April 21st, 2024

10 Reasons to Move Exercise Higher On Your To-Do List


Move Your Body!

It’s 5:30 a.m. and the sun has yet to make its glorious entrance.  My husband and daughter are still dreaming, enjoying the warmth of the cozy covers.  Yawning, I grab my keys and water bottle, and head to the car, off for a 6 a.m. cycling class.  

There are moments like these when it is still early, my thoughts are still foggy, and sleep has a seductive call.  These are the times when routine, discipline and the recollection of how good it feels after working hard must kick in.  These are the moments when I remind myself of all the ways this workout is going to change my life.

Sometimes we just need those reminders, those reasons that motivate us to get up, do it again, push a little harder, go an extra minute.

The reality is that we don’t need our doctor, a government advertising campaign, a nutritionist or personal trainer to tell us that exercise is good for us.  We already know that.  Most of the people I have worked with can recite the guidelines to exercise 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes, 5 days per week.  But, sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to really ask why we are deciding to commit to it.  

What’s in it for YOU?

What will make you get up each morning a little bit earlier or leave the office on time in order to make exercise happen consistently?  What will help you see beyond the discomfort in the moment and complete your workout?  What will motivate you when life gets busy, travel comes up, or in-laws come into town?  What will push you forward when you get disappointed that the scale hasn’t budged?

Will you give up?  OR, will you choose a different perspective?  

Exercise has a wealth of benefits, but sometimes we get caught up in looking for only one or two.  And, if our expectations aren’t met, it is easy to throw in the towel and allow our busy lifestyle to interrupt our plan.  It is easy to blame a hectic life on our inability to exercise.  

But you CAN choose differently if you want.

10 Benefits of Exercise

walkingThere are dozens of ways your body, mind, and spirit will benefit from exercise. If you are needing to rejuvenate your motivation, these are 10 reasons to move it higher up on your priority list.  But realize that a good reason won’t get you out of bed.  You must uncover your own personal “why” to keep you active and moving when it seems like the odds are against you.  

But, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Here we go…

1. Enhances Sleep Quality

Do you ever feel like a walking zombie? Is it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep each night?  Research from 2005-2010 conducted by the CDC reports that 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders and deprivation and about 4% use prescription sleep aids.  And, this number is likely to have increased by now.  

Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep AND get better quality sleep. Going out for a walk or jog, heading to the gym for a workout, or pulling up a favorite work out on the internet may be the perfect non-pharmaceutical sleep aid.  It won’t cost you a dime and the only side effects you will notice will be better mental clarity the next day!

2. Manages Your Weight

Simply stated, exercise burns calories.  The more you do, the more calories you burn. The more energy you exert doing the exercise, the more calories you burn.  The longer you go, the more calories you burn.  The less exercise you do, the harder it is to maintain your weight.  People who are proactive about maintaining their weight consistently exercise. According to the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing weight loss study that includes thousands of participants who have lost at least 30lbs and maintained the weight loss for 1 or more years, reports that 90% of these successful individuals exercise for an average of 60 minutes per day.

3. Improves Your Mood

Do you ever have a “blah” day?  The ones where you can’t put your finger on what is the matter but something is hampering your joy and sense of fun? Exercise is the solution. Your body will not be able to hold back producing hormones that improve your mood, help you relax and make you feel great! Don’t believe it?  Test this research out.  

Your body was made to move and it will practically shout with delight when you do. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, some research suggests that moderate exercise (ie. walking) has the potential to improve your mood for up to 12 hours! And the research is showing that it doesn’t matter what kind of mood – irritable, angry, sad, etc. – the effects remain consistent.  Physical activity, even if you only walk, has the power to change the tone of your entire day!

4. Boosts Your Energy

tiredWhile this may seem counter-intuitive, if you are feeling tired, physical activity can give you an energy boost.  Many Americans medicate their fatigue with caffeine and sugar to stimulate and give them the jumpstart they need to plow through the rest of the day’s events.  But, we can save ourselves some calories, crazy blood sugar highs, and caffeine headaches by grabbing our shoes and water bottle to get moving.

Exercise pumps oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and tissues to help them work efficiently giving you more energy for the things that matter most to you.  The research is showing that inactive people who begin a consistent exercise routine experience a boost in energy levels during the day.  Whether you are an infrequent exerciser, inconsistent exerciser, or just need a midday pick-me-up, physical activity will lift your spirits and give you a shot of full-throttle energy, without a warning label.  

5. Ramps Up Your Sex Life

For all you married folk… Maybe the spark isn’t gone.  You just need to know how to activate it!  Sex is active and physical. Cardiovascular exercise prepares your heart and other muscles for physical exertion. Physical activity helps you stay mobile, limber and flexible as you age, all things that can enhance your sexual experiences. Hitting the elliptical or grabbing your yoga mat for the class at your gym can contribute to more intimate fulfillment with your spouse.

