Increased Energy And Stamina
When considering exercise, realize that being out of shape costs more time than getting into shape. Sure, taking the car in for regular maintenance involves time, but a broken-down or barely running car will consume even more precious hours. A finely tuned body running on all cylinders will get you where you’re going faster and with greater enjoyment than one just puttering by. I work faster and longer than most people my age because of increased strength and stamina. Whether helping a friend move or cutting grass, the physical exertion is pleasurable and I may well go for a brisk hike afterward, hitting the pillow that night with a rich feeling of accomplishment. We don’t need more hours in a day, just the vitality to fill each hour with ease of movement. Besides, who doesn’t like the feeling of driving a racing car?
Maintaining Bone Density
Women are especially at risk of bone density loss and of developing diseases such as osteoporosis. For a woman, bone mass peaks at about the age of 25, then begins to diminish at the rate of 1 percent each year after. Studies show that resistance training can be more effective than calcium in maintaining bone mass and protecting from osteoporosis.
Another study examined two groups of women between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. The women who were involved in weight and aerobic training gained 1 percent of bone mass. When bodybuilders overload with weights, studies show that due to the stress placed on the skeleton, they have a much higher bone density than average. Weight resistance also has the added advantage of promoting better balance, resulting in fewer falls and fractures.
A Stanford University Medical School study confirmed what is commonly known, that regular exercise improves sleep. Forty-three men and women between the ages of 50 to 74, who previously lived a sedentary life, began exercising at least four times a week. After just sixteen weeks, subjects were able to fall asleep around 15 minutes sooner and sleep 45 minutes longer each night. Older North Americans consume half the medications prescribed to aid sleep. Exercise has the double benefit of improved sleep and ridding the body of unnatural drugs that affect mental alertness during the day. Play hard, sleep hard.
You heard it here first: fat cells do not burn fat. Muscle cells burn fat cells. So if 20 percent of your body weight is fat, that means 20 percent of your body is doing nothing toward metabolic fat burning. The higher the body–fat ratio, the harder it is to burn those love handles away. It’s that simple. Add to this the fact that an increased metabolism helps burn fat even when resting. You will burn twice the calories for eight hours after 20 minutes of aerobic exercise. This really rocks for us who love to eat. Unless you want to eat like a bird, exercise is an essential part of weight management. We need aerobics for increased metabolism, and resistance training to increase the size of those fat furnaces, the muscles.
Improved Sex Drive
It works a number of ways: exercise increases circulation to sexual organs, which is vital for endurance, and bodybuilding increases testosterone, which is important because this key hormone declines as men get older. Being physically fit feels sexy, not just to your spouse but it also boosts your own self-esteem. There is nothing like walking to bed, unsucked, unflexed, wearing but a smile, and not feeling self-conscious about how you look. Like it or not, God has wired us to be attracted to fit bodies. Getting silly and religious about that only leads to duplicity, and we have seen way too much of that. Think of fitness as a gift to your significant other. How’s that for honest charity?
Increased Heart And Lung Capacity
Your heart is simply a big muscle. When you increase your heart rate for 20 minutes or longer, not only is the heart forced to beat faster, but it beats harder, responding to the higher demand of working muscles. Over time, your heart and lungs grow stronger. They are the oxygen delivery system to every tissue of your body. Climbing stairs, running for the bus or playing for more than two minutes with your grandchildren all become easier. There is nothing that takes the fun out of play like huffing and puffing, barely being able to shout, “Stop, stop, you’re killing me!”
It’s also worth noting that a stronger heart reduces the likelihood of a heart attack.
People take supplements and medications in the form of appetite suppressors to help lose weight. They are hard on the body and not recommended for prolonged periods of time. Exercise can reduce your appetite by modifying insulin response, which in turn reduces that common upward spike which results in hunger. I can testify that my hunger disappears after five minutes of running or lifting and will not return until about 30 minutes after my workout. When it does, it is often ravishing hunger. I know exactly when it’s going to hit and will be well prepared to feed my hunger with clean fuel. It is a hunger that feels healthy and good. Be aware that when you are deeply hungry after a hard workout, your body’s ability to uptake nutrients is enhanced. This is a great open door to really put in the good stuff.
Reduce Physical Pain
For as long as I can remember, my dad had a body full of pain. Tan-colored vibrating, heating pads, the smell of Absorbine Jr. and Dad’s grimaces were a part of boyhood. He would say to me, “One day you will know what this feels like.” As I moved into my late 20’s, sure enough, I began to have back and neck pain. Dietary change rich in anti-inflammatory oils helped, but it wasn’t until I was three months into my first resistance-training program that a miracle occurred. My back and neck pain didn’t just get better, it disappeared. Gone, but yet to revisit if I let my workouts slide. If I slack off, sure enough, pain returns. Why?
Body building, when done correctly, strengthens core muscles, like abs and back muscles, which help support the spine and improve posture. Also, exercise increases the output of endorphins and serotonin in the brain. Endorphins are substances the body produces to fight pain. Serotonin increases blood vessel flexibility, resulting in reduced irritation. Also, serotonin blocks the brain’s perception of pain.
Now we move into something a little anecdotal and personal. Starting a workout program was a real act of courage for me, but with gritted teeth, I did it. Three months of consistently exercising not only had visible results but more importantly, my confidence was strengthened, affecting other aspects of my life. It was like I underwent a personality change, becoming a stronger person, assertive in areas where I had been fearful and passive. In fact, it felt so good, like something that had been caged being released, that I had to temper this new me, discovering that the greatest acts of love can be done in strength, not weakness.
The lymphatic system plays numerous vital roles in the body, one of which is filtering out toxins from the interstitial fluid between cells. Unlike blood that is circulated by the heart, lymphatic circulation is wholly dependent on muscle movement. In other words, it’s as active as you are. This is one reason why people feel rotten for the first few weeks of beginning an exercise routine. Their bodies are detoxifying, removing toxins, as well as burning dirty body fat. Exercising is essential for a clean-running lymphatic system, and the multiple benefits of an active lifestyle are a clear indication that the human body was not designed for inaction.
I am not at all surprised to read that exercise helps alleviate depression. Nor should it come as a surprise that depression is epidemic in North America—it is just another symptom of our sedentary lifestyle. Humans were not wired to spend the majority of their lives closed in by four walls, trading fresh air and sunshine for a National Geographic Special.
Remember we talked about endorphin and serotonin, those wonder chemicals the brain releases during exercise. Not only do they help with pain, but they increase the sensation of wellbeing. Joggers refer to it as a “runner’s high.”
I find it hard to pinpoint the source of the high I get during and after a run. A lot of things are happening, all complementing each other. First of all, I’m alone under open sky. Add to that the excitement of the challenge. Oxygenating the blood helps clear the head; I’m able to sort through negative thoughts, and prayer easily flows out of a re-energized mind. Spike this potent mix with the intoxicating ethers of endorphin and serotonin and you have one heck of a mood-altering experience resulting in strong emotions of exhilaration. It’s a physical thing, a warm afterglow, relaxing, like the release of bottled stress. You may say, Yeah well, what goes up must come down. That’s the great part: there is an overall feeling of energy and vitality that effects the rest of your day, almost like a mental housecleaning.
Related Article: Mind Over Muscle