Without a doubt, our bodies were made to move. Our genetics are set up to hunt and gather, not to sit in front of a computer or on the couch in front of a television. It is undeniable that our sedentary lifestyles play a part in our rising obesity epidemic in adults and children. The industrial revolution has allowed us to travel, communicate, and work without lifting more than a foot on the gas pedal or a finger on the keyboard.
I read about an interesting theory a few years ago, and it has stayed in my mind and inspired me ever since. The theory explained that exercise signifies to the body that life and prosperity are happening. When people or animals move about it means that food is available, because they are hunting or gathering. This sends a message to the cells in support of life, and, along with adequate nutrition and energy, the cells grow stronger. On the contrary, when beings are sedentary, this sends the message to the cells that hard times are at hand. Maybe there is not enough food, so the body is resting, trying to conserve energy through a rough winter or a time of famine. This sends the opposite message to the cells, a message of deterioration and shutting down, a message of death.
If this is how we are hard-wired, what do you think is the effect on our cells of our sedentary lifestyles today? If sedentary behavior used to tell our bodies that it was time to shut down, wouldn’t it have the same effect today? Is this perhaps why being sedentary lowers our resting metabolic rate (RMR)? If so, we may also conclude that a person who does engage in an active lifestyle is pulsing life energy through their body on a daily basis, as their entire system is operating in a mode of growth, which is the opposite of deterioration.
Many people see exercise as a chore. Treadmills are set up with all the information we need right in front of our faces to dread every pace. How many fractions of a mile we have traveled in the last minute, and what level were are currently working at (as compared to the intimidating maximum). All with a gigantic timer right at the top so we can count every second until our dreaded 30 minutes of the day is over, and we can check off yet another day of 300 calories burned.
Life and all of our activities in life are driven by our thoughts. If we are thinking positive thoughts, we will inevitably create positive things in our life. And, we can change our entire experience merely by changing our perspective. Furthermore, what we visualize over and over ultimately becomes our reality. I propose that those of you stuck in an exercise rut, or finding yourself dreading exercise, try thinking about exercise in terms of sending a message of life throughout your body. As your heart rate increases, visualize your blood growing rich with life-giving energy and carrying that message to every part of your body, revitalizing you. Get lost in how good it feels to be alive, and enjoy the endorphins created when your body receives this wonderful message. Give thanks to the universe that your cells are in a state of growth and living rather than in a state of decline.
If we are able to make exercise as good for our minds as it is for our bodies, we will find that we no longer have problems being motivated, having enough energy, or finding the time to exercise. Maintaining positive thoughts about exercise before, during, and afterwards, will transform our experience. Think about:
- How fit you feel as your muscled take on a new, more toned, and stronger form.
- How much stamina you have as you progress in your exercise, and see that as proof of you increasing health and vitality.
- All the energy you have, and how that affects every other part of your life; your relationships, productivity, and enjoyment of life.
- How much your metabolism improves, allowing you to burn more fat with every breath you take each day, becoming leaner and more healthy.
- The self-confidence you gain as you prove to yourself that you can do this, and as you continue to achieve bigger and better goals.
- Be proud of yourself for taking such good care of yourself, just as you would for a child, spouse, or good friend for whose health and well-being you may be responsible.
It may help you in formulating positive thoughts to know some of the scientifically proven benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise:
- Boosts HDL (good cholesterol) and decreases triglycerides (fat bodies that float through your blood)
- Helps you lose weight by burning calories and boosting your metabolism
- Calms you down, improves your mood, and prevents depression by producing endorphins (happy compounds released by the brain)
- Relaxes you and reduced stress
- Increases your energy
- Helps prevent osteoporosis & diabetes
- Helps prevent and manage high blood pressure
- Improves sleep by helping you fall asleep faster and deepens your sleep as long as you are not exercising too close to bedtime
- Enhances sexual arousal in women and decreased incidence of erectile dysfunction in men
- Helps prevent heart disease & cancer
I truly believe that as you embrace this philosophy, you will have a much easier time “finding time” to exercise, just as you manage to find time to watch a movie you’ve been dying to see, or cook a meal you love to eat. You will find it pleasurable and will therefore be surprised how much more easily you’re able to slide it into your schedule (just think of all the time you’ll save not having to procrastinate it too!) But alas, I do realize that sometimes even with the best of intentions, we do fall short on time. There are some options to help you fit in as much physically activity as you possibly can on the days when you don’t have time for planned exercise:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you have the opportunity.
- Park at the farthest end of the parking lot so you have to walk to the store.
- Squeeze in a few 10-minute walks at breaks during your workday, which could add up to a significant amount of time by the end of the day!
- Walk in place or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks when watching TV. Yes, that means resisting the urge to fast-forward that DVR!
- Do sit-ups or pushups during commercial breaks or whenever you have 5 free minutes
Another common objection to regular exercise is convenience and cost. Many clients tell me they just cannot afford a gym membership and/or don’t have the time to drive there. No problem, there are many forms of exercise you can do from the comfort of your own home, some activities of which require just basic equipment! Most all of the equipment listed can be purchased at a discount sporting store, or Wal-Mart.
- Jump Rope
- Exercise DVD
- Step stool
- Ride a bicycle, stationary bike
- Resistance tubes or bands
- Dumbbells, canned goods, or milk jugs filled with varying amounts of water
- Body weight squats
Stretching – Can be done free of charge without any equipment!
And, in the spirit of adopting a new mindset where exercise is pleasurable, don’t forget the many activities we consider pleasurable or recreational that also provide exercise! For some, the best way to adjust to this new mindset may be to start there!
- Ballroom dancing
- Climbing Wall
- Sports – flag foot ball, field day events
- Racket sports
A word of caution to beginners: remember to check with your Dr before beginning exercise program.
What are some thoughts you normally have when you exercise? What are some positive thoughts you can use to replace the negative ones?