We are told to “exercise,” but more often than not, we have absolutely no idea what that means! We read that we should exercise at least three to five days a week for one to 1½ hours each time.
Again, what does that mean? Daunting, discouraging and overwhelmed are just a few words that I would personally use for the above recommendations. According to one definition of “fit,” it means to provide a time or place for. Fitness, on the other hand, is defined as “the quality or state of being.” So, to get fit-(ness) into our lives, we need to provide ourselves with a “time and location,” so that we can improve how we feel.
As I have now worked in the field of health and fitness for more than 35 years, I can tell you that the majority of people I meet fail miserably at giving themselves time and space to move.
In a nutshell, my personal definition of exercise for fitness mandates that we include the following: strength work for our muscles (our muscles increase our metabolism), flexibility for our body so that our muscles can move our joints properly, and cardiovascular movement (aerobic activity) to challenge our heart (pump) and lungs (ventilators) — two very important muscle/organs that pump blood throughout our body and brain, nourishing vital tissues.
How do you start? Just start moving. Walk around the block (aerobic), find a sturdy chair in the house and sit down and stand up without using your arms for assistance, 10 to 15 times (leg strength), carefully bend over and reach for your toes (gently) and stand back up, 15 times (flexibility). You have just “exercised.”
Some people may say that the above workout was too little, why bother? I differ in my opinion. Once we start moving a little, our bodies and our minds want more. It’s a progression. The first most important step is “fit.” Make the time for you. It is something you won’t regret!
To my knowledge, no drug in the world has the power of exercise.
I was once asked, “Why belong or workout at a gym?” I had to shorten my list by about 100, but here are some highlights of what I think are some major reasons that working out in a gym is beneficial.
What We Know About Exercise and the Benefits of Working Out in a Health Club Environment
1. Exercise helps to:
» a. Combats health conditions and disease
» b. Boost energy
» c. Improves mood — happier
» d. Combats depression
» e. Controls weight — increase muscle mass (energy/metabolism)
» f. Increase aerobic endurance — stamina
» g. Promotes better sleep
» h. Better sense of “self”/body image/invigorates sex drive
» i. Offers a sense of “control” for/about one’s self
» j. Tames the “negative” voices in our heads
» k. Becomes a positive constant in our lives (even if there is turmoil swirling around us)
» l. Allows us time to focus on ourselves (our health and mental well-being)
» m. Releases built-up negative energy and tension both in our bodies and our minds
» n. Encourages interacting with others — establishes camaraderie
» o. Coming to the gym is always a positive adventure. It is a great social venue. When you leave you never say, “I wish I hadn’t gone to the gym” and you are almost always smiling!
— Paula Lilly, M.S., C.S.C.S., is the director of the Wellfit Program at the SWELL-Santa Barbara Athletic Club.