9 Good Reasons to Exercise

Sunday Sep 15 | BY |
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I’ve got a younger brother, and he’s the athletic one in the family. Growing up, he was into sports: basketball, skying, cross-country running, and so on. On the other hand, I dreaded sports. In our catholic high school, every student had to compete in a yearly run. My brother always arrived in the top ten runners, while I finished in the last twenty (out of a group of 120 students). It’s not just that I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t want to get good at it. I had my mind set, and I thought that sports weren’t for me. I liked reading and writing fantasy stories, and taking long walks with one of my friends to talk about philosophy and the end of the universe!

Now, having been involved in the natural health movement for over 15 years, I make exercise an important part my life. I work out at least four or five times a week, but it took me a while to get to this point.

I think that it’s because I knew that exercise was important, but I just didn’t realize how important it was. With every year, I tried new ways of incorporating exercise into my life, and most of them failed. Now, I focus mostly on weight lifting as my primary activity, but I also like to run.

I was able to incorporate exercise into my life when I realized what exercise could do for me.

1) Exercise prevents mental decline with age

New studies have shown that exercise helps brain development and prevents mental decline as we age. It also sharpens thinking and reduces mental fatigue. “There is no medicine or other intervention that appears to be nearly as effective as exercise” in maintaining or even bumping up a person’s cognitive capabilities, Dr. Hillman says. (From the book “The First 20 Minutes”).

2) Exercise is better than pills for reducing anxiety and restoring mood

Whenever I don’t exercise for two days or more in a row, I start feeling slightly depressed. I just have this mysterious feeling that I’m not my usual self. I then realize that it’s because I haven’t exercised!

Exercise helps the brain produce serotonine faster, and low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression. Therefore, some studies have shown that exercise can be as or more effective as antidepressants. Other “feel-good” hormones are also produced during exercise, helping you feel better emotionally.

3) Exercise reduces stress

This is a well-known benefit of exercise, but most people don’t know that it takes about six weeks to come into full effect. So, if you start a running routine, don’t expect to feel the rewards immediately. But after three to six weeks, you should notice a significant decrease in your levels of stress in your daily life. Powerful physiological changes will occur in your brain, and you’ll feel better than ever.

4) Exercise prevents cancer

A recent study done in Finland showed that jogging is more effective than other leisure activities, such as walking, in preventing cancer.This was after accounting for cigarette smoking, fiber and fat intake, age, and other health related variables. Men who jogged or otherwise exercised intensely for at least thirty minutes a day had a 50% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely from cancer. (Source: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2009/07/28/bjsm.2008.056713.abstract)

5) Exercise increases metabolism

The word “metabolism” is misused to no end in natural health circles, as it seems that every company wants you to believe they have the one food that will increase your metabolism. But “metabolism” only means how many calories you burn in a day, and how fast you burn those calories.

Strength training exercises are one of the only proven ways to increase metabolism. As you increase your muscle mass, your body will burn more calories at rest. This means that you’ll be able to eat the same amount of food as your friends, but not gain weight, even on the days that you’re not exercising.

6) Exercise prevents heart disease

I mentioned in a previous ezine a recent study done by the Cooper Institute, which showed that the speed at which a person can run a mile in their 40s and 50s is a good indicator of how likely they are to suffer from heart disease as he or she gets older. Middle-age men who can run a mile in 8 minutes (9 minutes for women) had the least risk of dying from heart disease. This study took into account other lifestyle factors. (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/on-your-marks-get-set-measure-heart-health/)

7) Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight

This is a catch-22 however. In order to lose weight with exercise, you have to be very fit, because intensity is key. Low-intensity exercises, such as walking, will not be as effective. Overweight people typically can’t exercise with much intensity, because they are not very fit. Fit people have the easiest time losing weight with exercise, even though they don’t need it as much. Become lean and fit and you’ll find it easier to stay lean and fit! But remember that intensity is key. If you want to lose weight with exercise, you need to push yourself.

8) Exercise prevents the fat and weak arm syndrome

Sarcopenia is the inevitable loss of muscle mass as we age. We’re all doomed to lose some muscle mass as we age, but the goal is to keep as much of it as you humanly can, so you can be strong and independent as you get older. The decline starts in our early forties, but the good news is that it’s possible to prevent and reverse much of it with a simple weight training routine.

9) Exercise increases self-esteem and sex-appeal

Let’s face it: when you’re fit, you look better, and you are more attractive in the eyes of others, but also feel better about yourself (which in itself, is more attractive). If you are single and dating, looking at your best will make it much more likely that you’ll attract the person of your dreams. And if you’re married or in a relationship, you’ll be more attractive to your partner, making it much more likely that the spark between you two will last.

What about you. What are your top reasons to exercise?

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.


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  2. Sarah T says:

    Great article. Reminds me to incorporate more exercise. I’m a yoga aficionado but also just like to get outdoors. Used to do weight, might incorporate some of that .

  3. Stephen says:

    A correct exercise regimen optimizes body composition.

  4. Jordan says:

    I just read this after a run, so this was encouraging.
    I ride my bike a few km a day just commuting or going to the market. I try to make those my main workouts by riding hard w/ traffic.
    I run 3-4 nights a week for a few km as well.

    One thing that keeps me going is my wife and the fact that I don’t want to be sluggish.
    I keep reading about how it helps mentally in the long run and I’ve figured it’s more than worth the try.

