There are many benefits to regular exercise. With the rising levels of obesity and heart disease in North America, the need to exercise regularly is even greater. Not only is exercise good for your overall level of health, but exercise can increase your energy levels and reduce stress to help make you more effective. Of those who don’t exercise, many say it is because they are too busy. This is represented so well in the story of the lumberjack.
The lumberjack goes out on his first day and saws down twenty trees, before retiring for the night. On the second day of sawing the lumberjack only manages to saw down nineteen trees before nightfall, but to keep up his daily quota he works an extra hour to saw the twentieth tree. On the third day, the lumberjack can only saw down eighteen trees and as a result, he once again stays later into the night to finish the job.
This continues for an entire week, until an old friend stops to see the lumberjack. The lumberjack hastily tells the man his predicament while he continues to saw. Upon hearing this the friend asks the lumberjack why he doesn’t stop to sharpen his saw? In response, the lumberjack tells him he is far too busy sawing to do that!
Unfortunately, I think exercise has really earned a bad reputation. Most people associate it with using a lot of effort and time for something that isn’t really enjoyable. These people then classify exercise into the long list of things that you “should” do. As a result, exercise becomes incredibly infrequent and is only done “when I have the time”.
Instead, we need to make exercise not something we should do but something that we want and need to do every day. I personally made this change in myself a few months ago when I changed a habit to exercise for an hour every day. I wanted to ensure that exercise was going to be something that was part of my daily routine, rather than something I did haphazardly.
Here are some of the benefits of making exercise a part of your daily routine:
This one is pretty clear. Exercise is linked to the prevention of many diseases and is a critical component in your overall level of health. Diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease all have links to exercise. Even if your body isn’t showing the symptoms of these disorders yet, you will pay for it in the years ahead if you don’t stay active.
Exercise gives you energy. Some people say that they are “too tired” to exercise after a hard day. That’s a bit like saying you’re too hungry to eat. Unless your job is physically grueling (i.e. not just mentally taxing and stressful) exercise is one of the best ways to get a burst of energy. Whenever I’m feeling tired, exercising for an hour leaves me full of energy afterwards.
We all have bad days. Once again, a common excuse for not exercising is that you “had a bad day”. Exercise releases endorphins into the brain which actually reduce stress and create the feeling of happiness. Furthermore, exercise won’t leave you feeling guilty as you might from polishing off a box of Oreo’s. In the end, exercise will give you a longer lasting and ultimately more constructive form of stress relief.
Exercising doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Exercising is way more fun when you do it with other people. Join a community sports team or participate in a group activity. Even if you’re just going to the gym, bring along a friend to do the workout together. Having a partner can keep you motivated and encouraged to keep going and it can make exercising more fun.
These are just a few of the benefits of exercising. Along with these benefits you also improve your strength and endurance and increase your level of confidence. With all of the benefits of exercise, why don’t more people exercise regularly. Here are some of the excuses I think people have for not exercising:
I Don’t Have the Time
I’m confused here. How can you have too little time? I was pretty sure everyone got 24 hours each day. What you really mean is that it isn’t important enough to you. Seeing as you’ve just read my list of the benefits of exercise and you understand its importance, clearly that isn’t the case. Don’t tell me you don’t have time and don’t tell me you’re too busy. If it is important to you, then make time.
Perhaps what you really mean when you say this is that you have made too many commitments to other people that have used up all of your time. In that case you might just have to learn to start saying no to people. A few disappointed people are well worth your long-term health and energy levels.
Exercise is Boring
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. There are many ways you can make exercise lots of fun. Just because it is good for you doesn’t mean it has to be boring or painful! Some of the things you can do to make exercise more fun:
- Variety - Try out lots of different ways to exercise. Chances are you’ll find some that you like more than others. Maybe you just haven’t found the particular form of exercise you like?
- Listen to Music – With the size of mp3 players and iPod’s nowadays, you can listen to a lot of music doing virtually anything. I like to listen to fast music when I am running. I find music often helps me push harder during my workout.
- Grab a Friend - Go with a friend to the gym. Get them to do the same workout you are going to do. This way you can have someone to talk to in between sets and you can help motivate each other.
- Make it a Game - Sports and other physically involving games often don’t feel like exercise at all. By making exercise a game you can greatly increase the chances you’ll stick with it.
I Don’t Exercise
Some people simply don’t exercise because it isn’t a habit for them. I’ve outlined a lot of benefits for exercise and even gone over ways you can overcome some of its potential deficits. But this doesn’t matter if exercise isn’t a part of your lifestyle. If you don’t regularly exercise now, doing one or two workouts likely won’t make you addicted to it.
Exercise yields amazing long-term and even short-term benefits, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Using a process similar to the one I outlined here for how to change a habit can make that adjustment a lot easier. Likely the first month or so of your exercise workout will require an adaption period that doesn’t make it seem as attractive.
Furthermore, if you aren’t used to exercising, you may not be used to making it a priority. If you lead a busy life, trying to schedule in an hour of exercise means you have to displace something else. If that means watching your favorite television show, this might seem like an initial sacrifice. Don’t worry about it now. Use your willpower to get yourself exercising regularly and after a few weeks you’ll really see it start to pay off.
Exercise gives energy and reduces stress, but for most of us, exercise isn’t our default behavior to cope with these things. What are most peoples defaults for dealing with fatigue? Well for a lot of people it means sitting on the couch watching television. Conditioning yourself to think of exercise as the solution to your energy problem may not come naturally at first, so be patient.
Similarly, what are most peoples defaults when it comes to stress? For a lot of people it might mean eating junk food, drinking, smoking or venting your anger on a family member. Replacing the tendency to reach for a bag of potato chips and instead go to the gym might take some getting used to, but it is ultimately far more constructive.
Try to think of some of your own habits for handling stress and fatigue. Even if exercise is a regular habit, using exercise as a tool against stress or fatigue is usually far more effective than the alternatives.
If you’ve read this far then I think you understand the benefits of regular exercise. If you already exercise regularly hopefully you can now see some ways in which you can make exercise more fun and less of a chore. If you don’t exercise regularly, I challenge you to start today. Don’t wait until you have time or you might never start. Start exercising today and get the most out of your life!