such as heart diseases. But why not go the prevention route? For example exercise has an effect on body fat, metabolism and blood sugar levels, which all play a role in whether or not a person gets diabetes.
Next article: What pulls the trigger.
(1) The Spectrum Dean Ornish MD 2007 Ballantine Books p85
(2) Medical Myths that Can Kill You Nancy Snyderman MD 2008 Crown Publishers p125
Photo courtesy of Dollar Bill.