Happened upon an interesting question this week.
“If you could give one piece of advice to a very smart but lazy guy, what would it be?”
Graeme Austin’s answer piqued my curiosity.
“If you truly want to go from lazy to motivated in all aspects of your life, you should do one thing, and one thing only: Exercise.”
So, I did some research to see if Graeme’s answer has merit.
After wading through substantial evidence, I came up with 4 convincing reasons to support the claim that
Exercise is the simplest and most empowering habit
that transforms anyone’s life.
1. The Health Benefits
Of the many studies done to determine health benefits of exercise, I found these three intriguing.
It reduces your risk of the common cold.
A brisk, 40-minute walk 4 days a week, can reduce the number of colds you experience by 25 to 50 percent and can shorten the colds you catch by half.
It helps prevent and treat Osteoporosis.
The impact of your feet hitting the ground as you walk stimulates cells in the bones of your legs, hips, and spine to strengthen and build new bones. Activities such as dancing, hiking, jogging, jumping rope, climbing stairs, or playing tennis stimulate bone growth even more and maintain bone density.
It battles chronic fatigue syndrome.
A group of chronic fatigue syndrome patients in Britain engaged in 30 minutes of walking or aerobic exercise 5 days a week. After 3 months, these patients found their symptoms improved, but within a year, three-quarters resumed normal daily activities, and some returned to work.
2. The Emotional Benefits
Studies show exercise has significant benefit to emotional well-being also.
- It battles depression without drugs.
- In a study of patients suffering from depression, one group walked briskly or jogged, a second group took the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), and the third group took the drug plus exercised. After 4 months, all three groups showed similar improvement. At 6 months, however, those who kept up the exercise, had the lowest rates of remission.
- It reduces stress
- Working up a sweat with a brisk walk or a workout in the gym increases the release of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps the brain respond positively to stress.
- It creates feelings of happiness.
- Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘happy chemicals’ that make us feel euphoria. As little as 10 minutes 3 times per day or 30 minutes 3 days per week will give you a ‘happy buzz’ and help keep you in a positive mood.
3. The Convenience Factor
The term exercise is sufficiently broad so that anyone can do it. Exercise for some may be a rigid program of strenuous physical training under the guidance of a personal trainer, but for others it may be a recreational sport like tennis or just a brisk 20-minute walk 3 times a week.
I call this the convenience factor. It can easily be incorporated in daily routine by anyone. What other “prescription” costs so little, yet promises so much?
Not only is exercise of notable physical and emotional value,
it is convenient.
Look for opportunities to walk. Instead of parking as close to the mall entrance as possible, find a space that allows you to walk—it doesn’t have to be the farthest corner, just enough to give you a nice ‘feel good’ walk. It’s a healthy mindset and a healthy habit you are creating.
So you like dancing? Enroll in a dance class.
Gardening? Swimming? Yoga? Rock climbing? The options are endless.
Even at work you can reap the benefits of exercise. A study at Florida State University found that elite performers sustained peak performance by working no more than 90 minutes per session.
Exercise is any physical activity that gets you up and moving (breaking a sweat, if possible and appropriate), gets your heart pumping a little faster and your lungs breathing a little deeper.
When you commit to exercising with regularity,
you’re on your way to creating a healthy habit
that will transform your life.
4. The Ripple Effect
The health benefits, the emotional value and the convenience factor are convincing arguments to the question. The clincher, however, is the ripple effect.
Exercise is a keystone habit. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg identifies certain habits that initiate a chain effect of other good habits. The end result is positive transformation.
Of exercise Duhigg writes,
“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why …‘Exercise spills over,’ said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. ‘There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.'”
Are you convinced yet?
I am, and I’m renewing my commitment to exercise. I can think of several enjoyable ways to get up and get moving toward a healthy, well-balanced life.
How about you?
ps. Here’s Ida Keeling, one more very convincing study.
Her story adds depth and credibility.
Image courtesy by Madrolli / FreeDigitalPhotos.net