It’s in my nature to buy weird exercise gadgets. Between my mother and I you could probably set up your own exercise contraption storefront including such gems as the Tony Little’s Rock ‘n Roll Stepper (it may look silly, but it’s smaller than an actual stair-stepper, does provide a moderate workout, gives your husband something to laugh at while you watch the morning news, and if nothing else small children enjoy using it as a see-saw) and the Ab Lounge Ultra (I don’t own this but there are about 15 different variations of it in my mom’s exercise room so I feel like it’s a long lost sibling).
I’m telling you this not to impress you with my online gadget purchasing abilities, but as a way to confess that I am a nutritionist who does not like to exercise. Most people assume that someone as excited about food and health as I am would naturally be excited about exercise because that is the healthy thing to do. But you’re wrong! I regularly talk myself out of exercising with such mental gems as “my husband thinks my love handles are cute” and “why do I need strong arms if I never lift anything heavy anyway?”
But enough about me, I am writing this because I thought if I have a hard time getting motivated to exercise then maybe some of you do too. With that in mind, I decided to put together this list to give you 5 reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with how you look in a bathing suit. Wearing a bathing suit is not a daily occurrence (unless you’re a lifeguard or swimsuit model, in which case I know of an extra ab lounge or two – are you interested?), and therefore is not a strong motivating factor when deciding between some time with the Tony Little stair-stepper and some time on the couch drinking wine and eating potato chips.
Reason #1: Exercise burns off excess stress hormones. Every time that you have a stressful encounter in your day, whether it’s as simple as an irritating phone call or as intense as being chased by a rabid chupa-cabra, your body responds by releasing stress hormones. Ideally, they would be broken down and disposed of throughout the day but if you’re someone whose day seems to be one stressful encounter after the next then you may be walking around with a lot of circulating stress hormones. Short burst of stress are important for life (life would be boring if there was no resistance!) and the body knows how to recover, but chronic, day-after-day exposure to high levels of stress is dangerous. Stress hormones alter body chemistry in such a way that they promote fat storage, encourage muscle breakdown, and inhibit growth and repair of body tissues. Exercising helps to metabolize these hormones and get them out of the body, which over time (or for some people, immediately) may result in improved mood, increased tolerance to stress, and better sleep.
Reason #2: Exercise boosts detoxification. When you exercise, you encourage filtration of lymph, the white-blood-cell-rich fluid that resides in lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic system does not have its own pump (like the circulatory system’s pump – your heart) so it relies on physical movement to clean out lymph. The lymphatic system is basically the garbage collection system in the body, so getting it moving means that you’re cleaning up from the inside out. If you have to be convinced that you need to be cleaned up (nothing personal, all of us do) just visit www.bodyburden.org and see how many hundreds of toxins were found in average people just like you and me. I don’t mean to scare you – the body is smart and knows what to do with most toxins, it just needs a little extra care to keep it running well in today’s world.
Reason #3: Exercise can relieve joint pain. When you exercise, you get blood moving through the joints, which “cleans out” inflammation and helps joints repair. Exercise also strengthens the muscles that stabilize joints, which makes it less likely that you’ll be injured or suffer from chronic joint pain. As a personal example, I’ve been practicing my Pilates Workout for Dummies workout (lame name, but good workout) routine because I was having some lower back pain from sitting at a computer so much. After my first workout I immediately noticed that my back felt as good as it does when I leave the chiropractor, and it feels better each time I do it. Getting rid of the back pain was nice, but my main take-home point here is that if you exercise to relieve joint pain, you technically have an extra $35 or so that you didn’t spend at the chiropractor which you can now spend on important things like buying yet another pair of high heels that will probably contribute to back pain but boy are they cute. Not that I’m speaking from experience…
Reason #4: Exercise can improve your sex life. Yes, exercise increases endurance, but on a very practical level it increases blood circulation in the entire body which improves blood flow to the reproductive organs. In fact, proper blood flow is so important to sexual function that medications for erectile dysfunction target circulation. Specifically, Viagra works by improving blood flow to the extremities (well, one extremity in particular) and is currently being studied as an aid to improve blood flow to the uterus for women with problematic pregnancies. With that in mind, you can now change your romantic talk to something like, “Honey, I spent twenty minutes on the Tony Little stairstepper today and my circulatory system is in great shape.”
Reason #5: Exercise makes you strong. Yes, it improves the strength of your muscles but I feel that on a deeper level there is something about exercising yourself physically that makes you realize just how strong you really are as a person. Not to be too mushy, but when you push yourself to walk a little farther up that hill or make it all the way through a difficult yoga workout you realize that you’re the one behind the controls and no matter what shape your body is in, you’re getting stronger every day. And that knowledge makes the question of how you look in a bathing suit completely irrelevant.
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