A lot of my work has me banging the proverbial drum about 'the importance of exercise.'
I often ask myself whether there's any point though–given that the concept goes by largely ignored. Unreassuringly, similar messages from my peers also get lukewarm responses.
However, being patient and persistent by nature, I usually (and stubbornly) end up holding onto my optimism–in the hope that one day, we will see a significant change for the better.
With that, I've decided to dedicate a page to the importance of exercise and why it's a 'no-brainer'–unless of course you're not human–and come from another planet.
5 arguments for the importance of exercise
I realize that if you're indifferent or opposed to exercise, then the statement 'importance of exercise' will probably seem overly presumptuous to you.
After all, who am I to tell you what to think?
I am however prepared to defend my position on those 3 words. Frankly, I don't even think the topic is debatable.
1. Do we need to revalidate an already-proven fact?
The importance of exercise in its contribution to good health–requires no further analysis or detailed explanations.
Yes–it's good for you.
The importance of exercise is unequivocally supported by endless medical tests, experiments and perceptible cause-effect relationships. A perfect counterweight to the importance of physical health.
The benefits derived from working out are therefore enjoyed by any individuals who participate in regular physical exercise. You'll know this because of their toned physical condition, and the fact that they lead a life of superior quality.
It's that simple.
Ever meet anyone who was worse off for having engaged in physical exercise?
2. Regrettably though, we're failing
A simple glance around will attest to this.
Observing the state of the general public's health situation–and it's clear that the message has not been internalized.
Many studies show alarming statistics–indicating that significant quotas of modern society are living sedentary lives and not maintaining good eating habits. (See the WHO Media Center's Fact Sheet no. 311.)
But you actually don't need to review published statistics or reports. Just look around and you'll see that society is on a long-term 'bulging' drive.
Since the 1996 US Surgeon General’s report on Physical Activity and Health was published, there have been numerous campaigns to mobilize action for change.
But nobody's responding–at least not seriously enough.
People are not adequately dealing with their own physical condition, neither do they appear particularly motivated by the potential risks, nor concerned about benefits of exercise they squander in the process.
3. Why do we wilfully ignore the warnings?
Any able-bodied individual, young or old, lean, or overweight, has the mental capacity to understand and accept the fact that exercise is beneficial for good health and overall wellbeing.
When then, are so few listening?
You'd think that enjoying all of the many advantages and benefits of exercise would spur people on to get interested and involved–right?
Okay, but we can assume that inactive people with health issues would be responsible enough to take responsibility and address their situations by themselves?
Again, not happening.
What about those who've left it so late, that they're already in an advanced state of ill-health with mounting medical costs–perhaps even facing dire prospects? Surely members of this group would take action?
Well, from my experience and standpoint–precious few.
Possible reasons for the 'deafness?'
Regardless of all the high-level awareness campaigns, cross-cutting initiatives and communiqués–we continue to ignore and neglect our general state-of-health.
Are we consciously aware of our actions in deliberately overlooking the importance of exercise as a precursor to better health, or in offsetting the effects of certain maladies?
It may just be that those like me, attempting to promote change among the public–are barking up the wrong tree. Are those awareness initiatives really 'leveling' with the ordinary everyday person–those who resemble Al?
I believe that being misinformed and unable to recognize the actual importance of exercise is not the issue. You know the saying about leading a horse to water–right?
The needy crowd actually knows what it's doing wrong, and what needs fixing. But it does a lousy job at joining the dots.
Those of us who have become overweight and unhealthy, seem to justify our condition to ourselves and to others with cleverly crafted excuses. With that, we give ourselves permission to develop an out-of-shape body which we grow comfortable in–aided by the passage of time.
You don't agree?
Coaches like myself and others educate and hammer on and on about the hard facts of health, fitness and obesity–hoping these will encourage people to take action. Alas, results are pretty meagre.
Apart from the lack of initiative, the needy crowd also doesn't like taking advice from others.
For example, the scare tactics on cigarette boxes, designed to deter smokers.
They don't work.
So why would a similar mode of campaigning have any more success with obese individuals?
