Sunday, August 30, 2009


For me, a day without physical exercise is like a day without sunshine. Things just don’t seem to be right. I can do many things on such a day, even be very busy, but I won’t have the same good spirits and energy if I haven’t been active. It’s a life-long habit and I look forward to it. When I use my energy for exercise, I find that it is returned to me at least twofold.

Having said that, I want to clarify that I'm not an advocate of extreme sports. I’ll leave that to those younger people that enjoy it, and I don’t always do strong physical exercise -- although, sometimes I do. On some days I jog or practice martial arts. My husband is a karate instructor and I enjoy that kind of exercise and helping him with his classes. But, as I get older, I can’t do that much exertion every single day, and so I alternate days of strenuous exercising with walking and/or yoga.

We also have a lively young dog, and that gives my husband a reason to run a bit and me a reason to follow along, usually jogging or walking behind. After a few minutes, all three of us slow down to a more comfortable pace and just enjoy being in movement together. As for yoga, I have practiced hatha yoga since I was a young girl, and it has been a joy and a comfort to me. Yoga is probably the most important reason that I’m able to do as much as I do at my age.

I mention my experience here because I hope that you are finding some time in your busy week to include a regular exercise routine. If you are keeping up with your exercise program – good for you, and more power to you. You may not need to read any further (unless you just want to reaffirm all the good you’re doing for yourself).

If you’re not maintaining an exercise routine right now, I hope what I include on this page will be your motivation.

I hear you saying: “I’d really like to, but…”

I know it’s all too easy to find justifications for not doing regular exercise. I know it from personal experience. There were also times in my life when I did a lot less exercise and tried to justify it for different reasons. But it always came down to: “I would, if I could, but I can’t.” That kind of justification doesn’t hold up very well. Let’s look at the most usual excuses for not exercising, and I’ll do my best to counter them.

“I’m just too old or too unfit.” Just forget about your age and current condition. Young or old, physically fit or not -- unless you are already bedridden –- there is an exercise program that is right for you. Look for some activity you like and start off slow. You’ll gather skills faster than you think. (By the way, if you know someone who is bedridden, go visit that person and, if possible, help him or her to get some fresh air and to do a little light stretching. It will do a world of good for the other person and for you.)

“I just don’t find time.” There are 24 hours in every day. If we sleep eight hours, work eight, travel as commuters - two, then we still have 6 hours to do some other activities. It’s a matter of making exercise a priority. If you have a busy family life, get up a half hour earlier and get moving before everyone else wakes up. Or, find an activity that you can do with your children or grandchildren. Or, instead of watching two to three hours of TV every day, take 45 minutes to exercise. If TV watching is really important, figure out a way to exercise while viewing your favorite programs. Stretching, calisthenics, running in place or two steps up - two steps back, jumping jacks, or jump rope are all possible to do in a small space, and they won’t take your full concentration.

“I don’t have any extra money.” Even if you don’t have money for exercise classes or a gym, that’s not a great problem. You can begin by walking or jogging, doing simple calisthenics and stretching. Those activities aren't too complicated, and you don’t have to pay a trainer or buy special products. With some tennis or walking shoes and comfortable pants, you'll go a long way. And, if you feel you need to follow a particular exercise program, there are free websites that will tell you how to go about achieving your personalized plan.

Now that you know that your excuses are not very good ones, make a plan to start exercising today or tomorrow, at the least. If you've gotten this far, then, take a look at some of the ways that keeping fit can make you healthier and happier.

Build strength and shed a few pounds

Too often people want to lose weight, and that is their main goal for exercising. But weight loss is usually slow, even doing proper exercise, and occurs over a period of months, at best. So, if rapid weight loss is their only motivation, they have set themselves up for frustration. Don’t fall into that trap.

There are a lot of other objectives that can be met by exercising, well before seeing a lot of weight reduction. These “intermediate” objectives are just as important as losing some pounds. The fact that you are exercising your muscles means that, from the very first day, you are increasing your body strength and stamina. Everyone needs to maintain strength throughout life – better muscle tone and overall staying power will help you in all your daily activities. You’ll find that by exercising, you’re achieving considerable success right away--even before your clothing size shrinks a lot.

Feel more competent and boost self-esteem

One way to feel more competent, in general, and to increase your self-esteem is to be engaged in something that is good for you – something that helps you achieve an objective. Exercise, like practicing any other skill – piano, painting, writing, etc. – is a means of affirming the best in you. Knowing you have skills, gives you the confidence to strive for new and more meaningful personal goals.

When you feel good about yourself, you know that you are somebody who deserves respect. That self-assurance can help you in many areas of your life. So, exercising is just as good for you mentally as it is physically. Besides, you won’t have so much time to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. You have more important things to do – like getting out there and working through your routine.

Socializing and rediscovering play time

You aren’t the only person who needs to get moving. Exercise can be a motive for socializing, and vice versa. Some of your family members, friends, and even your dog would be very grateful if you included them in your walking, dancing, or some other type of lively company. All of us with a body, people and animals, young and not so young alike, need a chance to stretch, run and play. And, it’s much more appealing to be exercising with our buddies than it is to do our routine alone.

Even though we don’t admit it much, we, as adults, still like to play in an active way. Exercising with others is fun – a time to be carefree and focused – just as we were as children when we played sports and games. If you don’t have anyone at the moment with whom to exercise, look for a group activity in a park, church or community center. You’ll find teammates there, and sweating together, they’ll become your friends. Look for sports, games, and other activities that you enjoy and wish to improve in. When you like an activity and enjoy it with friends, it’s fun and you benefit the rewards in health and well-being.

I hope that you’re convinced from this brief summary of exercise benefits -- that by keeping fit, you’ll be healthier, feel better about yourself, and have more opportunities to be social. So, don’t waste time and get a jumpstart on your workout program.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For ooooold people like me, with health problems already, I wasn't sure just where I would fit into the exercise business.
Water is the answer. I go to a (free) pool three times a week just to exercise. I can also go to the Hospital/Health Care for $6 a plunge many times a week if they aren't having classes.
Ask your doctor.