We live in a fast-paced world. Every day we are presented with a whole host of questions: what do we wear, do we make or pick up breakfast, do we even eat breakfast, what route do we take to work, etc. When trying to decide whether you should exercise for fitness and health, don’t overthink it. The answer is a resounding YES.
It doesn’t take many turns of most people’s hamster wheels to come to that conclusion. But, there are still a shocking number of people who think they can “fool Mother Nature”. They are convinced they can forgo the sweat and work associated with exercising just by taking a pill or drinking an especially nasty tasting shake. They believe they don’t have to do the work to maintain their fitness and health. It should come as no surprise those people are flat-out, without-a-doubt, wack-a-doodles.
Life Has Changed
That may be a bit too harsh. Anybody who has been alive for more than a few minutes has probably been inundated everywhere they look by images of folks who never have appeared to have had to work for their bodies. Hollywood, music videos, magazines, all make it appear to be so easy.
The truth is, it isn’t easy. People in the past had it easier. They weren’t predisposed to lead a sedentary lifestyle filled with TV shows, pop, sugars, trans-fats, and carbohydrates. Oh, they still ate carbohydrates. It’s the things we do when we’re not eating carbohydrates that have changed.
Our ancient ancestors had to work for each and every meal. Life was tough. Hunting for food, gathering food, avoiding predators, it all meant that their muscles received regular exercise and what they ate was generally all-natural. It didn’t matter whether their intake complied with our current government’s approved diet. What calories they took in, they worked off and then some.
Even our ancestors a little further removed from Fred Flintstone lived different sorts of lives. It’s only in the last couple of generations when it’s taken a positive decision to exercise for fitness and health to truly get and stay fit and healthy.
Build Early Lessons
It’s important to start exercising at as early an age as possible. When my friends ask me if their kids are too young to start an exercise program I have a simple one-word answer – “NO!” Of course, most kids already subscribe to a complex exercise program. You might recognize it. It’s called “playing”. At least playing prior to the advent of video games and cell phones would contribute to kids staying fit and healthy.
Increasingly, parents can no longer rely on just “play” keeping the kids fit and healthy. It takes a concerted effort by many parents to get their kid’s faces out of their phones, get them to put down the player control, and MOVE! Making exercise fun goes a long way to getting kids to actually enjoy themselves while exercising.
The specter of early-age athletic programs can scare many parents what with their peers complaining about practice schedules, and uniform purchases, and “team snacks”. But, it’s those early lessons on participation, competitiveness, and “earned success” which will pay dividends as your kids age.
Establish Healthy Habits
The easiest way to reinforce positive actions and make them pay benefits for the long-term is to change them into habits. Don’t get in the elevator. Take the stairs. Pick a parking space further away from the store rather than closer. Schedule your exercise sessions for the same times every week and, if possible, at the same time on any particular day. It’s the little things like these that contribute to your fitness and health throughout your life.
In the most simplest terms, anything you can do on a regular basis that creates a habit out of being less sedentary, do it. If that means choosing a path that makes you walk a few extra steps, do it. If that means pushing yourself to run an extra mile, over and above your regular route, once a week, do it. If that means firing the dog-walker and taking Fido yourself, do it. Make the choice to exercise.
Fuel Your Engine – Don’t Gunk It Up
Did you ever try to start a lawnmower after it had sat outside all winter? You probably pulled, and pulled, and pulled, on the starter reel and cursed every time it wouldn’t start. At least that’s what I’ve done on more than one occasion. That lawnmower wouldn’t start because condensation got in the fuel. It got “gunked up”. Your body is no different.
If you want your body to “purr” like a Jaguar (the car not the cat), make sure you fill your tank with “premium”. That means a good mix of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and lots of water for hydration. I’m not saying you have to become “that guy (or girl)” that only eats free-range chicken, shops the organic section exclusively, and walks (or runs) everywhere with a sports-bottle filled with Agua.
Just take stock of your purchases at the grocery store and your meal plan each day. If the number of sugary drinks and processed foods outnumber the “good stuff”, you may need to reassess your diet. Exercising for fitness and health requires energy and that energy comes from your food. Similarly, your cells require water to work correctly. If you do not take the time to MOSTLY eat right and drink plenty of water, you generally will fail to experience the desired effects from your exercising.
Get Started and Never Stop
Sometimes I wish I had made better choices in my life. I suppose we all do. But, the one choice I am most happy I made was to become and keep physically fit. I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t competing physically. As far back as the fourth grade, and even beyond, I remember gym classes and recesses where some physically-active game was the focus. Of course, I did have an aptitude! If I wasn’t the outright captain of a team, I was usually the first one picked. That at the end of my fourth-grade year, my teacher gave out his “superlative” awards (i.e. “Best Student”, “Most Improved Speller”, etc.). I lost out on “Best Athlete” to a rival. I had to settle for “Best All-Around”.
Straight through high school sports and into college intramurals, I continued to exercise for fitness and health. Maybe it was inevitable that I would choose a career in the military where physical fitness has an emphasis. Still, it wasn’t as easy for me as you might imagine. I could play football all day, shoot hoops all night, and get up the next day and do it all again without a thought. But, if you want me to just run laps around a track (like the Air Force did) that was a different story. I HATED to run (still do). I knew I had to get over my hatred of running to succeed in the Air Force. So I did.
Now that I’m retired, I am glad that I did. I have made exercising for fitness and health a habit. When it gets to be a habit, you’ll miss it when you don’t do it. I’m not saying if YOU haven’t been exercising since before the fourth grade all is lost. What I’m saying is start exercising NOW whenever now is for you. Start and don’t quit.
Don’t Be Afraid to Stop and Smell the Roses
There’s an old saying that goes something like “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. In the context of this article, it holds a similar lesson. Just because you need to exercise and consider what you eat to look out for your physical fitness, that doesn’t mean you have to be rigid about it.
I was practically weaned on the pop, Mountain Dew. Growing up, my family lived above our country store. Whenever the thirst was there it was only a matter of walking down the stairs, opening the cooler, and grabbing a bottle. Believe me, the thirst was there a lot.
I still enjoy an occasional Mountain Dew today. Mountain Dew is my “rose “. In reality, it’s only one of a full bouquet of “roses” that represent things that don’t necessarily fit into my “fitness” lifestyle which I still enjoy occasionally. You need to discover your own “roses”. What little things will you indulge in that are not considered “healthy”? No matter your commitment level, everyone needs a few roses. Just keep them to a bouquet number. When you have enough roses to populate a small field somewhere, you’re probably not going to exercise for fitness and health. You will be too busy having a good time rather than being disciplined.
It’s a Lifelong Journey
It’s not like as time passes and your exercising that one day you are presented with a certificate of physical fitness and you never have to exercise again to reap the same benefits. It’s a nice thought, but reality is never that forgiving. You’ll have to keep moving, keep exercising, throughout your life.
If you have not yet begun your journey or know someone who has given up there’s, it’s never too late. Commit to yourself, right this second, that you will make exercising for fitness and health a part of your living habits. Eat the right foods and drink plenty of water. Nobody ever fully “wins” their race as it inevitably leads to death. But, you can make the journey last by establishing healthy habits, exercising, and never quitting. But, don’t forget to stop and pick some roses along the way.