The (Surprising!) Benefits of Exercise

 

Going Beyond Tipping the Scales

 

Right before dawn, when most people are still sleeping soundly, Carol Wee awakes. In the stillness of her home, she starts her day by unrolling her exercise mat, and works out to her favourite fitness video by celebrity trainer, Tracy Anderson.

Just like Tracy Anderson, Wee spent an active childhood dancing. She took up ballet when she was four and was seriously dancing up until she was 18. “Then, university happened.  I was discovering myself and the world and unfortunately, I let that part of my life slip,” she says.

“It wasn’t until I started working that I realised how much I missed dancing. I remember always feeling happier, almost lighter when I danced or did any form of exercise,” says Wee.

Exercise is more than just about looking toned and being fit. When we exercise, it stimulates our brain and our body releases all sorts of chemicals that make us healthier and feel good.

“Exercise makes you happy,” Wee says laughingly.

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Work it out!

 

The most obvious benefit of exercise is that it keeps us in good shape. Compared to our forefathers, we move around less and burn less energy because of technological advances.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) estimates that the average adult spends more than seven hours a day “sitting down, at work, on transport or in their leisure time.” The hours grow longer for those aged over 65 years as they spend 10 hours or more, mostly sedentary.

According to the NHS, people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of chronic disease such as heart problems, diabetes and some form of cancers. It seems exercise not only keeps one healthy but also younger.

A 2009 article by Scientific American titled ‘Does Exercise Really Make You Healthier’ quoted a Stanford University medical professor William Haskell who said that people who exercised often “live an average of three to seven years longer than couch potatoes”.

Apart from getting our blood flowing exercise also reduces the amount of fatty molecules and the low-density lipoprotein(bad cholesterol), in the blood.

 

The Lesser Known Benefits of Exercise

 

“You’ll have a better sex life!” declares the lively coach and co-founder of Crossfit FMA gym, Aidi Amin, in Petaling Jaya. “You are inducted into a fraternity of raw, sexy fitness junkies who know how to command their mind and body to something that goes beyond superficiality. It also makes a good ice-breaker,” he says half-jokingly.

Aidi affirms what scientists and doctors have been saying for the longest time; exercise is not just a physical challenge. You improve mental focus and instill discipline.

“Your mental focus benefits most from regular exercise. Once committed to a workout, it doesn’t matter if you had a bad day at work because your mind and body understand that nothing else matters,” he explains.

Other unusual benefits of exercise include better goal setting and discipline. Working out is also a confidence and mood booster and it promotes effective stress management. It gets you out more often, and introduces you to like-minded people.

Exercise is good for your social life and you gain a better appreciation of nature as you are outdoors more often. “Exercise can also increase your creativity and make you into a fitter, healthier and nicer you,” says Aidi.

“Nothing compares to exercise. To say that one can reap the benefits mentioned above without having to be active is like saying ‘to live by not being alive’,” he adds.

 

Start today

 

“The hardest part is starting. Exercise requires consistency and habits are formed in 21 days. Don’t just think about it. Start doing something at home,” Aidi advises.

He says it is very easy to incorporate exercise into our daily lives by making small but meaningful changes. “Start taking the stairs or install a chin up bar in your door frame. They are all little things that can make a big difference.”

Work out anytime, anywhere

 

Too little time is something that most people blame their sedentary lifestyles on. The good news is that you can still incorporate some exercise into your busy lives. Here is how you do it:

Take the stairs

Skip the lift or escalator when you are shopping or at the office. You will be surprised at how effective this is.

Walk everywhere

Doctors say we need to walk about 10,000 steps a day to improve our health.

Play with your kids or pets

Turn of the television and put down the gadgets. Spend golden time playing with your children or your pets.

Start an office exercise culture

Organise a bootcamp or fun exercise class such as Zumba. Encourage everyone to get onboard.

Skip the trolley

When grocery shopping, use the baskets instead of trolleys. You will be doing weight training whilst getting your shopping done.

 

 Don’t give up on your workout just yet!

 

We have all been there. A health scare, a special event or someone’s sarcastic comment about our weight triggers the introduction of fitness routines into out lives. Overnight, we build a list of lofty goals, buy fancy gear and sign up for expensive classes. Now, the only thing we need to do is keep it up.

That’s the problem — it is so easy to fall off the fitness bandwagon!  It is also very tempting to succumb to the old sedentary life. As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

Below are tips to help keep you motivated to work out:

Create a routine

Set a specific time to exercise and try to stick to that time religiously. Exercise becomes easier when it becomes a regular routine.

Join a community

There are always like-minded people who share your same interests. A gym or class membership automatically pushes you into a community. But for certain sports such as running and outdoor cycling, you will need to ask around and read up on the internet to discover event listings. Registering for a sporting event such as a marathon is also a good way to start. Don’t forget about online communities as well. Instagram and Facebook contain a treasure trove of people who are motivating and inspiring.

Keep a log

Tracking your workout will make sure you stay on track. Hang a calendar in an obvious spot in your home or office to keep a track of your exercise routine. Alternatively, there are many apps that you can download – some for free- to do the job. You will also be able to track your progress.

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