Benefits to Exercise
I have a slightly different take on the benefits to exercise than most.
There are health advantages for sure but if you concentrate first on looking good then these advantages will come easily as a by-product.
Your body will last you around 60-80 years generally without exercising much. Some people will live shorter lives and some longer.
If you are concerned with health and longevity, diet is much more important than physical fitness. However, life without exercise is sub-optimal for being at our peak of health and fitness.
The benefits of a fit and healthy body are many and I’ll outline them below but the reality as I see it is this:
The modern world does not call upon huge reserves of fitness. It is unlikely you will be called upon to trek for miles to hunt a mammoth, run from predators, or carry a kangaroo back to camp on your shoulders.
Unless you are competing in a sport, our current civilisation doesn’t expect you to be fit nor is it necessary for your daily life.
So why bother to exercise? I am going to list the benefits to exercise in what I consider to be the order of importance. I think you will find that the higher priority items are naturally easier to get motivated by.
Benefits to exercise
- Looking good – sex and ego.
The only real motivator from the list of benefits to exercise that I believe most people can relate to is...
Simple. Number one in the list of benefits to exercise is to look good for as long as possible while maintaining quality of life.
Every other of the benefits to exercise is a by-product of achieving this number one goal. If your exercise routine does not make you look good then you should consider changing it. However, if you are not concerned with physical appearance so much and your exercise programme gives you a sense of enjoyment and control over your life then go with it.
The two greatest drivers of human behaviour are ego (not always a bad thing) and sex. If the benefits to exercise are that you feel good about how you look, and the way you look makes you attractive to the opposite sex, and admired by your own sex over a life-time, then these would be the greatest benefits to exercise.
Ask yourself this: If you were the last human on earth (e.g. Will Smith in ‘I am Legend’ or for those who remember, Charlton Heston in ‘The Omega Man’) but without the zombies :-), would you exercise?
If you have to procure food by gathering or hunting you would be forced to exercise or die, but let’s say there is enough canned and dehydrated food to last your lifetime would you seriously bother to exercise.
There is no-one to impress, no-one to share triathlon times with, or bench press maximums, no other males or females to compete with for mates and certainly none to attract for sex. Would you exercise? I suspect the answer would be no, other than the occasional walk for exploration.
Other people are a major factor in human decision making and that is OK. You do live in a world where there are other humans and every day they make judgements about you as a person and a potential friend or partner based on how you look
Sex and the possibility of it are great motivators and people see your packaging (your body) before they find out what a great person you are so it makes sense to have the best packaging.
Have you ever noticed when someone leaves a relationship after not caring too much about their body for a few years, suddenly they start hitting the gym. One of the common signs that a partner is having an affair is that they pay more attention to their bodies, join a gym, lose weight, and eat better. I have seen this with numerous friends.
It seems once people have a partner whose affections they are sure of and after the demands of marriage and children, they don’t feel a great urge to look their best any more, but along comes a new possibility and they go all out to impress, which includes changing their body.
Ego – we like to look good but there is a certain pride in knowing that you are fitter than most of the population. Given that 40% of Los Angeles residents do less than 10 minutes continual exercise per week that wouldn’t be hard. Women are twice as likely as men to be physically inactive and this is crazy when women have the most to lose by not maintaining their looks (see
Tied to ego is how we look and how we feel about how we look. One of the benefits to exercise is to be able to change the way your body looks to meet your own ideals. If you look good and people comment on the way you look there is a strong motivation to maintain your exercise programme (e.g. once I started to get some decent size and definition in my arms people started to comment in a positive way which encouraged me to keep training). We are all suckers for compliments:-)
Getting control of your body can be the start of getting control of your life. I finally ended a relationship I felt trapped in by going to the gym. By making that time for myself I was saying that I was important too. By changing my body I began to feel I could change other things in my life.
As my self-esteem increased I became willing to change other aspects of my life and ended my relationship. My friend Mannie, who ran the gym, commented on how many people ended or started relationships, went into business, or changed jobs after coming to the gym for a few months.
Numerous studies have shown that self-esteem increases as a result of changing your body into the way you want it to look. Self-esteem is connected to confidence and there is nothing you cannot do if you have confidence, but nothing you can do without it.
- Health benefits
Decreased risk of heart attack, stroke (by 20-27%), alzheimers (by 40%), osteoporosis (especially with weight bearing exercises like walking, jogging, weight-lifting), high blood pressure (by 40%), breast cancer (by 20-60%), colorectal cancer (by 60%), prostrate, lung, uterine cancer and even diabetes (a brisk walk for an hour a day can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 34%).
People who exercise reduce their stress levels, decrease depression and are better adjusted. They also perform better on tests of cognitive function and exercise keeps the brain sharper for longer.
Cardiovascular endurance decreases by about 1% annually from the age of 25 so at 50 you will have lost 25% but regular aerobic exercise can get this back and then some.
Post-menopausal woman lose about 2% of bone each year, whereas women who do strength training 2-3 days a week gain about 1% of bone per year.
As for longevity, in one study (spanning 17 years) people who exercised only 6 times or more per month lived an average of 43% longer than sedentary people.
But be aware that exercise is not everything. You can be incredibly fit, both aerobically and anaerobically and die relatively young or have a stroke as has happened to people I know.
The benefits to exercise don’t include COMPLETE protection from heart disease and a host of other problems, although it can help. Exercise combined with the proper diet for humans can keep you in good condition for a long lifetime and looking good for all of it.
The two lifestyle variables most closely associated with obesity are TV viewing and owning a car. Think about turning off the TV and getting out a couple of nights a week for a squash game or keep the TV on but make fitness part of your morning routine.
Being overweight, in itself, is not a health issue (see
) but being obese or carrying weight around your stomach is a health issue. The problem with overweight is not about health but about aesthetics. Lean but sedentary men lead shorter lives than people who are overweight but exercise. So you can be overweight and healthy but if you want to change the way you look be aware of this:
‘95% of Americans who attempt to lose weight by dieting alone, FAIL!!’
If you want to lose weight or shape your body...You NEED to exercise...
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