In the coming weeks, I’ll get back to the topic of persuasive communication, even when dealing with people at their worst. But in this week’s post, I’d like to tackle a tough subject that doctors often deal with in their patients. Exercise.
There, I said it. And so far, you’ve survived it. Let’s find out if I can persuade you to do something more about it.
“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.” -Pooh’s Little Instruction Book
Exercise is a phenomenal power generator, which explains the correlation between sedentary living and low energy levels, and the difficulty a sedentary person experiences when they try to get up off the couch. Just as you need to provide your body with nutritional, mental and emotional fuel, you also must move it or you’ll lose it as the fuel turns to fat. I should know. I recently shed 15 pounds of ugly fat, and without having to cut my head off! Exercise is how I’m building success on success.
The energy generated by exercise can strengthen your heart , lower your risk of stroke and heart attack , oxygenate your tissues and organs, tone your muscles and skin, and help you have a body that doesn’t frighten or depress you when you look in the mirror. Yet few people are motivated to exercise for these benefits alone. I find that people who truly enjoy exercise and take the time for it are actually using it to energize themselves! Sedentary people have just the opposite experience. Exercise wears them out. Now, isn’t that interesting?
Exercise, for those who have learned to love it, is a great way to spend time in nature, to wake up to the newness of each day, to share some time with good friends or conversation with loved one. Exercise is also a great way to meet energetic people who can support you and be supported by you in other areas of your life.
The challenge of exercise is to find the right program that addresses your concerns about how exercise might constrain you. Finding the time to exercise seems like an impossible task to someone who is already overwhelmed by work and family responsibilities. Clearly, such a person must find a way to integrate exercise with either family or work. A husband and wife can go to the gym together, or take long walks in the evening.
I recall one patient who used to be in shape. That is, he was until his dog died. He realized that he had to start taking walks with his wife or else get a new dog.
A workout machine in your home can eliminate the travel time of going to and from the gym. We have a piece of ‘vibrational exercise’ equipment that we like to call the ‘Jiggler.’ You stand on it for 10 minutes and do isometrics, with the result that you get increased circulation, better lymphatic drainage, improved digestion and more bone density. (Talk to my wife if you are interested in ordering one, because, as usual, she may be able to get you a great deal!)
If you choose, you can integrate exercise into your normal activities. When you’re waiting on your printer to print something, do a few push ups against the wall. In my home office, while waiting on a phone call, I throw my legs over a footstool and do a couple dozen crunches. Wherever you go, you can park in the farthest corner of the parking lot, and take the stairs instead of elevators. Instead of meeting a client for lunch, you can meet for an activity. A long walk followed by a light lunch can clear your mind.
Physical limitations don’t have to limit you, because where there’s a will there’s a way. If you have arthritic knees, swimming is a healthier form of exercise than running, and running on natural surfaces is better than running on pavement.
People with structural problems affecting their backs and joints should consult their physician before starting any exercise program, and the same is true for anyone with a chronic illness. Yet one of the advantages of the changing world we live in is that there are now more choices than ever in forms of exercise, and exercise equipment has been developed to meet virtually anyone’s physical needs.
To get into peak condition, sometimes you have to start from the foot of the mountain. You can’t get to the top in a single bound, and any attempt to do so will only bring you up short. Instead, start small, keep it simple, and then step by step, make your way up until the view becomes so engaging, the recharge so stimulating, that exercise becomes nothing less than dynamic living at its best. But seeing the big picture of what you’re doing right can accelerate your motivation and momentum. For example, keeping track on a wall calendar or a computer calendar divided into weeks and days let’s you track changes through time, giving you the important cause-effect information you need to truly stay connected to what you’re doing right.
There are certainly enough studies to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Clearly, people who exercise regularly live longer, on average, than people who move at the speed of diseased livestock. But I think that living longer is a weak reason to move your body. Better, for me, is that I don’t want to suffer. I want to feel strong as long as possible. How about you? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about yourself and exercise, and your comments are most welcome.