Like 9 (or Whatever) Reasons You Should Start Exercising

Sometimes it can be hard to know why you should be sweating, lifting, running, jumping, and generally making your body hurt for hours every week in the gym (or pool or on the track or…). The truth of the matter is that regular exercise provides so many benefits that it can be hard to know where to start! If you’re still in that fugue state where you know you should be working out, but sometimes the real “whys” are still eluding you, this article is for you.

Without further ado, let’s talk about Like 9 (or Whatever) Reasons You Should Start Exercising

Depression is Bad, mmm’kay?

Fight Depression with ExerciseDepression is often a condition caused by one or more of these hormones being out of sync with how your body wants them, and exercise can help get you back on track. Funny thing about being depressed: it makes you want to consume more sugar, and high sugar consumption has been positively (and repeatedly) linked to obesity and diabetes. So, not only do you feel like crap, you’ll start looking the part too.

Studies have shown that exercising regularly improves the body’s regulation of happy hormones like serotonin, noradrenalin, and dopamine. The increase in these hormones improves not just your feeling of well-being, but also helps regulate your need to eat sweets. Couple this with the actual, physical improvements to your body that exercise gives you, and you’ve got a recipe for going from “everything is pain” to “what a wonderful world”.

Strong is the New Skinny

Strong is the New Skinny

Lets be honest, the television and media have been telling us for the last 30 years that the only measure of beauty is being skinny. But skinny can (and often is) just as unhealthy and detrimental to your well-being as being overweight/obese. The difference isn’t in the effects, it’s in the size of the person in the mirror.

Now, we know for a fact that regular exercise, stronger muscles, less body fat (to a point), and a complete diet are really the keys to being healthy long-term. The celebrity detoxes, “get skinny quick” plans, and fast fixes are total crap. It’s the long term accumulation of strength and good basic health habits that make the healthy people, healthy.

Step off Skinny, you’re done.

Accomplishing Goals is Awesome

When was the last time you set a big goal, worked for it, and accomplished it? Felt pretty freakin’ awesome, didn’t it? Humans are built to feel pride and pleasure when we get a feeling of accomplishment. It’s one reason why online life is so addicting for many people: it can mimic that feeling of “doing something” without actually doing much at all.

Exercise leads to hitting personal milestones like running longer distances, lifting more weight, or reducing body fat (and finally seeing those abs). The sense of “doing something” is pronounced when you hit a physical goal, and you’ll feel great every time you reach a new goal.

Exercise Makes You Less of a Jerk (i.e. De-Stress for the Win!)

Well, usually. The long and short of it is that people who exercise regularly tend to be in a better mood more long term than those who don’t. This leads to better interactions with friends, family, coworkers, and others out in the community. If you’re happier as a person, then you tend to treat those around you better, and those around you tend to respond to you more positively.

Now, that doesn’t mean other stresses won’t affect your mood too, but at least exercising is something you can do in the right direction. Reducing your stress levels by getting some “feel good” hormones running around your body is a great way to help you along.

Because You Can (Seriously)

Presumable you have arms, legs, and other basic physical structures that make movement pretty easy if you apply yourself. Why aren’t you appreciating this fact? Seriously, you are probably a 120-180 lbs machine that can think, move, run, jump, roll, lift, and even breakdance (with practice). Your body is really, really cool. Start moving it and using it and enjoying it!

You don’t want to get to the point where you can’t do these things, and spend your time wishing you had when you could.

OMG Becky

Aesthetics

Most of us are concerned with how we look, both in the mirror and to others. It’s natural to want to feel pretty (okay gentlemen, or “handsome”) and think that other people look at you favorably. Whether you think it stems from nature or narcissism, the fact is that 99.9% of people want to feel attractive. Along with a healthy diet, exercise is the best way to get the best body you can get, and there really isn’t a quick way to get there. We all start from a different natural state, with some people being genetically gifted and others being predisposed to roundness (like your friendly neighborhood author, here) but everyone can work on bettering their body. Everyone.

So even if it’s because you’re a narcissist, exercise is pretty great!

That Thing That Pumps Blood Loves It

You know that mass of red junk in your chest called a “heart”? It does a pretty important thing, what with all the blood pumping and providing necessary stuff for life and all. You know what it likes? Exercise!

More studies than I care to cite have shown that both traditional cardio (e.g. running, swimming, etc) and resistance exercise (i.e. weight lifting) have huge positive impacts on your heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of your body. The cardiac muscle itself becomes stronger through the work, and the supporting structures (arteries, etc) become stronger as well. Since your blood is carrying oxygen, infection fighting white cells, and nutrient/hormone/protein rich plasma it’s something that you want getting to all the places it needs to be on an efficient schedule.

Your Joints Are Delicate Flowers

The spaces where bone meets bone can be a turbulent area, and some of the most frequent injuries happen at the site of major joints like the knees, elbows, spinal column (esp. lower back and neck), and hips. The best way to help prevent these injuries is to use exercise for two things:

First, learn to move well. Good movement patterns (how best to squat or lift something off the ground, for instance) will create less friction when you need to move, and most importantly when you need to move quickly or under heavy load. Your joints can perform their function millions of times during your lifetime before they break down, but if you move poorly that breakdown happens faster.

Second, become stronger around the joint. When you can move well, you can become stronger more easily. The tissues surrounding your joints (muscle, tendons, ligaments, etc) become stronger with exercise that moves well. As you strengthen all the supporting structures of the joint, the joint itself becomes more able to withstand trauma, and thus less likely to be injured.

Getting Older Doesn’t Have to Suck So Much

You started aging the day you were born, and the only alternative to getting older is to die. I assume that, like me, you aren’t too keen on Death being the go-to option for resisting the ravages of age, so our best bet is to maintain a healthy exercise regimen. You can’t stop getting older, but you can certainly put a kibosh on getting “old”.

Again, many studies have shown that exercising as you age helps reduce the natural deterioration of joints and muscles, and can even help prevent mental disorders like dementia. Everyone experiences a bit of decline as we go along, but that decline doesn’t have to be more pronounced than you let it be.

Oh, if you’re already a little older and haven’t been active in a while, that’s no excuse for not exercising now! Studies of older adults (55+) who add an exercise routine to what has been a sedentary life showed that muscle mass, bone mass, and overall health significantly improved over just a couple months with 3 hours of exercise per week.

Plus…

Sharon LapkoffThis is Sharon Lapkoff, Women’s Master’s Division Champion in the 2014 CrossFit Games. She’s over 60. Scott OlsonAnd this is Scott Olson, three times Men’s Master’s Division Champion in the CrossFit Games. Also over 60.

So, what’s your excuse for not exercising again?