I have a bone to pick with doctors: Too many are giving poor advice when it comes to exercise.
While many doctors may encourage their patients to exercise to shed a few pounds, most doctors appear to miss the real point of exercise, which is to enhance the quality of our lives, regardless of our size or weight.
Including exercise in our daily lives should be the goal for everyone. And that should be exercise for the sake of exercise, not for weight loss. The problem with linking exercise almost exclusively to weight loss — instead of highlighting the exponential benefits of staying physically active — is that in the long run, exercising with the goal to primarily lose weight usually ends in failure. Once the honeymoon period ends, most people fall off the wagon, regain the weight, and never get back on again. That’s why I want doctors to stop telling people to exercise to lose weight, and instead tell everyone to exercise for the health benefits.
Here are six more reasons to exercise that go way beyond weight loss:
Aerobics of daily living
The benefits of aerobic exercise go way beyond a shrinking waistline, and you don’t have to become a marathon runner, either. When you are aerobically fit, you can walk up the stairs, sprint for the bus, and run after that toddler without feeling like you’re taking your last breath. A simple way to improve the aerobic components for daily living is to simply take the stairs at every opportunity. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Functional strength training
Strength training is not just for aspiring physique competitors. To the contrary, weight training should be about functional strength, and improving daily living. Ask yourself: Can you rise with ease from the toilet, a chair, or a car, or do you need to use your arms to hold on and press yourself up? How about your job? Are you tethered to your desk and sitting eight to 10 hours a day? If that sounds familiar, you likely have weak quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, back, and abdominal muscles. A simple solution is body weight squats, one of the best exercises for building overall lower-body strength. And you don’t even need any additional weight, just you!
Lower risk of certain cancers
According to a study published in cancer research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, postmenopausal women who walked seven hours a week had a reduced risk of breast cancer. That’s just one hour per day, and you can even break that into 15 minute-chunks four times a day.
Countless studies have concluded that internal inflammation accelerates the aging process, but regular exercise does just the opposite. In addition to getting daily exercise, we should attempt to avoid environmental pollutants whenever possible; stop smoking and tanning; and avoid processed foods, too much sugar, and unhealthy fats. All of these accelerate aging.
Battle bone loss
The research is conclusive, and one of the best ways to beat bone loss is for individuals to strength train regularly two to three times per week. Strength training cannot only prevent bone loss, it can help restore and build new bone. So do yourself a favor and strength train to protect your bones and prevent osteoporosis fractures.
Exercise is the best way to alleviate the daily stressors we all encounter in our daily lives. Exercise naturally reduces the levels of the body’s stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. On the other hand, exercise also kicks in the feel-good hormones, such as endorphins and the body’s other mood enhancers and pain killers. So ditch that martini, and exercise instead.
So instead of encouraging patients to exercise to lose weight, let’s consider encouraging everybody to exercise for better health and quality of life. Once people increase their appetite for exercise and feel better, then they’ll be set up to cultivate good health habits for life.