Exercise today is in bad shape. This is not because people are exercising too little, or because the general public’s perception of exercise is disdainful. We are being inundated with reasons to exercise these days. Virtually all magazines are full of large-type promises: a leaner waist, tighter abs, bigger arms, etc. The list goes on and on.
People’s approach to exercise today is very piecemeal. They focus on the trees instead of looking at the forest. Most every fitness article that I read mentions nothing about whole body workouts or gymnastics. Instead, they all give the “perfect” prescription for getting rid of fat in problem areas, or tightening/enlarging a specific muscle. Your body is not a machine. You cannot replace the spare tire around your waist by just working your abs. You cannot work on just specific parts and ignore the rest. You can focus on specific body parts, but you need to work your entire body.
What’s worse, the wrong reasons are offered for exercising. Have you looked at the headlines lately? “Have better sex”, “Have better orgasms”, “Impress the girls”, “Get the biceps that will turn eyes”, “Girls, get a tighter butt”, etc. Are those really the reasons that people should exercise? No!
Exercising simply to obtain those benefits is a short-sighted, egotistical approach that will only make it harder for you to have a positive body image. Exercising for these reasons will definitely enforce negative habits and cause you to obsess unnecessarily about things that are out of your control.
Imagine your kids are walking through the supermarket, and they stumble upon these magazines. Do you really want their impressionable minds to be stamped with these ideas?! You work hard enough trying to keep them on a good path in life, do you really want some profit-minded magazine editor making your life harder? Are these the goals that you would like them to strive for when they are exercising?
Here are the reasons for exercising on a regular basis:
- Better health, even perfect health. Yes, this is an attainable goal! Good exercise coupled with a healthy diet and sleeping habits is the winning combination for perfect health. Without good health, we cannot lead normal lives. Our intellect is impaired and we cannot work and create at our best, our day to day activities have to be reduced, life is not enjoyed as much, personal relationships suffer enormously… I’m sure we can all think of many more problems that arise when we are not healthy.
- A longer life. Yup, you’ll live much longer if you exercise on a regular basis. The statistics are all fairly conservative on the issue, but I can tell you that you’ll probably add 10 or more years to your life if you keep exercising till the day you die. Just think of all the people that have died in the prime of their life because they were overweight or simply did not exercise.
- A faster, more powerful brain. Many research studies have talked about this lately. Exercise makes your mind work better. It’s a given. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. Start an exercise program, and even after just one week, you’ll see a marked difference in the way you think and solve problems.
- More physical strength. A balanced exercise program will increase your physical strength over time. Your strength can double, or even triple or quadruple depending on your current state.
- A better posture. Exercise will make you stand up straighter, and will even help correct curvature issues of the spinal column such as scoliosis. Once the muscles in your back get stronger, and if you maintain good body posture at all times while exercising, mild to moderate scoliosis can be corrected largely or entirely. In addition to these benefits, people will give you more respect once you keep a straight body posture. It’s all in the body language. A person with slumped shoulders and a downturned head simply does not get as much respect as a person with correct body posture.
- Increased flexibility. A good exercise program should make all of your muscles more flexible. Flexibility is the key to staying injury-free when we get older. It is because muscles aren’t flexible and don’t answer as fast that older people lose their balance and fall, breaking hips, legs and hands, sometimes even their necks.
- Denser bone. Why should you care about this one? Because bones that are less dense are more likely to break. Older people get a disease called osteoporosis, where bones get less dense and as a result are brittle and break very easily. This disease is caused by age-related hormonal imbalances, but exercise can make their and your bones denser, because the effort of the movement not only stimulates your body to make the hormones necessary for bone health, but it also works the bones themselves, literally rejuvenating them. Blood once more circulates through them, and as they twist and turn with your muscles, they start once again to acquire the flexibility and density they possessed in your youth.
Now what do you think of exercise? I could come up with many more reasons, but these are the most important ones. And you will not get these benefits unless your exercise program is put together with them in mind. You will most certainly not get these if your workouts are motivated by a desire to turn heads or have better sex. Why? Because attitude is so important in any activity that we do. And when our attitude is selfish or it focuses on one shortsighted aspect instead of embracing the entire picture, our results suffer.
How then should we structure our exercise programs? Here are a few important guidelines:
- You should take your entire body into consideration. I’m at the gym about 4-5 times a week, and I see people go there on a regular basis just to work on their abs, or just to work on their arms. I see people that just go there to run on the treadmills or just to use the stairmasters. That’s not the way to do it. An asymmetric approach will produce asymmetric results. People that run all the time may find that they still can’t get rid of the fat around their waists even though they run miles and miles every day. I see people who have indeed developed certain body parts very well, but others lag far behind. For example, their arms, especially their biceps, may be big, but their chest is small, and their legs are pencil thin. They not only put themselves in jeopardy because any one overdeveloped body part will cause imbalances in the rest of your body, but they also proliferate negative weightlifter stereotypes.
- You should include a lot of stretching exercises in your workouts. As a rule, you should stretch before exercising, during your exercises, and after you are finished with your workout. Read these articles for some great stretching exercises.
- You should not push your body too hard all the time. Don’t expect to set new personal records with every workout that you do. You will burn out, and that’s guaranteed. Instead, focus your efforts on maintaining good form in all your exercises, and on finishing all the sets that you planned to do. Personal records will come of themselves.
- You should balance out your exercises. If you are a weightlifter, make sure your have days when you just stretch, run or swim. Plan ahead. Don’t do just one type of exercise all of the time. It may make your ego feel better, but your body will feel worse.
If you put the advice in this article into practice, I guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised. You will eventually receive all of the benefits mentioned here, and many more to boot. You may find that you have gotten rid of that spare fat around your waist, that you are indeed turning heads, and that your intimate relationships have improved, but these will be side effects. They should always be considered just side effects!
The main focus of all your exercises should be to maintain and increase your health. If you do this, all the other benefits will come as a nice bonus, as the icing on the cake. But your health should always come first. That should be your motivation, and that should be your goal.