This article is written for those of you out there who think that exercise is a four-letter word! You have either had a bad experience which made it painful, you think that it takes too much of your time, or you just plain don’t like it. It’s exciting to me that you are reading this article to learn more about just how critical exercise is as it relates to your health and longevity. Is there anyone reading this article today who doesn’t want to live longer and at a higher quality of life? I didn’t think so, but I was just making sure that I was writing this for the proper group of people!
There is so much information out there about exercise that it can often be overwhelming. Some of it is good information, but somehow we have made it more complicated than it needs to be. I would like to begin by spending some time laying the groundwork for the importance of exercise. The benefits of exercise are detailed in the latest available research on the subject. More importantly, I want to break it down for you so that you can use this information immediately in your everyday life. What benefit is information that is left without being put to good use- it’s virtually useless isn’t it? I don’t want that to be the case for any of you reading this article.
It has been proven that you can’t get the results that will change your life without having simple things that anyone can do to improve their level of health and wellness. One of the most important of these is the benefit of exercise. I have included a short list to name just a few of the benefits of exercise. You can decide for yourself whether it is worth adding into your daily routine:
1. It increases lean body mass and lowers your body fat
2. Ligaments and tendons are thicker, larger, and stronger
3. Bone density and calcium absorption improves
4. You need a lot less air to do the same amount of work- being out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs is evidence of low aerobic power and a poor state of fitness
5. The heart becomes larger and stronger- it is provided with a greater number of blood vessels
6. It increases the amount of blood pumped with each beat which reduces how hard the heart has to work both at rest and with exercise
7. Blood vessels to the muscles increase in size, number and elasticity
8. It eliminates the needless blood vessels to fat as it is lost which decreases blood pressure
9. HDL cholesterol increases which prevents hardening of the arteries
10. Red blood cells increase which improves the oxygen carrying capacity
11. Exercise decreases the chance for a blood clot or thrombosis
12. It improves the body’s ability to use the oxygen that it is provided
13. It increases your overall blood volume
14. It improves the nerve and hormonal balance in the body, especially to the heart which conserves oxygen for the heart itself
15. It increases the mitochondria function which burns the fuel for the body more efficiently
16. It decreases body weight which decreases the “load” on the body
17. It enhances the function of the immune system and overall physiology
18. It increases muscle mass which burns more fat for fuel more efficiently
19. It slows the aging process in all of the organs and muscles of the body
20. You look better and younger and you feel better in a short time
Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve turned exercise into a four-letter word haven’t we? We have all come up with the reasons that we can’t exercise even though we know that we will not be as healthy without it. Unfortunately, we tend to create all the reasons that we cannot do something instead of just getting started. What do you call all the reasons that you can’t do something even though you really can? Excuses! Isn’t it true that we would all tend to avoid exercise if we could? It is human nature not to work any harder than we think we have to, but I am telling you that from this point on, you have to exercise or you will not live as long or with the quality of life that you deserve. What you have done up to this point is not as important as what you will start doing from now on! Where do you want to be 10-20 years from now? The choice is yours to make.
Here is a list of all the excuses that someone could use as to why they can’t exercise. They would include things like:
1. I can’t afford to belong to a gym or health club
2. I can’t find the time
3. I don’t have enough energy to exercise
4. I don’t have any equipment
5. I don’t know how to exercise properly
6. I have a pain or a problem with some part of my body
7. And many, many others
If you have heard me speak in the past, you know how much I like to use recent research to back up everything that I say. There was a study done of 25,000 men which is no small group. The only common denominator in these 25,000 men was exercising regularly. The conclusions that they were able to draw from this research project were that even if you were eating poorly and were overweight but were exercising and were physically fit, you had the same risk of dying as someone who was thin and eats well, but does not exercise and is out of shape. So when people are in shape and are more physically fit, you can be overweight but still have the ability to be healthy. Again, even the people who were overweight have the same lifespan as long as you were in shape and fit from working out. So it is not all just about eating correctly. It is more about your overall lifestyle. Now if this was not recent research from a viable source I wouldn’t believe it myself, but they proved that if you eat well, but your body is out of shape, you are actually twice as likely to die of heart disease or cancer than someone who eats poorly but is physically fit!
You must realize that things like taking care of your nerve system, your exercise program, stress management techniques are actually of greater importance than your diet and nutrition. Now don’t misunderstand. You know how strongly I feel that nutrition is a critical part of life and health, but you have got to keep it in perspective. You could be eating correctly and taking the best of nutritional supplements, but if you are leaving out exercise, and not taking care of your nerve system, it is not enough to fight off disease and degeneration. Always remember, nerves control everything.
