We have all heard it…exercise is important. When we go to the doctor, they tell us to exercise and watch what we eat. Commercials sell us the latest exercise equipment and gyms offer memberships at the start of every new year. Every one knows there is value in exercise, but we aren’t often told exactly what that value is or how much and what kind of exercise is needed to gain that value.
As I am getting older, I am finding the value of exercise and wish I had done so sooner. At my mature age, I am not going to be running a 5k or doing high impact aerobics. Not because of my age, mind you! There are plenty of in shape people who are doing those things and are older than I am. I won’t be doing those things because a.) I have no interest and b.)I already have damage in my body that limits what I can do. Not severe damage, but damage due to lack of use throughout my younger days. As with many things in life, “If I knew then what I know now,” becomes a mantra I feel myself saying too often.
What I am getting at is as a young adult, you should be stretching, exercising, and preparing your body for later when it gets harder to do those things. For years, I thought I had knee damage, it hurt if I moved too fast, ran, or really did much of anything. I had xrays and checkups with no damage found. Once I started getting more into stretching and yoga, I realized I had really tight hamstring muscles, which cause my knee pain when moving. I was able to alleviate that pain by stretching every day. Had I known the importance of stretching earlier in life, maybe I would have saved myself the pain and discomfort all those years.
We all have heard that we need 30 minutes of cardio 3-5 days a week, with our heart rate being a certain amount. This advice is great to keep your heart healthy and strong. If you are able to manage this, actually enjoy it, and are motivated, good for you!! I absolutely hate cardio, but will do it if I am doing strength training with weights, which is what I would prefer. All exercise is good exercise. The benefits are quite numerous. The real value, I believe, is in the long term.
- Creating good habits, such as exercising, makes us stick to the habit longer, makes it easier for us to accomplish our goals, and makes us more confident. When we know we are crushing it with our habits, we feel like we can do anything. After exercising, we usually tend to make better health and food choices throughout the day, especially once we start seeing changes, which in turn leads to more energy.
- Exercise can help us mentally. It can stabilize our moods, increase our endorphins, stimulate brain cell growth, and can raise serotonin levels. When we are feeling down about ourselves or our world, exercising can naturally help us feel better and more confident and put us in a space where we have more control. It can also be a way to find some “alone” time away from kids and family when things get crazy at home.
- Physically, of course, we benefit greatly from exercise. Many of us exercise solely because we think we will look like someone else if we try hard enough. This is unrealistic and can cause us to feel like we fail if we compare ourselves to someone else. But if we start to realize that we are the best shape that our bodies are meant to be in, no matter what shape that is, and embrace it, we start to feel stronger. Our culture tends to sit a lot and be stuck indoors often, so exercise can help us prevent or improve things like “tech neck” (from looking down too long at devices), improve our posture, and help alleviate stiffness in our joints and muscles.
- As we age, our bodies go through a lot of changes that we cannot stop, no matter what anti-aging potions and magic we try! Exercise can help us keep our muscle tone as we age, preventing wrinkles and sagginess. It can help us not get hunched over and “shrink” as some older people do, and it can prevent many diseases, especially if you start early enough. Not only does it help prevent diseases such as heart disease, high cholesterol, and certain types of diabetes, but it can help prevent Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis! These are all diseases we don’t typically worry about at a young age, but honestly, you don’t want to wait until it is too late. Some diseases can only be treated for the symptoms and not cured later on.
The value of exercise goes way beyond looking fit, losing weight, and getting strong. There are plenty of fitness experts out there to tell you what exercises you should do and what is right for you and your preferences, I am not here for that. I do want to encourage you, though, to find the right exercise for you, create the habit of doing some form of exercise every day, when possible, and realize the true value of exercise. Ever since I started thinking more about the aging process, and in the current political climate and pandemic lifestyle, I have carved out time for myself, just 15 minutes when I first started, to exercise and allow myself time to mentally be present and physically let go. I am no longer stiff and sore every morning, I feel leaner and stronger, and I feel like I can mentally handle a lot of the challenging stuff in our world today. I tend to eat better throughout the day and have more energy.
I hope you start to explore all the ways exercise can help you if you aren’t already doing some form of exercise. Even if you are doing exercise and not finding joy in it, maybe you can change your mindset to think of the value of exercise instead of the chore of it. Comment down below and let me know what value you get out of exercise, what exercise type you do, or if you are struggling with finding the motivation get started. Follow me on social media!