My own take
People generally think they 'know' better. Even if they view well-intended health and fitness advice as obvious, justified or reasonable, there's still little (or no) buy-in from them.
Why? Well, they get annoyed quite easily when advised what to do or what not to do. They also prefer to live in denial, by ignoring the issues at hand.
Until, regrettably–it's too late...
It's a tricky job to 'tango' with both prospective and sceptical clients–that's what makes my job challenging. And rewarding.
My role is trying to positively bring about a sense of awareness–that good health and fitness is yours for the taking–if you so decide.
The top 17 'reasons' for not exercising
In my experience as a Coach, I've heard and seen some really amazing excuses. This list is merely to add depth and insight to this page–although not to give you any suggestions or ideas!
- I don't have time
- I'm too busy with other things
- I've lost interest and/or motivation
- I'm too tired
- I'm too lazy
- I don't have enough self-control
- The gym is too far
- The program is too difficult
- The program is too boring
- I'm too self-conscious to exercise
- I'm not making any progress
- I don't need exercise
- It always seems to be raining and I prefer to run outdoors
- My mind isn't 'right' yet
- I don't have the right equipment
- My running shoes don't fit properly
- My knees hurt
I'll be addressing some of these wonderfully creative reasons in the future. Keep an eye on my Fitness Blog page, or subscribe to my RSS feed to stay updated.
3. Again, why do we need exercise?
The answer to this is straightforward and well-known.
Because it's essential for good health and longevity, regardless of age, gender or physical condition.
It's true that the world has become fast-paced and more demanding. It asks people to do more with less (including downtime), and in so doing–it makes convenience commodities 'seem' like the better or 'obvious' choice.
It means less walking and more driving–more fast-food and less of the wholesome unprocessed varieties. Physical activity has decreased as people become more sedentary.
Like it or not, this is the hard reality.
People often argue that they're 'absolved' from becoming fit because of these constraints.
Are there any practical workarounds?
The good news is that you don't have to forego enjoying the occasional fast-food meal, surfing the Web or watching TV. But, to get into an appreciable state-of-health, you'll have to make the time to also work out, eat responsibly (most of the time) and relax.
It's essential to integrate physical, emotional and mental wellness into daily living. But you need a little more planning in your life. The best intentions mean little if they're unstructured.
Living an unbalanced life is simply not healthy over the long-term. Holding down a demanding and stressful busy job may ultimately mean promotions and lucrative rewards.
But these come with a price tag. As an Everyday Person myself like Al, I know what it means to be busy–I live the same hopes and dreams you do.
Sooner or later you'll need to reckon with the neglected parts of your life, whether that's caring for your health, being involved with your community–or simply relaxing with friends or loved ones.
Don't let it come to this!
As Edward Stanley so eloquently put it: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
Be mindful of where you are, and where you're heading
When you think about it, as a modern society, besides improving our overall health, we also need to restore the more wholesome family values and work ethics we once lived by.
Yes the world has become more competitive and people have less time all-round; we work longer hours and we're usually tired, disillusioned and sometimes frustrated.
We might turn to food for comfort a little too frequently. And looking at it that way, it’s easy to see why things gradually go wayward.
It's not a worthwhile option. If this is you, stop a second!
If you're too focused on winning the rat-race with little time for anything else, you 'could' ultimately find yourself in poor health or overweight–having lost perspective and your sense of security–perhaps without really knowing when or how it happened.
Coming from a lifestyle like Al's, I know now what's needed. A lot of why I've managed to sustain my level of fitness–is down to being consciously aware and alive in all 3 of these essential areas: mental, physical and spiritual.
It means applying balance and moderation, and it means not neglecting any areas of importance in your life.
Only by employing the sensible approach, can you deal with life's stresses and at the same time enjoy an appreciable level of fitness.
Make a conscious effort to rise above the chaos
Partaking in physical exercise takes extra effort—since 'life' for most of us is already hectic.
But, knowing and understanding the significant payouts, should make it easier for you to become and stay motivated. Knuckling down and getting into shape requires hard work and dedication. It’s not a case of flicking a switch. But it does get more manageable and more enjoyable.
