Exercise Helps More Than Just Your Waistline

February 14, 2012 · 1 comment

This is a guest post by Katie Brind’Amour.

It is a well-known fact that exercise is good for you. It is essential for weight loss, a trim figure, and being able to fit into a smaller jean size at the department store. And yet somehow, losing weight hasn’t always been enough motivation for me to stick to an exercise program like Insanity or P90x (or jogging, or yoga, or…anything).

I was blessed for a long time with what my family called a “miracle metabolism” – the kind with which I could eat and eat and never gain a pound. For years and years I never exercised, I ate junk food non-stop, and then, voila! The “miracle” bit of my metabolism stopped holding up its end of the bargain. I went from trim to pudgy, which was enough of a change for me to give exercise a try.

My half-hearted attempts at weight loss only lasted until I had shed the layer of fat that most concerned me, to be followed swiftly by a return to my usual bad habits. This became a regular cycle – a long-lived yo-yo – until I started realizing a theme in my research for articles I wrote for work. Exercise is good for you, regardless of your shape or size.

That, coupled with regular stories in women’s magazines that threatened heart disease, breast cancer, and premature death if I didn’t get my fat butt off the couch, was enough to make me really embrace the idea of exercising for my health – not just a swimsuit body.

Exercise Decreases Your Risk of Chronic Diseases

It is encouraging to me to learn that people who exercise regularly – even if they carry a few extra pounds around the middle – can actually be healthier than slim people who don’t move a muscle. Much of this is because exercise works your heart muscle, circulates blood to your brain, stimulates your metabolism, aids digestion, regulates blood sugar (exercise helps prevent diabetes), and encourages healthy body maintenance processes without you even thinking about it.

Reminding myself that getting on the treadmill, taking a hike or swim, going through yoga poses at home, or walking the dog is good for my overall health has been a true motivator for me. I don’t want to die from preventable problems, like plaque in my arteries, and I want to be fit enough to enjoy an active life well into retirement. For me, these ideas are what get me off the couch and into the gym – not simply imagining myself as the flat-stomach version of me in my teens.

Exercise Improves Mental Health

As if the probability of living a longer, healthier life weren’t enough, I also get motivation from knowing that exercise will give me a happier life. Research shows that people who exercise can naturally keep depression at bay just by breaking a sweat. That, coupled with the natural boost in feel-good endorphins and hormones released in the brain every time you get out of breath from a workout, makes for a sweet reason to hit the pavement.

The best part about exercise is perhaps the feeling you get afterwards – the feeling that becomes addictive, I think, to those who exercise regularly – that sense of pride, accomplishment, and dare I say it? Energy! As hard as it is to get myself to the gym to get going, I start feeling like I could run forever once I hit my rhythm. Well, I at least feel like I can run for a few more minutes, and then maybe try again the next day. But the important point is that once you get started, it’s easier to keep going because, I believe, the natural high you get from exercise is meant to keep you coming back for more.

So all in all, I have to say that looking good isn’t good enough for me – it’s not enough to make me change my ways, and it certainly has never been enough to make me stick to a demanding exercise routine for more than a few weeks. What is enough, however, is knowing that with a little less laziness and a little more sweat, I can be a healthier and happier person for a long time to come.

Just remember that what motivates you to exercise has to be something that is important to you – not necessarily to everybody else. You have to find what matters in your life and keep that idea forever present in your mind to help drive you to success in fitness and a healthy lifestyle. After all, if you want to see your grandkids graduate from college, you’d better start hopping on the treadmill right now!

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{ 1 comment }

Chad Anderson February 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I think the benefits of exercise outside the realm of weight loss is vastly undervalued. I don’t think many people understand the true value of exercising daily. For years people have questioned my wife about why she exercises when she’s already so thin. Well, it’s because there’s more to it than that. It’s good to come across articles that address this.

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