I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend over the holidays. She’s a slender woman in her 60’s who has always been very physically active (running, biking, treadmill, etc.). But she mentioned that she is no longer motivated to exercise because she really doesn’t need to lose any weight.
I can certainly relate to losing the motivation to exercise from time to time. But as I later reflected on her comments, I made a list of reasons to exercise (OTHER THAN WEIGHT LOSS) that will be good reminders for all of us and help keep our motivation strong.
So here goes……
Aerobic Exercise (brisk walking, running, dancing, step aerobics, tennis, elliptical trainer) gets your heart pumping – which improves your cardiac fitness by strengthening the heart and lungs, reduces cancer risk, lowers your blood sugar, can help lower cholesterol, improves immune function, widens the arteries to carry away waste products, lowers the heart rate and lowers the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and stroke; plus, the increased vascular benefits also protect your brain from cognitive decline.
Resistance Exercise (weight lifting, using a stretch band, push ups, sit-ups, lunges, body squats) builds muscles. When it comes to muscles, we either use it or lose it. We’re not talking about becoming another Arnold…..you can merely use your own body weight to create the resistance needed to strengthen your muscles. The benefits include increased muscle mass (which helps prevent frailty and reduces the risk of falling), strengthens bones and improves bone density (this is a BIG benefit in my view), reduces risk of age-related sarcopenia, improves posture and decreases arthritic pain.
Flexibility Exercise (yoga, pilates, stretching) is a great way to prevent injuries and back pain, reduce muscle soreness, improve balance, increase your freedom of movement, and easily accomplish those daily tasks of reaching, bending and stooping. Stretching also increases the blood flow to the muscles.
One more exercise we shouldn’t overlook:
BRAIN exercise. Give your brain a workout with mental exercises which optimize brain connectivity, help grow new neurons and prevent memory loss. Our brains want to learn and be active! Word games, puzzles, Sudoku are all great options, as well as taking a class, learning a new language, drawing maps from memory, or joining a choir. Some experts suggest that real-world activities are better than the on-line brain training software.
OVERALL benefits: Even when we eliminate weight loss/maintenance from the list, you can see that the reasons to exercise are incredibly convincing. In addition to the above, we’re in a better mood (endorphin release), we have a boosted metabolism, a much lower risk of many diseases, we handle stress better, have more energy, sleep better and live longer! What’s not to love?
HOW OFTEN? Depending on the intensity of your workouts, the suggested time to spend exercising varies from 30 minutes a day to 180 minutes a week. I like the 180 minutes a week idea. That way I can do three one-hour sessions, or four 45-minute session. The best exercise to do……is the one you will do! So schedule it in your planner and keep it regular.
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The ‘Plan A’ Diet:
(All photos from Visual Hunt)