  5. Melissa says:

    i do have low thyroid but get out walking quite a bit – i literally can’t run much – have to watch it with the weight gain though i’m preety ok with diet with some noteable sugar cravings. very much like the green & fruit smoothie options…

    It would be a goal to run again, though i actually was reasonably athletic in high school – but this was due to the dance studio, not the gym; though i could jump as high as some basketball players as a short woman; this only saw me labelled as “bunny” … & i was never recruited!!

    love to dance and i think that overall this is the healthiest form of exercise because it is so non-competititive and the music levels the field so it never feels competitive … just joyful.

    thanks for the reminder, Fred; and the acknowledgement of people’s efforts!!

  6. judyutah says:

    Noticed loss of muscle mass in past couple of years….. am now 65 and am used to much more endurance and strength than I have now. Any suggestions for what/how to start a doable weight lifting program?

    • Weight lifting doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. Depending on your level of strength, you could start with resistance bands. Many instructional DVDS show how. But in my opinion the best results come from using either free weights or machines at the gym or home gym. You can also do a lot with body weight. I like the gym because you can get advice there and coaching. But otherwise you can purchase a simple set of dumbbells and start with a routine twice a week that covers all body parts. For some of the exercises you’ll use weights, and for some exercises you’ll use your own body weight. And you start with higher reps, like 2-3 sets of 20 repetitions for a few weeks, to get your body used to it first. Then lower it 10-12 repetitions.

  7. I am 61 years of age and was diagonised with high blood pressure and diabities although I trains a lot with weights.
    But I happened to control it with exercise and diet, without medication.
    You wrote a beautiful article.

  8. I’ve also found it hard to make myself exercise in a formal way — as in going to the gym. I’d much rather work in my garden and just stay active in general. However, I realize that I need to add weight training to my life in order not to lose muscle as I get older. So . . . the main reasons I exercise? I suppose to maintain muscle and brain functioning! But I walk daily because I love it — it feeds my soul, and stimulates my creative juices.

  9. Tony says:

    I agree and feel the same way about walking/jogging I do it daily

  10. Jill says:

    I just wanted to say that I’d like to exercise, but I don’t because I have adrenal fatigue. I read with having that you should not exercise cause it makes adrenal fatigue worse.
    Just had to comment, hopong you might she’d some light on the matter.
    Thank you for your message/article and your time.

    Jill Hasselbach

  11. Lynn says:

    I had my first episode of deep vein thrombosis (clot from groin to foot) with my 3rd pregnancy at age 27. I was dehydrated and very ill but not sedentary while caring for 2 little boys. The second DVT occurred at age 43 while working a very sedentary job, transcribing medical reports for 8 hours a day. At age 60 after being told that my job of 25 years was outsourced, I have spent a lot of time on the computer, researching many things. Once again I have deep vein thrombosis involving the same leg. We all should pay more than the usual attention to keeping active. It’s a bad idea to take health for granted. At one time while losing weight, I made it a rule to only watch TV if I was exercising on the cross-country skiing glider. As soon as my leg heals, I will return to that rule. I will also take omega-3 oils to prevent inflammation of my vessels, and I plan to look into bromelain and nattokinase to restore some health and prevent another recurrence of deep vein thrombosis.

  12. Sorry Frederic but I totally disagree with just about all of the above reasons. I accept that exercise works for SOME people but most definitely not for everyone, maybe even not for a majority of people though no one has done any real independent analysis on this matter – as opposed to scientists merely following the fashion and making absurd assumptions. I certainly know from my experience that vigorous exercise raises blood pressure, depresses mood, increases stress, adversely affects my weight control, is dangerous to health (gave me a mild heart attack!), depresses self-esteem etc etc etc. Indeed, although I don’t know the current situation, but at the height of the fashion for jogging, doctors estimated that jogging was the 3rd major cause of death in the US. No, don’t be fooled, exercise is not a panacea for all. For some yes but for many no. Some sort of additional activity can be helpful but vigorous exercise is so often incredibly dangerous. Don’t be a fashionista.

    • Hi Arthur. Certainly there’s the view that “cardio” can negatively affect some people. I do it mainly for improving moods, but my main exercise is weight lifting. Although, I don’t agree with your conclusions. The idea is that anyone can find ONE exercise that works for them. For example, using intervals can be a great alternative to cardio. There’s of course walking. And there’s weight lifting. There’s hiking, etc. All of those exercises have benefits. Exercising is not synonymous with jogging.

  13. Kevin,

    Thank you for all the great facts about exercise. I was surprised at the facts I did not know.

    You always have great insights in your articles. Thanks for that.


    Kimalee Borgert

  14. Martha says:

    Exercise continues to stay with your body mass even after you are finished helping your body relax and sleep more soundly.

  15. Brenda says:

    It is almost that time of the year where I am throwing rocks at houses. I have to keep my house clean. Prior to the season I need to get into shape so that I don’t hurt my back. I love to curl and doing five or more games a week I need to be in shape.

  16. Isabel says:

    I exercise to get oxygenated and to connect with my self.

  17. Jamie says:

    I’d love to exercise more but I’m working 12 hour shifts at the moment so my free time is very limited. Does anyone know any good, quick exercise routines, like 30mins to complete?

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