I exercise because I want to look good in a bathing suit. There. I said it. That’s really what drives me. When I’m down to that last mile and I just want to stop, I imagine myself sitting on my boat. What does that look like? Am I wrapped up in a towel, hunched over, and shielding my body with shame? Or am I lying on a raft with my dog, enjoying the sun above and the family around me? I prefer the latter, of course. That’s what keeps me going for that last mile. It’s what makes me get out of bed an hour early. It feels good to have confidence and I can’t get it from anyone but myself.
Now, I love feeling good about myself, BUT I also want to be strong. I want to sleep better, be happier, have more energy, keep my mind sharp, have a balanced life, and I want to live longer. I want all of that and more. I can get it by eating right and…you guessed it…by breaking a sweat.
Whether you’re working up a sweat or just getting your steps in, exercise can come in many forms. Anyone can do it. YES, AN-Y-ONE. It can be vigorous and make you want to throw up or die (whichever comes first) for those maniacs out there who live for that feeling, or it can be a stroll around the neighborhood to get your heart rate up. It can be inside, outside, in water, or if you can get there, it can even be on Mars. It’s whatever gets your heart going above that resting rate and the benefits are endless.
Benefits of Exercising
- Boost Happiness: There isn’t a single person who can say that they don’t leave a good workout smiling. It’s science. Whether mild, moderate, or vigorous, anytime you workout, your body releases happy chemicals into your body. Dopamine, a chemical that plays a role in happiness, is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Many studies have found that as we age, we lose our stores of dopamine, which is why we need to constantly seek out experiences that release dopamine. What’s the best way to increase your brain’s dopamine production? Exercise! Run, lift, jump, play — be happy.
- Set Goals—Be an Achiever—Boost Confidence: Set goals and learn how it feels to achieve. You want to run a 10k? Find out when one is, make a goal to do it on that date, and work toward that goal. Every time you think about skipping your nightly run or head to the couch instead of the door, you’ll have that 10k date in your head. Want to fit into that old size 6? Hang it out somewhere for you to always see, pick an event you want to wear it to, and think about how you’ll feel when you slip it on with ease. Create an intention, make a plan, and succeed.
- Get Healthy: Exercise creates changes in antibodies and white blood cells (the body’s immune system cells that fight disease). These antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly, so they can detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. Even better, by strengthening the immune system, your body can fight cancer, heart disease, or even the common cold.
- Sleep Better: Are you prone to tossing and turning? Exercise can help! Exercise strengthens the circadian rhythms—the ways in which we coordinate our bodily processes to be on the same 24-hour day-night schedule as the world around us. In other words, with exercise, you’ll not only improve the quality of your sleep, but you’ll also wake up bright-eyed and ready for the world every morning and sleep soundly every night. Yay!
- Get an Energy Boost: If you’re feeling exhausted, believe me I know how hard it is to talk yourself into getting in any amount of exercise. I’m sure you know after reading thus far that I’m going to tell you that’s exactly what you need to do. Low-intensity exercise—even just a leisurely walk around the block—can drop fatigue levels and give you a 20% energy boost (Dr. Axe). Imagine if you took two walks around the block!
- Get Stronger and Flexible: You should stretch every day, whether you work out or not. Work yourself up to touching your toes (be careful!). Stretch your body up and down, side to side, and eventually you’ll start to feel and see the benefits. Increasing your body’s flexibility sends more blood to your muscles, which improves circulation. It can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Just a few minutes of stretching every day is all it takes. Join a yoga class to help with flexibility and strength training. If you’d like to add weight training to the mix, even better. Especially as we age, we want to improve muscle strength and mass to keep our bones strong.
- Improve Memory: Does a case of foggy brain have you walking into a room and forgetting why you headed that way? Do you misplace your keys, phone, and struggle to remember names? Exercise can help with that. Aerobic exercises like biking, running, and swimming boosts the size of the hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning (Dr. Axe). While brain foods are a nice start, add some activity to your daily routine to sharpen those mental skills.
- LIVE LONGER: Being obese and inactive can take away about 7.8 years from your lifespan. Yikes! On the other hand, I’m happy to report that studies have found that exercising just 10 minutes per day can earn an extra 1.8 years (Dr. Axe). Woo! Just think—if you devoted a little more time and energy, like 45 minutes per day, you could very well be earning an extra 4.2 years of life. Yes, please!
Top Workout Mistakes
You wait to work out: When we forgo the morning sweat in the name of an extra hour of sleep or for one more cup of coffee, we allow more excuses to pop up later. The odds of us squeezing in a nightly activity are very slim, especially if we’re just getting into a routine. Get your morning sweat on. Optimize your workouts by targeting a specific time of day. Don’t be the guy who goes to bed with regret. I don’t even know if that guy actually sleeps. Be the other guy.
You’re torturing yourself: I run. I love it. It’s the only time my brain stops. It’s not for everyone, though. My friend, on the other hand, hates running. She wants to enjoy her activity as much as I do, so that’s something she doesn’t do. You better believe the woman can rock a bikini. Sure, it’s good to get a good jog in here and there. It’s also good to walk, climb, bike, swim, dance, and chase your children. Cardio doesn’t have to be running. Don’t make your exercise torture. That’s a recipe for disaster.
