5 Reasons to Exercise

Disclosure: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The following is a result of my own research. Please confirm everything I say with your own research and common sense as well as your family physician. And then get your rear in gear!

5 Reasons to Exercise | Life as MOM

I don’t need to exercise. I’m not very athletic. I’m not coordinated. I like reading better. I’m not an athlete. I don’t really have a weight problem. I don’t like to sweat. I don’t have time for that.

Those are all the different things I’ve said to myself over the last twenty-five years. Even earlier, I guess. I was always the last kid picked for a softball team. I faked a stomach ache whenever dodge ball was on the teacher’s schedule.

In high school I lettered in baseball. No lie. I was “a stat girl” for the boys’ baseball team and got a real letter to go on my sweater.

For many years I figured that my high metabolism exempted me from exercise. I didn’t gain weight no matter what I ate. And I lost the baby fat pretty easily.

But, let me tell you, you young whipper snappers, eventually it all catches up to you. Since I stopped having babies — which also coincided with turning 35, my metabolism has slowed down, the belly fat has accumulated, and I’m not quite as limber as I once was.

I did not want to start exercising, but the muscles in my body started crying out: Use us or lose us!

Why I should exercise — and why you should, too:

So, as you know, I started going to the gym back in June. I was having such pain in my lower back, constantly going to the chiropractor. Both FishPapa and the chiro suggested going to the gym — which we were already paying for — in order to strengthen my back and core muscles. So, I called up the folks at the Y and made an appointment.

It’s hard to keep at it, especially on days when my to-do list is screeching for attention. But, I’ve just decided that it needs to be a priority. I have to remind myself of why it’s good to exercise. Here’s what I tell myself:
exercise shoes

1. It keeps you limber.

Over time I see regulars at the gym. One older woman and I started talking one day. She goes three days a week to use the weights. She says, “If you don’t use your muscles, they’ll stop working.” I don’t have science to back up the statement, but I’m seeing that it’s true. The more I exercise, the better my body is able to move.

The trainer/gym monitor guy told me about functional fitness, otherwise known as working out for real life. While I don’t have a set regiment — and I still don’t really know what I’m doing — I’m seeing the importance of other exercises besides weights and machines. My brother, an athlete with a degree in kinesiology, has instructed me to start slow with lunges.

Since June, I’ve noticed that my body is getting back to its limber state of yore. I don’t think I can do the splits, but my body is more limber. While my hip pain hasn’t gone away, it has gotten better. My lower back pain is almost non-existent.

2. It improves both cardiovascular and brain health.

If you read anything about heart health, you know that exercise is an important part to keeping the ticker going. While you may not think you’re at risk for a heart attack, it’s nothing to dismiss lightly, something women often do.

Additionally, staying active can also help your brain! Last year when I worked with the Alzheimer Prevention Initiative, I was stunned to learn that exercising could help me keep my brain healthy. As more intellect than athlete, this struck me hard. I better get moving if I want to keep thinking straight!

brain on exercise

A reader sent me the above photo she took of a magazine clipping years ago. (Thanks, Tara!) I couldn’t find the magazine source, but I did track down a similar diagram and related research in this report from the feds about exercise helping learning. I’m not sure if or how this effect continues into old age, but I’m gonna guess that it helps us old people, too.

(If only someone had told me that being more enthusiastic about PE would have helped my grades…I would have been highly motivated!)

3. It helps reduce visceral fat.

Another thing that I learned about exercise is that it’s not about just the fat you can see. Since I never had a big weight problem, I had dismissed my need for exercise — until I learned about visceral fat. Visceral fat presents itself as belly fat, but it is actually deeper, surrounding your organs.

Skinny people can have visceral fat — and it can lead to serious problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancer. Um, yeah, no thanks. Diet and exercise are how we can keep visceral fat in check.

4. You might lose weight.

Exercise often leads to weigh loss which is usually a good feeling for most moms. After almost three full months of exercising 60+ minutes a day, 6 days a week, I haven’t lost a pound. But, I’ve also been recipe testing for a new cookbook. Last time I did that I gained ten!

So, I’m thinking that this gym thing is at least keeping me from gaining weight. Or we could just say I lost ten pounds this summer. Ha!