A clinical researcher in the field of exercise physiology by the name of Ken Goodrick of Baylor University in Texas conducted a study on diabetes. The study showed that diabetes is up 39% in this country in the past 9 years. To put that in perspective, any disease process that is up 2% in a 10 year period is to be considered a national state of emergency. It should be the top priority in that country to do whatever it takes to stop and reverse this trend. Here is what they found- they noticed that this same diabetes that is up 39% in the U.S. would be virtually wiped out with just two changes:
1. Lose 30 pounds over a 5 year period by modifying their diet and
2. Getting on a consistent exercise program to include walking and lifting some weights or using resistance weight machines.
They found that diabetes could be almost eliminated if people would simply do these two things consistently. The sad thing is that these are things that we should be doing anyway! Can you imagine getting rid of all the insulin and diabetic drugs, eliminating all the problems from the side effects of medication and the complications that go along with people having to manage their blood sugar? It might even put some of the drug companies out of business which has been proven to make a country healthier by the way. The United States is 5% of the world’s population and yet we take 55% of the world’s prescription medication! If this approach to health is working, then why do we rank 37th in world health? We have bought into the deception that taking drugs as a way of life is acceptable and this is just not true. They have no ability to prevent disease. You cannot medicate your way to a better state of health.
Let’s break these principles of exercise down and keep it simple. First of all, will you ever reach a point in your life that you do not need to exercise? In other words, can you get into a certain shape or level of fitness and then simply not exercise for the rest of your life? Of course not! What happens almost immediately when you stop exercising for any reason? That’s right- you lose what you had just worked so hard to accomplish and sadly enough, it doesn’t take long. It has been estimated that within 30 days, you will lose 25% of your level of fitness and within 90 days you will lose 50% of the shape you were in! It is similar to your diet isn’t it? How quickly do you start to regain the weight that you may have lost on a diet program when you go back to eating in your old pattern? Almost immediately don’t you? You just have to accept the fact that in order to be healthy and fit you have to commit to exercising on some level for the rest of your life.
What else does that remind you of? Can you ever stop taking care of your spine and nerve system without and not lose the changes that you had been working so hard to achieve? How quickly do you suppose your spine and nerve system start to deteriorate when you stop paying proper attention to them? It is almost immediate! You can’t stay healthy with any level of exercise or diet if your nerve system is not functioning properly and your spine is deteriorating due to misalignment or thinning discs. The nerves in your body also control the effects and benefits of your exercise program. If the nerve system is not maintained throughout your lifetime, you will allow disease to develop unnecessarily and your muscles and organs to break down prematurely. You will die well ahead of schedule and that is simply wrong! You have to build your life around the importance of a healthy nerve system as well as through exercising and eating correctly if you want to live out your full God-given potential.
As we get into the specifics of exercise, you will be glad to know that there are really only two kinds of exercise that you need to include in your daily routine. They are aerobic exercise which simply means “with oxygen” and resistance exercise which tends to be anaerobic or without oxygen.
The first is aerobic exercise. This would be anything that uses oxygen and forces your heart rate up to a safe level so that it can get stronger and more efficient. You have often heard of this referred to as “cardio” exercises. Give me some examples of different kinds of aerobic exercise activities:
2. Running or jogging
3. Riding a bicycle
6. Playing any sports that keep the heart rate up consistently
I think you probably get the idea. These activities have to sustain your heart rate in a target zone based on your age and keep it there for at least 30 minutes per day, 3 times per week. If you can work it in, doing something daily is obviously the ideal, but the minimum frequency to gain the health and fitness benefits is 3 times per week.
How many of you who are reading this article today know that if you simply made up your mind on how important this was to their health and to your future, you could find 30 minutes 3 times per week to do something to get moving? We all could, couldn’t we? Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be- just do something consistently to get your body moving. One thing that has helped a lot of my patients stick with an exercise program of this type is to change it up occasionally. You can alternate between walking and riding a bicycle, or switch off between swimming and jogging. Anything that you can do to keep it interesting and not get bored is critical! How do you think the gyms make their money? They continue to sign up hundreds of people a month for a monthly fee that is automatically taken out of your checking account knowing that after 2 weeks, only 10% of those people will ever come in again. That is why they have thousands of members but the gym is rarely ever crowded. Otherwise, they would have to stop selling memberships because there would be too many people for their space to handle.