The Exercise Equation
by Sara j Pluta
As the new year approached, came, and went, many people reflected on the year gone by and resolved to make changes in the year ahead. A large number of New Year’s resolutions revolve around health and taking better care of oneself. Exercising more is a common focus for people interested in losing weight and increasing wellness. And a good one it is! The benefits of exercise are far-reaching and almost always positive. Let’s take a look at what exercise can do for you from a holistic viewpoint; body, mind, and spirit.
“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” ~Plato
Obviously, exercise is important to maintain weight. The analogy is simple. We must consume calories to fuel our body. If we consume more than we need, we gain weight. If we exercise, increase our metabolism, increase our body’s demand for nutrients, when we eat, the food is used for metabolic processes and to maintain our healthy weight.
Cardiovascular activity is the calorie burner. Aerobic exercise like walking, biking, hiking, and running train the body to become more efficient and improve stamina. There are many benefits such as heart health, reduced risk of diabetes and cancer, and the release of the ‘feel good’ endorphins.
Strength training is another component of exercise. When combined with proper nutrition and cardiovascular activity, the body becomes a fat burning machine whether you are sleeping, working, sitting, or exercising. With increased muscle mass, so too does the metabolism increase. Unfortunately, as we age, adults can lose up to 5-7 pounds of muscle mass every decade or one-half pound of muscle every year after age 25 if we do not partake in regular strength training exercise.
Your muscle is a powerful calorie burner, using 40-120 calories per day per pound of muscle. Fat on the other hand is lazy and only burns 1-3 calories per day per pound. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
Simply put, exercise is effective medicine for the body. But what about its effects on the mind? Researchers have found that exercise focuses the brain. In Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise student athletes proved they were faster thinkers compared with non-athletes. At the Pediatric Academic Societies 2011 annual meeting in Denver, CO, a study was presented that found grade-school children who exercised increased their state scores on geography from 55% to 68.5%. Another study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that adults ages 55-80 who engaged in one year of aerobic activity increased the size of their hippocampus (the area of the brain that is imperative for memory and spatial navigation). And in two independent studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 74 year olds who were the most physical activity, had the lowest percentage of cognitive impairment compared with those who were the least active. To keep you mind healthy, get your body moving.
“We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising.” ~ Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Cooper Institute.
Exercise is also known to lessen anxiety and depression. When endorphins are released, you experience a sense of euphoria, calm, and wellbeing. Exercise can be a healthy way of distracting yourself from emotional pain and trauma. It can also increase your confidence to deal with emotional challenges and delve into them with a positive attitude and outlook. As your physical strength and emotional health become better developed, so too will your connection to your inner spirit. When we learn to experience the feeling that our body, mind, and spirit are one, we are more inclined to value and appreciate the benefits of exercise and approach it with enthusiasm and dedication. Our bodies are meant to move, our minds are meant to be active, and our spirit needs to feel connected.
Here are some tips to help maintain a regular routine, begin a new one, or simply entertain the idea of making exercise a part of life.
- Be Realistic. Start small and think big. We want to set up realistic goals that we can keep and eventually move into more rigorous activity. Even if we only get out there several times a day for 10 minutes at a time, anything is better than nothing. Park further away from the store, walk or bike somewhere instead of taking the car, take the stairs, do household chores, just move.
- Find an exercise buddy to help motivate and inspire you. This way you have to show up and can keep each other accountable.
- Make it FUN! Find activities that you get pleasure from and do them. Exercise, like healthy eating, should be enjoyable and rewarding.
- Routine. At first, choose a time and dedicate that part of your day to your physical activity. This will ensure you have set aside that time and will also hold yourself to doing it. Routine often increases compliance.
- Strive for performance not perfection. Just do something, expect you may miss a day or two, and allow yourself to find the appropriate level of activity. Expecting perfection only leads to disappointment and possible failure.
- Set goals to motivate continuous effort and steady improvement.
- Visualize your success and how you want to look and feel.
- Find balance in your life. Make sure you are eating well, relaxing, and getting enough sleep in addition to your exercise regime.
- Make health and yourself number one on your priority list. No one else can do this for you and without this focus; everything else in your life will take precedence.
- Surround yourself with positive, motivating, inspiring people that support you and your efforts.
Clearly, exercise is important. It can change the way we feel physically, emotionally, and mentally. As the body, mind, and spirit are inseparable, devoting yourself to even a minimal amount of exercise will decrease physical decline, support healthy weight, flexibility, and strength, increase mental performance, and facilitate spiritual growth. As this whole being synergy emerges, a transformation is possible. Exercise becomes less of a chore or burden and more of a joyful experience our entire being looks forward to.
“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” ~Carol Welch
Sara J. Pluta
A keen interest in food and nutrition led Sara to pursue a culinary degree in health-supportive cuisine and then go on to study nutrition extensively, as she earned a BS, MS, and completed coursework for her doctorate in Holistic Nutrition. Sara has been in the Natural Products Industry for over 15 years where she enjoys empowering people through education and enthusiasm. Sara is a passionate speaker and a natural teacher who blends modern science, ancient wisdom, and human interest to connect with her audience.