The Life Saving Effects of Exercise

We all know that an active lifestyle is good for us. In fact, most of you would have a hard time getting through the day, let alone sleeping at night, without a good workout.

The effects of exercise are much wider reaching than we could have ever imagined however. Just about everything we do is dependent on staying active and keeping junk out of our bodies. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to try to tell you to put down those peanut M&M’s or skip the occasion cocktail, but just in case you are lacking motivation to workout on any given day, I offer the following reminders.

Exercise:

-Releases ‘good’ brain chemicals such as endorphins, catecholamines and brain-derived neurotropic factor. No you can’t get addicted to them. But they are primarily stimulated by exercise and affect everything from your mood to your heart rate; even your long term memory.

-Reduces bodyweight, but more importantly, reduces the visceral fat that likes to build up on our internal organs. It does ugly things like pump chemicals we don’t need into our system. Plus, it’s ugly, real ugly.

-Increases blood flow, improves orgasm, increases testosterone and growth factor hormones.

-Helps you sleep better and more soundly.

This list could go on for a couple more pages, but i think you get the idea. We were born into a world more sedentary than any our genetics were designed for. Resist the urge to watch that TV show when you get home from work.

Don’t sign on to Facebook or Twitter, I promise it will be there later.

Forget about exercising ‘later.’ Yeah, right, after a beer or a Jack n’ Coke?

Instead, start moving, get your heart rate up, build some muscle. Here is a little workout I like to do when I head to the garage for a beer and see my gym staring me in the face. I think ‘oooooh, but I don’t have the energy…sniffle sniffle.’ The cure for that? Get moving!

You don’t have to change into your workout clothes (maybe you should if you’re not in your pajamas yet.)

Just start rotating your neck, gently now, it’s stiff from staring at a screen all day I bet. Now swinging an arm around in circles, small at first, then full arcing circles. Now switch to the other. If you want you can swing both around and run around in circles making airplane noises, whatever gets you going.

Now rotate those hips, loosen up, that’s it. You know how to move your hips!

Ok, start doing calf raises, don’t worry about weight for now. Just rise up and down on your toes, squeeze the calves at the top, now go faster, now pause at the top. Give yourself a number to hit. “I’m going to 20, 30,…”

Now bounce up and down in a partial squat while swinging your arms. Not a full squat, wait until you’re warm. Get that stretch reflex in those leg muscles going. When you feel ready, start launching off the ground.

That’s it, you’re doing mini jump squats, plyometrics; build up to a high jump and knock out 20 or so of those. Feeling good? Right on, now the blood is flowing! The beer is still in the ‘fridge, but it seems a little farther away now…

Ok, quick, arms out to the sides and rotate your trunk. Swing from side to side. After a few, squeeze the obliques on each side for about 2 seconds, release and repeat on the other side.

Now, if you are feeling warm, choose an exercise. Not two, not three. Not a whole bodybuilding program for a specific bodypart, not even a whole workout routine named after some random woman.

In my garage I see:

-Homemade sandbags, 40-80 lbs. I can choose the 80 and do lifts off the ground. Catch it in a full squat, then heave onto one shoulder. Start with three hard sets, then decide what else, if anything, i want to do.

-Pullup Bar/Homemade Gymnastics Rings: Hop on either one and start off by doing nothing but hanging while engaging your scapula. (Pull it back and down.) They call this active shoulder hangs.

When I’m ready I start doing pullups. I’ll mix it up though. First hangs, then without letting go, pullups; without letting go I do knee or leg raises. Now, if I am on the rings I can swing my legs over and do flips or inverted positions, you see?

-Dumbbells: There in the middle of the rug are dumbbells, ready to clean and press. Hell, 5 sets of that and I won’t feel bad about a beer at all! Great workout.

-Homemade Indian clubs: On the wall I have several homemade clubbells, a homemade mace, i can just pick any of these up and start swinging and swaying. Talk about getting the blood pumping!

You may not have any of this, but that’s ok. Get on the floor, do pushups. Change the hand position. Don’t pushup, just see how long you can hold yourself up. Do leg raises, squats, supermans, even shadowboxing.

Your workouts always deserve to be priority number one! So give them all you’ve got, even if you’d rather have a drink and watch TV. You will never regret ignoring that urge and exercising instead. Never.

Workout Motivation

To be honest with you, working out can sometimes be a real pain in the ass. If for no other reason than some days you feel like you are banging your head against the wall, and going nowhere fast. This mindset is easy to absorb in a society fraught with obesity, one in which dietary excess is glorified while ‘vain obsessed physical fitness/gym rats/insert your term here,’ are sometimes mocked for their dedication.

Then the excuses can kick in: ‘What’s the point? I don’t need to be in good shape, I sit in an office all day.’
‘I’m just too tired when I wake up in the morning/get home from work.’ ‘I need my energy for work/taking care of the kids, it is just not feasible to waste time and energy working out.’

What about the times you allow yourself to believe all the crap anyone ever helped you convince yourself of?

-There is no way you can get that strong, those guys/girls have been doing that for years. Plus they are naturally gifted.

-With all that extra weight on you, it’s not a good idea to run or overdo it, it might put too much strain on your already overworked heart.

-I’m too skinny, I can’t put on muscle.

-I’m too fat, I can’t run.

-This or that injury is something I have to learn to live with.

Damn, this could go on all day. You have to run errands, fix dinner, get a presentation together, make phone calls, etc., etc., etc. 


And you know what? Even if everything I said above, and anything you may have added to it is the absolute truth, it does not matter.

Exercise, whatever it is, is not done just to lose weight, or to get ready for competition, or to gain muscle and strength. These are direct benefits yes. But here is one more: Exercise is good for your brain.  Especially cardiovascular exercise. And when your brain is clear, every aspect of your day is going to go better.

Exercise is also a natural bodily function. We are designed to move, as a car is designed to run. Sorry for the cliche analogy but it fits. When a car sits, never turned on and never cared for, it rots; from the inside out. The oil gets thick and gunks up the motor. Batteries corrode and that corrosion crawls up the wires.

Sadly, the human body is not much different. Let it sit and neglect to run it often enough, and it develops circulation problems, muscles atrophy, and the motor begins to have trouble running smoothly (the heart.)

But the truth is, you and I don’t need any of these reasons to start moving;  to go after a physical goal, no matter how old you are or how ridiculous it may seem. Know why? Because you may only have today to do it, and personally, I don’t want to miss out on the feeling of being alive. That’s right. Alive. A feeling I get every time I push myself, feel my muscles straining, burning, my lungs laboring to suck in air.

I haven’t run in awhile? So what, thank God it’s burning, it means I was able to run fast enough that it hurt. I’m alive!

Not as strong as I used to be? Who cares? It feels good to lift heavy, no matter what heavy is on that day.  The feeling of power and strength surging through me is like a fountain of youth! I can’t wait to do more!

When the workout is finished it may have been shorter than expected, or maybe expectations were exceeded, but I guarantee it didn’t fail to teach me something about myself; about what it means to be human; and by the end it erases any doubts about why I started exercising today in the first place. It doesn’t take much, just start stepping, start moving, and don’t stop until you feel alive.