Everyone knows that exercise is good for your heart. That's not one of the two things I was talking about, but it's good to remember. Stroke and heart disease are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and no one wants to die sooner than necessary!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of last month were telling us two and a half hours of exercise could lower your risk for these diseases. You don't need to run a marathon or climb Half-Dome at Yosemite. You just need to do some moderate intensity aerobic activity. For any of you who don't know it, weight-bearing workouts (cables, weights etc.) are definitely aerobic...I know this first-hand. If you can handle it, doing more is better. Building up to something every day is the best. You can start slow and gradually get where you want to be.
Type 2 Diabetes is practically at epidemic proportions in our country now, even in kids. Getting them off the couch, away from the video games, and moving is the best gift a parent or friend can give. You may be saving a life. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing this deadly disease and even if you already have it, it can lower your blood glucose levels. If you have the notorious fat roll around your waist and/or high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar (otherwise known as Metabolic Syndrome), the same amount of aerobic activity will lower your rate of getting these conditions. These are also not the two things I am talking about, but we'll get there.
You can reduce the risks of certain cancers; help strengthen your bones (which helps to protect you if you fall) and your muscles, which help protect lots of important organs in your body.
According to Scientific American in a January 2009 article, they quote the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging Americans to do moderate exercise for two and a half hours a week. They recommend brisk walking, water aerobics, or more vigorous running, swimming, or cycling for an hour and fifteen minutes a week. These are all good forms of exercise but are generally outside except for the cycling or running which you can do at the gym. I personally prefer weight-bearing exercise as it has many additional benefits such as weight-loss and toning and can be done indoors, even at home, all year. There is ample evidence now that exercise will add years to your life. People who are NOT couch potatoes live an average of three to seven years longer. You can get a lot of good stuff done in those extra years and have a lot of fun.
But these things are still not the ones I want to tell you about. So let's move on to those. The 2 Great Things Exercise is Guaranteed to Do For You are:
1. Improve your mental health and mood
2. Build your self-confidence
As a psychotherapist, I am particularly interested in these two benefits. I have worked with many, many people who have come to me because of problems in these two areas.
The CDC (in their June 4, 2015 page update) has pointed to the numerous definitive studies that have been done proving that regular physical exercise reduces the risk of depression and helps you sleep better. I can attest to the truth of these claims as evidenced by hundreds of my clients over the years. I have long been an advocate of exercise and have developed many programs incorporating exercise and diet to help overcome existing depression and improve sleep.
Sleep is crucial for your immune system to build itself back up after the stresses that tear it down through much of the day. A mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise three to five times a week for 30-60 minutes can provide these benefits. They will also help keep your thinking, judgment and learning skills sharp as you age (even if you're young, there will be improvements).
Self-confidence is crucial to everything we do. Much like our bodies, we take it with us everywhere we go. Even though we can't see it, it has an enormous impact on our lives, especially the quality of our lives. When our self-confidence is high, we can accomplish anything, or at least be willing to attempt anything. Taking risks is what every super-successful person will tell you is necessary for achieving high levels of success. Just ask Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra.
When we feel insecure, we tend to be more introverted, less social and less willing to try new things and meet new people. Exercise stimulates those good endorphins we need to feel good and in turn our behavior is positively impacted.
Working out consistently lets you get better and better and feel stronger and stronger and like the way you look and feel. So why not take a plunge into exercising and get the two great things (not to mention the many other great things) exercise is guaranteed to do for you!