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It turns out that the reasons people SHOULD exercise, and the reasons I WANT to exercise aren’t always the same. Should I be active because it’s good for my heart? Of course – especially when heart disease is in the family history, we all should make it a priority. Because it reduces my risk of developing cancer? You bet, especially with that in the family history too. Because it will keep me looking slimmer? Heck yeah. But, exercise benefits don’t always have to be the long-term results, usually they are right there in front of you, all you have to do is tune in to the NOW.
Those tidbits of knowledge are all well and good, but they don’t get the job done for me. Knowing all those things and feeling that urge to move are two different animals. So what exercise benefits get me off the computer, away from the tv, off my butt?
I feel alive
When I’m exercising, my senses seem to wake up. Music sounds better when I’m moving, colors seem a little brighter. Getting that blood flow picking up through my body and brain seems to clear my head and I just feel more alive.
I feel hopeful
I have some serious family history of chronic diseases. So why would I say I feel hopeful? Lifestyle, that’s why. Research shows that while genes can contribute to developing illness, lifestyle is a much bigger contributor. Often, our lifestyle coincides with those we spend the most time with, so it makes sense that family members would have similar lifestyles. I have hope because maybe I will be the one who breaks that pattern by living differently.
I get a mental break
When I’m exercising, I can allow myself not to think about all the things that are creating stress in my life. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s ok not to think about them, it doesn’t mean I don’t care (sound familiar?). When I choose to change the channel in my head, even for a little while, it does my mind wonders.
It takes the edge off my stress
When my life seems overwhelming, getting out and moving not only gives me a break, but the effects last beyond the workout. I generally feel more even-keel and clear-headed when I’ve been exercising, and if I can’t move, I notice the difference!
I can brainstorm
Some of my best ideas for my job and volunteer activities come to me when I’m walking. Maybe it’s because my energy picks up when I’m moving, or I feel more confident about myself when I am active, but I get a charge out of coming up with ideas when I’m walking.
Small accomplishments give big rewards
When I’m just starting out, being able to go “X” number of yards/minutes, etc. without walking (usually pretty short) makes me feel REALLY good. I like to bump it up just a little bit each time – it doesn’t take much and my emotional reward is usually bigger than the achievement. I’ll take it!
I feel more capable
When I’ve been active, I feel ready and motivated to help people with things, fix things, move things, carry things. When my friend needed someone to get into the attic above her garage and move stuff, I volunteered because I felt agile and strong enough to do it. It was awesome! She thanked me, but I felt lucky to get the chance to test myself out.
I’m fighting the good fight
-Against Father Time. The more time I spend inactive, the more of the “inevitable” aches, pains, breakdowns occur, and the worse they are. When I get moving regularly, I feel like I’m punching the “inevitable” in the gut. I do feel some of those things, but man, they could be so much worse.
I recover from things faster
Like I said, “when” I’m inactive, those physical problems start creeping up on me. But, when I’m active, it seems like it takes less time to reel those symptoms back in. I accept that I will never be pain-free, but it’s much more bearable when I feel like I have a little bit of control over it.
I can keep up with my kid
I’m older than the mothers of the kids in my daughter’s class, so I know I need to make a point to keep myself strong to stay on par with them and the kids. In fact, my daughter sometimes has trouble keeping up with me when we jog together. OK, I realize it’s only because my legs are longer – that won’t last much longer.
I could probably go on about my own exercise benefits, but you get the point. It’s not just about being thin, or preventing disease way down the road. It’s satisfaction that comes with all the little things I get in the meantime. Those are the things that get me going.
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