The best way to sustain your efforts is to have your life in order and under your control. In other words, you must be in healthy mental shape, and be emotionally stable too. And I don't mean you should sit around and wait until you're on an 'even keel' before becoming active.
Approaching it like that and you'll never get anywhere. The importance of exercise should not be seen as subject to anything... unless it's life-threatening!
A lot about getting things done in life comes down to how you prioritize them.
And if there are issues in your life which you feel are holding you back, proactively address them.
But don't make your fitness program dependent on your mindset.
As I mentioned, you'll need a plan.
4. Exercise has a role in fostering other healthy habits
The more you progress exercise and fitness, the more chance you'll take your newly-acquired confidence and improved self-esteem to other areas of your life.
People who successfully transform themselves, and maintain their superior state-of-health and fitness–will usually live happier, longer and more fulfilled lives.
Once you've tasted success and got the clean bill-of-health with a new body – there's a strong chance you'll fight off anything that gets in the way. This new state-of-awareness affects how you approach all aspects of your lifestyle.
You'll be amazed just how differently you'll do things. No longer will health and fitness take a back seat. You won't be so much 'reactive' any longer, but rather 'proactive.'
You'll be in charge.
5. The importance of exercise in real terms
Physical exercise causes a number of significant changes in your body as a result of the stress placed on it—hence the term 'Training Effect', or 'adaptation.'
Fatigue and micro-trauma to your physiology and anatomy cause positive changes in biochemical and tissue properties, as well as to physiological processes.
In plain words, you punish your body–strategically. Then, by eating and resting—it grows stronger, leaner and more resistant.
You look–and therefore feel–better.
The acquired training effect translates into benefits which include favorable muscular, tissue/cellular, cardiovascular, metabolic and biochemical adaptations.
Need I mention what happens to your self-esteem?
According to the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), the training effect allows you to undertake physical activity more easily, and with decreasing apparent reaction, thus providing an increase in quality-of-life.
Functional fitness that allows you to climb a flight of stairs without hyperventilating. Or to carry and pack luggage when you travel without feeling totally exhausted.
The importance of exercise boils down to these tangible benefits:
- The beneficial 'Training Effect' from regular exercise promotes good health and helps prevent major health-related complications connected with costly treatment and serious (and often preventable medical) consequences;
- Regular exercise can contribute to improving a whole host of health conditions, some of which include: anxiety, cancer, cholesterol, depression, diabetes, fatigue, heart disease and high blood pressure;
With the public’s higher-than-ever levels of obesity, people are much more reliant on medical care than 'could' be the case. This places a tremendous financial load on consumers for health insurance, as well as on the national budget for those who rely on state health care;
- The mental state of an individual actively engaged in exercise is a significant consideration. The importance of exercise here is in supporting the integrity of complete or overall wellness which includes physical fitness, mental wellbeing and emotional stability;
- Included as part of a schooling syllabus (especially junior schools), the perceived benefits of participating in exercise can help ground the concept of health and fitness from a young age–hopefully enduring on a long-term basis to contribute towards society’s benefit on the whole;
- The importance of exercise also extends to the psyche. Physical fitness greatly contributes to enhancing self-esteem and boosting confidence. People actively engaged in exercise are generally more successful at what they set out to do in life.
Advice for staying true to your fitness program
So, you've faced your demons and you're underway with your physical exercise plan—great!
But how do you sustain your efforts through to achieving your intended goals?
Part of helping you stay the course, is to plan and keep track of your fitness program (as already stressed earlier). As I often repeat, exercise needn’t be boring.
You can have a very rewarding and beneficial level of health-related fitness–if you approach your fitness program sensibly.
What do I mean by that? Be conscious, reliable and consistent. The small things add up to a lot.
It's possible to achieve and maintain excellent shape while enjoying real food, but it does require you to be organized–at least until you're fully acquainted with your body's functioning and its tendencies.
When you're 'there', you can eat and train like I do–instinctively. But at first, make sure you track and gauge your progress.
If you can identify with Al, then why not try out the Sensible Fitness Program? And since we're talking about tracking and recording, here's a simple log you can use with it.
(It's essential for you to keep track of things until you've progressed to the level where you can do it 'on–the–fly.')