You’re working out on an empty tank: Yes, it is better to work out on an empty stomach. Working out in a fasted state before breakfast can optimize fat-burn and improve insulin sensitivity for those eating a high-fat diet. HOWEVER, that does not mean you show up on empty. You are going to crash halfway through. This is important, so pay attention. Dr. Axe (my fav) has compiled a list of pre-workout snacks that can actually enhance your fat-burning. You can find it here: https://draxe.com/pre-workout-snacks/ Don’t overdue it. Remember it’s supposed to be exactly what it’s called—a light snack.
You aren’t recovering properly: I see it all the time at the gym, especially in the hardest class there: Fusion Tone. It’s 90 minutes of cardio and weights, work-out-til-you-collapse “fun.” Right after abs, and sometimes even during, half the class runs out the door and passes on the stretching. YOU NEED TO STRETCH. When you work out, microspasms occur, triggering the formation of knots in the soft tissue. Stretch those out! Use a foam roller for the trickiest areas. If you don’t do this every time, chances are it will catch up with you and cause some serious injuries in the future.
You make excuses: The biggest mistake that people make is when they don’t move at all. Teressa Farough is the instructor/owner at Mueva Fitness in Clarkston, MI. I’ve had a lot of people say that they just don’t have time to work out and get their steps in for the day. Naturally, I don’t agree with their theory, so I asked Teressa to weigh in on that and give us some suggestions:
“Mueva in Spanish is a command to move it,” she explains. “Sometimes a workout can’t be squeezed into your already busy day, so here are some tips whether you’re at home or work: At home, tidy up daily. Don’t wait until the weekend to do all your chores. Throw in a load of laundry, vacuum, make your bed daily, pull a couple weeds from your beds and make multiple trips up and down stairs even if you don’t have to. This little bit of extra work can add up to extra calorie burn, and bonus, your house will always be company-ready.”
Farough doesn’t think exercise should be boring. She explains this further, saying, “Turn up the music. Turn on your favorite dance music instead of the tv and shimmy while you do the dishes or prepare meals. Dancing makes you happy and healthy.”
You can get exercise in anywhere! Farough gives some pointers on this, as well, explaining, “At work, talk and walk. Every time you are on the phone, get up and move. Most of the time, there’s no need to be sitting while you’re on the phone. Take to pacing the corridors, walking up flights of stairs or even just standing up and shifting your weight side to side in your cubicle!”
Get active! Farough finds a reason to move in any situation. “Deliver in person. Consider less texting and emailing and more face to face time with your co-workers and boss. Can you deliver the answer or conduct the conversation in person? If so, get up, walk to their office and chat there.”
Farough wraps it up with the encouragement and enthusiasm she’s known for. “These ideas might not seem like much, but every small habit can reap big rewards when practiced with consistency over time. Now get out there and MUEVELO!!” For more information on Mueva Fitness, go to: https://www.muevafitness.com/
Does your lack of energy have you staying on the couch? I have a few solutions for that, too. Maybe you’re missing some things.
- Hydrate! Hydrate! HYDRATE! You might have low energy because you just don’t drink enough water. Get your 64 ounces in and see what happens. You’ll be amazed. Don’t like water? There isn’t really a sidestep to this. Were you hoping I’d give you one? It doesn’t exist. Sorry. The more water you drink, the more you’ll know when you’re craving it, and the more you’ll grow to love it.
- Endura: A specialized supplement from Metagenics that supplies a unique blend of electrolytes and minerals that are found in muscle cells. Endura supplies these important electrolytes, including magnesium, in a formula designed to help support hydration. It can replace your processed sugar water—whoops!
- CoQ10: Scavenges and destroys free radicals that cause cardiovascular problems and heart disease. PLUS, it sparks energy production in every cell of your body including the heart.
- B Vitamins: The more activity you do, the more B vitamins you need. Period. They’re crucial for breaking down food into fuel, transporting oxygen throughout the body, and increasing red-blood-cell production to keep muscles functioning properly.
- Leafy greens: High in folate, a mood-enhancing nutrient that’s been linked to lowering depression.
- Bananas (pre-workout snack): Potassium-rich, B vitamin-infused to decelerate digestion, keeping blood sugar levels stable and giving you that full feeling for much longer.
- Nuts: Protein-packed, plus they’re also a great source of magnesium, the mineral that converts sugar into energy fuel.
- Lean meats: For a protein-punch!
- Beans: Legumes like lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans are rich in nutrients and can stabilize your blood sugar levels and help you convert your stored food into much-needed energy!
- Curry (bet you didn’t see that one coming!): Made with chilies, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin—spices that are all naturally high in antioxidants to regulate sugar levels, kick start the metabolism, and promote circulation.
- Fish: Loaded with omega 3s to keep the heart healthy.
- Quinoa: Super high in protein and keeps the body moving.
You don’t need to join an Iron Man to get your exercise in every day. It’s easy to get the heart going. It doesn’t have to be grueling, tiresome, or something annoying that you just have to do–like cleaning your bathroom. Get outside, take the stairs, park far away to get your steps in! Some of you might want to see what you can do; work toward that goal, whether it’s a 10k or sliding into a little black dress. The point is to be good to your body. Remember, you only get one.