Recently, I posted a quote on facebook from Professor Tim Noakes MD (South African Professor of Exercise and Sports Science): “The benefits of exercise are unbelievable.. but if you have to exercise to keep your weight down, your diet is wrong.” After around 4 years of faithful gym attendance, I only recently got a brainwave on this myself! Although I exercise for a variety of reasons, I would have definitely included weight loss/weight control in the list. About 4-6 weeks ago I decided to do an experiment. My research on the digestive system led me to the conclusion that if I was digesting well and eating well, I should be able to not exercise and not gain any weight. So, I tried it. I reduced my 4-5 gym classes per week down to 2. And when I did go to gym, I didn’t push to ‘over-exert’ myself. Now, please remember that this was just my personal experiment and while not exercising, I was doing other things to work on my digestion. I know there was a whole range of variables there, but I wasn’t trying to prove something scientifically, just listening to my body. I was surprised, in fact, to find that not only did I not gain weight, but I even lost a little (this has never been my experience before). I can tell you, though, I felt old and creaky, very stiff.. and after 4 weeks definitely felt my muscle tone had all slipped away
Gym is my choice of exercise, but it doesn’t suit everyone. I choose it because it’s convenient, focused and social and these things motivate me to get there. I love to walk along the Esplanade in Cairns, or anywhere outdoors, and do that once or twice a week as well, but I’m a goal driven person, so an easy walk doesn’t always work for me. I think it’s a very important point that we should all listen to our own bodies, know what we respond to best, and look for the results.. know exactly what we want out of the activity we do.
So, if exercise isn’t for weight control, why do it? Here’s a few reasons why I exercise and these are very important to me.. more important than even weight loss!
1. Increased blood flow. Exercise gets the blood pumping which encourages the flushing out of toxins, and gets oxygen to the tissues and cardiovascular system. This guards my body from all kinds of health problems and gives me energy for the day.
2. Improved mood. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals leaving you with a ‘feel good’ hormone rushing around your body. I find exercise helps keep me positive and hopeful, when life can be challenging, and it also gives me an opportunity to let off steam occasionally if something is really troubling me.
3. Tones muscles. Regular exercise, with good technique, really improves the posture. I love my weight bearing exercises, whether using weights or the body’s own resistance! I see definite improvement in my posture and in muscle tone all over. Interesting enough, knee problems can almost always be related back to the ankles or the butt.. Strengthening these core muscles saves you from unnecessary injury later on (and also helps me to run around the yard, chasing my son with a nerf gun, and keeping my balance!)
4. Promotes better sleep. Many of us have such active minds, these days.. We think and multi-task so much and spend a lot (too much!) time on screens (tv, computer, ipods, phones). Regular exercise helps me to fall asleep faster and to sleep deeper, meaning a good night’s rest and repair. However, it’s important not to exercise too close to bedtime, or you might have too much energy to get to sleep!
When considering wellness, exercise must be thought about, and a plan put into place. Otherwise, your wellness is imbalanced, and at some point, it will be a cause for regret. Whether you walk the dog or do something more strenuous, do it regularly and enjoy doing it. Don’t worry too much about getting on the scales, but watch and see in what other ways your exercise benefits your wellness