6. Keeps You Mentally Alert

Cognitive decline is common with aging.  Memory, judgment, and mental alertness can become more difficult and less acute.  Research is showing that physical activity enhances memory and cognitive function at any age, 20 or 80.  Harvard Health writes an article about some published research showing that regular aerobic activity, “appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.” Dementia is real and can be crushing.  Exercise appears to stimulate new growth of brain cells that help the brain stay healthy and function well.

If you are ever feeling foggy and need a brainpower boost…exercise.

7. Controls Your Blood Sugar

Exercise improves insulin sensitivity (of your cells) making it easier for insulin to usher glucose from your bloodstream into your cells to be used for energy.  Essentially, you need energy to exercise and therefore, your body works efficiently to make that energy, and in return lowers your blood sugar. Everyone – diabetics, pre-diabetics, and non-diabetics – should work to maintain healthy serum glucose levels.  

Your body is grateful you got moving – it reduces your blood sugar and your risk for diabetes.  Plain and simple.

8. Reduces Blood Pressure

Hypertension is known as the “silent killer.”  Exercise strengthens your heart, making it easier for your heart to pump blood through your arteries with less effort.  This reduces the pressure exerted which is a huge win for anyone currently on hypertension medications or with a family history of high blood pressure.  In fact, research shows that those with hypertension can reduce systolic (upper number) by 7mm Hg and diastolic (lower number) by 5 mm Hg simply with consistent exercise.  It often takes 1-3 months to see results, but they usually last as long as you continue regular exercise.  Life without dependency on blood pressure medications is freeing!  

9. Keeps Bones Strong

The loss of bone strength is a gradual, ever so subtle result of the aging process.  It often doesn’t even cross our mind until we see our hunched-over grandmother or help an elderly man at the grocery store.  But, the time you spend exercising now can have a profound effect on your bone strength in decades to come!  

In order to keep bones strong and secure, the CDC recommends engaging in strength training/weight lifting activities at least twice a week and including a variety of weight-bearing exercises like jump rope, jogging, aerobics, walking, hiking and dancing the rest of the time.  Bone mass peaks during your 20s and 30s.  If you care about dancing at your granddaughter’s wedding, traveling during retirement, or throwing a football when you are 80, begin investing today.

10. Builds Muscle Mass

weight trainingStrong, tone muscles cannot be wished into existence – they are a result of hard work. When someone decides to change their body composition, it really has nothing to do with a number on the scale.  Instead, it is the dream of improving leanness, tone and muscular definition.   The common phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” remains true. Atrophy, the loss of muscle mass, occurs when you are not using muscles regularly, and, the aging process contributes to this as well.  Exercise, specifically strength training, changes this.  The research shows that you can begin preserving and enhancing your muscle mass at any age and reap great benefits!  

Researchers at the University of Michigan published a study in The American Journal of Medicine, showing that “after an average of 18-20 weeks of progressive resistance training, an adult can add 2.42 pounds of lean muscle to their body mass and increases their overall strength by 25-30 percent.”

For a sample home strength training workout plan, check out this one created by the American College of Sports Medicine.

If life is stressful and overwhelm seems to be caving in, exercise is one of the kindest things you can do to treat your body and mind well.  Life will always be busy – it never seems to go away.  But, in those moments when the “want to” seems dim, it is important to have your personal reasons why you are deciding to move that day.  

Isn’t it amazing that God has given us a way to heal our bodies, manage stress, improve our strength, manage our weight and live a long life…all from one activity that costs us 30-60 minutes a day.  It does have a cost, but YOU are totally worth it!

So, what’s the play call?

Your calling is GREAT!  Steward your body in such a way that allows you to walk it out every single day with vitality, mental clarity, and a spring in your step!

“I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 MSG

American College of Sports Medicine- Boost Your Mood at Least Half the Day with Physical Activity
American College of Sports Medicine, Exercise is Good Medicine for Preventing and Reducing an Angry Mood
Centers for Disease Control- How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
Centers for Disease Control- Physical Activity and Health
Fernando Dimeo, Nikolaos Pagonas, Felix Seibert, Robert Arndt, Walter Zidek and Timm H. Westhoff. Hypertension. 2012;60:653-658, originally published August 15, 2012. Aerobic Exercise Reduces Blood Pressure in Resistant Hypertension.  Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.197780
National Osteoporosis Foundation- What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?
National Institute of Health- Exercise for Your Bone Health
University of Michigan- Older and Stronger


Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LDhttp://www.healthy-inspiration.com
Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD is a nutrition communications dietitian whose joy and passion is to empower women to live healthy, balanced lives that are fulfilling and free of guilt and shame. She loves sharing real-life strategies to choosing nourishing foods, fitting in fitness and looking beyond the mirror. Jennifer enjoys encouraging women on her blog, Healthy Inspiration, taking walks with her daughter, cooking with her husband and trying out different kinds of physical activity.
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