Failure To Exercise Is Not An Option

How do I convince thee?

Let me count the ways…  Exercise improves heart and lung function, decreases resting blood pressure, decreases body fat, decreases total and LDL “bad” cholesterol, raises HDL “good” cholesterol, increases energy levels, increases tolerance to stress and depression, and controls or prevents the development of diabetes.  Even from the first day, you will feel better if you exercise.  Because you feel better, you will look better, and the world will look better to you.  With time, your body will respond by increasing muscle mass and tone and decreasing body fat.  You will be thinner, stronger, more limber and flexible, and your body will function better and be less vulnerable to orthopedic injury. You will be healthier and decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease and chronic illness.  Did I mention you will feel better?  The day will seem more sunny, your tasks will seem more manageable, you might even notice suddenly your “glass is half full.”  Tell me, where is the down side?  Before you even start with excuses, I will point out that they are just that, excuses – transparent attempts at procrastination – and I have used them all myself:  “it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s raining,” or my personal favorite:  “I don’t have time.” Well a wise man once said, “Those who think they have not the time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Those who think they have not the time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.

Myriad studies have shown the health benefits of exercise and they all sound something like this:  Scientists at universities around the country as well as at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed more than 74,000 women ages 50 through 79 for almost five years.  What they found was that women who walked briskly (or biked, swam easy laps, or danced) for just an hour and a half to 2 1/2 hours a week were 18 percent less likely to develop breast cancer during that 5-year period than women who were sedentary.  That comes to just a half hour three to five times a week.  Not too much to ask in order to reduce your risk of dying from cancer.  A quick glance at some more recent medical studies included the following titles:  Exercise reduces risk of recurrence and death in early stage colon cancer patients; exercise and stress management show physiological benefits for heart patients; a new New Year’s reason to work out:  exercise improves three measures of heart protection; exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression…and on and on it goes.

There are many, many research findings that support the role of exercise in disease prevention. What has occurred to me is that most people know this at least intuitively without quoting studies. They also know that cigarettes cause cancer, and so on.  It may just come down to making a commitment to ourselves – breaking old habits and making new choices.  I used to play a game with myself when I had trouble getting motivated to go to the gym.  I would promise myself that I only had to exercise for 15 minutes, but I had to go.  Invariably once I had begun exercising I felt better and wanted to keep going. (I only acted surprised.)  I worked through my usual routine and then gave myself a pat on the back; the feeling lasted well through the day.  For the person who’s just getting started keep this in mind:  anything that’s more than you did yesterday is good.  No, in fact, it’s great!  Getting started is always the hard part.  Enlist a friend or even a personal trainer or make an appointment with yourself that can’t be broken.  Just do it, and then tell me how you feel.

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