I used to be this almost fanatical field hockey player. It took up a big chunk of my time/energy/passion. This was especially true during high school, but was also a significant part of my life during college. So then after college, without the structure and discipline of an organized sports team, it took more effort on my part to exercise. In medical school, I was able to play club volleyball because I had friends who played. Therefore, there was always some outlet for my stress. Once I started residency and was working 80 hour weeks... exercise kind of took a backseat. I'd try to go to the gym to run every now and then but it was hard to be motivated and hard to be consistent. Then I had kids and exercise pretty much went out the window! It is no wonder I started feeling like I was going crazy! Not only did life just become so much more chaotic but I also stopped the one thing that was always my source of stress release.
So I am someone who needs a goal to stay motivated. Just deciding to run on the treadmill everyday is not enough incentive... I had to tell myself that I need to run so that I can finish a marathon race. Once I really started training I was amazed at the huge difference it made in my mood. It seriously feels like I'm taking a "happy pill"! I'd get home past 11 o'clock at night (because I can't run until my kids are asleep... which is usually past 9pm) but be full of energy and glee. I have always advocated exercise to my patients and know you can get this endorphin kick, but actually experiencing it is beyond what words can describe.
Of course, the trick is to actually do it. It may require getting an accountability partner or like in my case, need to set some sort of goal.
Here are 10 reasons to exercise from the Mayo Clinic:
- Keep excess pounds at bay. Combined with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise helps you lose weight — and keep it off.
- Increase your stamina. Aerobic exercise may make you tired in the short term. But over the long term, you'll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
- Ward off viral illnesses. Aerobic exercise activates your immune system. This leaves you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.
- Reduce health risks. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Manage chronic conditions. Aerobic exercise helps lower high blood pressure and control blood sugar. If you've had a heart attack, aerobic exercise helps prevent subsequent attacks.
- Strengthen your heart. A stronger heart doesn't need to beat as fast. A stronger heart also pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body.
- Keep your arteries clear. Aerobic exercise boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol. The potential result? Less buildup of plaques in your arteries.
- Boost your mood. Aerobic exercise can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.
- Stay active and independent as you get older. Aerobic exercise keeps your muscles strong, which can help you maintain mobility as you get older. Aerobic exercise also keeps your mind sharp. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week seems to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.
- Live longer. People who participate in regular aerobic exercise appear to live longer than those who don't exercise regularly.