Why Exercise Matters

Skin cancer changed my life. I used to have a very loose respect for what the sun could do to my skin. Not only did I NOT fear getting sunburned, I always saw it has a quick way to a tan once the burn layer peeled off.

That was then. The measures I now take to avoid too much sun still surprise me. “Who is this person?” I ask myself when I’m at the beach layered with lotion sitting under an umbrella.

It’s not that I didn’t know about the connection between sun exposure and skin cancer. It just didn’t matter to me.

Until it did.

I wonder what else is lurking in my future that I could do something about today, but choose not to because the “warnings” go in one ear and right out the other? One of the blessings of aging is that little warning signs are everywhere.

Rising cholesterol levels, blood pressure creeping up, and metabolism slowing down leading to a few extra pounds are all warning signs of what could come. They might also be invitations to better health.

There’s so much research confirming the value of exercise. But, have we heard it so much that it no longer matters? Or, maybe it feels so disconnected from our current reality that it becomes like wallpaper. We see it, but don’t really notice it. That’s how those warnings of sun exposure were for me.

And, then one day it matters. There’s a diagnosis or the weight of our past neglect becomes too heavy to ignore. Both, figuratively and literally.

Is there a way to make it matter now before it becomes tomorrow’s crisis?

Take a moment and linger on what the research tells us:

  • Exercise can reduce your chances of getting heart disease. If you already have it, exercise can reduce your chance of dying from it.
  • Exercise lowers your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Exercise reduces your risk for some cancers, including colon cancer which is the second deadliest cancer in the United States.
  • Exercise helps your bones and joints remain strong.
  • Exercise helps you fight gaining weight.

Did you simply read through that list or did you actually ponder the cumulative impact of those benefits as you get older?

The ever-present challenge of exercise is those benefits feel too far in the future. And, that’s if they even happen. We all know people who did the right things and still got sick and died young. These benefits aren’t guarantees. You can’t out exercise death. And, some people die young who were “fitness fanatics”. It’s easy to read that list and just shrug it off.

Until it matters.

It saddens me to think of how many people find themselves in health situations that might have been avoided with different decisions years earlier. And, now it feels too late.

If that’s you, please read this story about Jessica Slaughter. She waited until she was in her late 70’s before taking her health seriously. She made a commitment and the transformation is nothing short of remarkable and encouraging.

But, for those of us who aren’t facing a crisis how do we make the commitment now to take action that will benefit our future selves? There’s no easy answer to that, but consider these two questions. And, I mean REALLY consider them. In fact, take out a piece of paper and write down the answers.

What action or habit could you have started one year ago that you would be enjoying the benefits of today?

What could you have started doing five years ago that would have made a big difference in your health and well-being today?

These are hard questions because they can stir up regret. Who wants to feel that? It takes courage to lean into the consequences of past choices or non-choices. But, that feeling of regret can actually be the spark for action today that will benefit you a year, or five years from now.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. That’s about 22 minutes a day of activity considered exercise. When you commit to that a couple things are set in motion.

  1. Those benefits of a healthier heart, reduced risk for diabetes, a lower chance for some cancers, stronger bones and muscles are now in play for the FUTURE YOU!
  2. You’ll start to slow down weight gain and even begin to turn it around. That, of course, assumes you don’t start eating more.

Imagine, now, the impact of these two benefits on your life if you had started exercise five years ago. If you’re feeling regret about what you didn’t do in the past, use it to fuel what you can start doing today.

The challenge of doing what I just recommended, though, is that emotional fuel eventually fades and your commitment to making these changes must take over. That commitment is a lot easier if you’re doing something you enjoy.

Like walking!

Walking is sustainable, effective, flexible, and fun. I recently wrote about how to turn your walking into exercise that meets the CDC weekly activity recommendations. You can read that HERE.

Exercise really does matter. Your future self will thank you for taking action today.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

If you’re ready to invest in your future health why not try the 30 Day Walking Challenge? It’s a decision you won’t regret!

There are three different levels to help you supersize what you’re already doing. Plus, it’s FUN. You can download the free guide right now. This guide includes all three different levels. You can choose the one that works best for you.

I also recommend a Fitbit. It’ll change your perspective on walking and exercise. I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

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(By the way…if you use the links in this article to make a purchase this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Finally, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. Walking is sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions.

If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone…to the right and above on your computer) you’ll receive an email with a link to each new blog post.

 

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