Regardless, even if you don’t lose weight, know that your body is probably changing shape. This is what I keep telling myself. I know that my legs are more toned and my muffin top is decreasing — a little.

exercise bike

5. You’ll feel better.

Lastly, exercise makes us feel better. I remember in college when I would do an obligatory run about once a month, I felt like my lungs really worked. I felt exhilarated. I get the same feeling now after an hour on the treadmill. I know that my heart’s been pumping, my lungs have been working, and my brain has had some good circulation.

Exercise is also said to help with stress, so maybe I’m better off that way, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no expert. I would much rather curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee every morning. But, I also know that God only gave me one body. I wish that I had developed these better habits 17 years ago.

If you’re a parent, I think the evidence is in favor of making sure our kids develop some exercise habits. If you’re a young mom, can I encourage you to do some kind of exercise every day, even if it’s just taking a stroll through the neighborhood? If you’re an older mom, well, it’s not too late to start. Look at me? Evidence that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

What’s YOUR take on exercise?

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  1. I didn’t go to the gym for many years and started back at age 65. I am 67 years old and I go to the gym 5 to 6 days a week. I am in much better shape than other friends at this age. It is all about commitment and lifestyle change. Just makes me feel better. Wish I hadn’t let so many years go by
    without going.

    I think people are afraid to go because people might stare at them or they think they don’t look so good. Nobody cares, they are interested in the reason they are there not why you are. So I say to everyone just go. Your doctor will love it.

  2. I love this post! My husband has been a runner for years. He says, “I’m going for a run.”, and he does. I would think, “Maybe I should try to run today”, and then proceed to make dinner, clean up the kitchen, do a load of laundry, etc, etc, etc, and before I knew it, it was bedtime and I never did get to run. One particularly stressful afternoon, I decided I needed a break, so I said, “I’m going for a run”. You could have heard a pin drop in my house! All of my children stared at me like I had two heads. I had never run before, but I went to the treadmill in the basement and pounded out 10 minutes. And you know what? The dishes and laundry were still there when I was done, and life went on. I agree wholeheartedly with all 5 of Jessica’s reasons for exercising! I’m happy to say 3 years after that initial “run” on the treadmill, I’m still at it, and even completed a half-marathon last year. Two of my daughters have started running, too. Exercise has had such a positive impact on our family that I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to get started!

  3. Absolutely! I remind my husband on a routine basis to not let me stop exercising because in 30 years I don’t want to be my mom starting over because I have osteoporosis, etc. My weight has never been an issue, but I have a horrible family health history (heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, etc) that I am fighting against. One of my proudest moments was the day I picked my 4 year old up from daycare, and one of his teachers told me that they had been teaching them yoga, and my son said that he already knew the poses because he had done them at home with me!

  4. Way to go, Jessica! What a great example you are setting for your kids in choosing exercise as an important way to stay healthy. I am a group fitness instructor and some of the classes I teach are for older people in the Silver Sneaker program. This group did a study that found when people attended these classes twice a week, they saved over $1,500 in healthcare costs per year than those that did not attend. I know you don’t fit into this age category but I’m pretty sure this money savings can translate across the board when people make physical fitness a part of their daily routine. Thanks for sharing this post!

  5. I have been a couch potato my whole life and it was never a big deal (not overweight, no real health problems) but I started exercising in January for mental health reasons. We’ve had a long period of stress over caring for my husbands elderly parents (they moved to a nursing home, had many health problems, heartbreaking decline, and death of one of them…..) and it was eating at me — it seemed like months of living in “crisis mode” was taking a huge toll. I was considering long-term medication to help with my relentless anxiety but read that exercise can be just as effective. So, I gave it a go. First, I started lifting weights. Then I took lessons and learned to really swim and started lap swimming. After a few weeks, my husband joined me in swimming and then we started running. I joined a summer tennis team (I’m a beginner….at age 44, it’s never too late to learn) and have been playing several times/week. I feel great, my anxiety issues have resolved. Never would I have thought I would be so active and loving it. I lost a few pounds, trimmed up but, best of all, I feel great! Exercise is now a regular and necessary part of my life — and my life is so much better because of it.

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