Why exercise is actually important
All about moving your body, why you should, and how much.
Hey mate, how’s it going?
Today' I wanted to chat to you about exercise, because a friend in the industry said to me that they really liked my emails but as of late there was literally no exercise content, and what was up with that.
Were you wondering where that was too?
The short answer is that while I wasn’t doing as much training myself, it kinda became an out of sight out of mind thing. So I’m going to rectify that with an entire email dedicated to fitness and not much else.
Someone else asked where the recipes went, and I had no good answer for that, so I’ll go back to including those. And then a third person asked where my book was. Man I laughed. Do you remember that? About six months ago I decided to write a book about fitness and coaching and food and life as a fat personal trainer. And then my ADHD took over and I got very bored with it and decided to just not do that anymore.
I also have some half designed merch that seemed like a good idea at the time. All these things I start and never finish. Is that you too? Le sigh.
On with the show.
Regular exercise is good for us.
That’s not a secret and most people know about it. But just hearing the words “exercise is good” is not usually enough to want to make us sign up at a gym or move our bodies in other ways, regularly. If exercise and moving our body is not something that comes naturally or is that enjoyable for us, we’re gonna need some more convincing.
Last month I wrote about goals and how much they suck. My position on that hasn’t changed. I still don’t believe people should set unachievable fitness goals merely because a personal trainer told them they had to.
My whole desire for studying and getting into the fitness and food industry to begin with was to help people see how they could access regular exercise, because it is a good thing to move our bodies, and if we are on a quest towards health (whatever you define that as) then exercise should be a decent sized chunk of how you go about that.
One thing I want to make absolutely clear, is that athleticism is genetic. I don’t want anyone thinking icky thoughts of being lazy or whatever if you don’t absolutely love exercise. It’s not for everyone, and the joy of exercise is given to you from your parents, and their parents and so on. Regardless, if improving health is on our agenda, we need to find ways to make it enjoyable or at least tolerable. I’ll come to some ideas of that a bit further on.
Get a healthier heart
There is no one on this planet who doesn’t need a healthier heart. If you exercise regularly, you are training your heart to beat slower and stronger so it needs less oxygen to function well. This causes your arteries to get springier, so they push your blood along better; and this helps your levels of "good" HDL cholesterol go up.
Improve your brain health
It seems to be that our brain loves it when we exercise. Studies show that exercise can help with improving the blues - you know those days where you just can’t be arsed doing anything? If you get those feelings and don’t want to, moving your body on a regular basis can help with that. This study summary also talks about how exercise helps people unwell with depression.
What about chronic illness?
Depends on the illness. But there have been multiple studies that talk about the benefits of exercise to people who are unwell. Mostly in a sense of “feeling better or feeling positive” and while this is not the platform for me to spout shit about things I don’t know enough about, I can tell you that in the study summary that links to peer reviewed research, people with diabetes and people with types of cancers were in the group of people who felt better with regular exercise.
Ok then, how?
If you have never exercised before, it can be tricky to understand how to find your starting point. As a personal trainer I would say start with an activity that takes five minutes. That could be a walk down the road, or getting off the bus a stop further from home. It might be 5 minutes in the garden yanking up a few weeds. Dancing up a storm to 90’s bangers in your living room. Exercise does not have to be this prescribed thing with specific movements.
For people with a bit more experience, your starting point might look like some squats for lunges at home - or any other exercise you enjoy for 10-15 minutes or more. Have a read of this email I sent y’all on exercise snacks. Exercise snacks makes it quite easy to do just a little bit of exercise, in short spaces of time.
And then, for people who are a bit like me. Lots of experience but perhaps not moving as much as they used to. Figure out why you don’t go to your gym anymore and rectify it so you’re at a better gym, or you’ve made peace with it and get back into what you were doing before you stopped. The irony that I am emailing you all about a thing that I am currently coaching myself through is not lost on me.
And if you’re really stuck for ideas on how to get moving, here’s a list of ideas to get moving that I stole from Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School. I only took the good ones, there were plenty full of weight talk and we’re just not about that.
Walking from the farthest corner of the car park
Walk to the next bus stop.
During your bus or train trip, stand and don't hold on too tightly. You'll improve your sense of balance and build up your "core" back and abdominal muscles.
Get into the swing of it. Swinging your arms when you walk will help you reach a brisk pace.
Soccer parents can circle the field several times during a game and not miss a single play of their child.
Adopt someone as your walking, jogging, or biking buddy.
That buddy might have four legs. Several studies have shown that dog owners are encouraged by their dog to move a bit more
Climbing on the jungle gym (be careful!) and swinging on a swing will strengthen muscles and bones.
Exercise doesn't have to be done in a straight line. Dancing can get your heart going and helps with balance. Dance classes tend to have lower dropout rates than gyms. Or just turn up the volume at home and boogie.
Wash and dry the dishes by hand. The drying alone is a mini-workout for the arms.
Swimming is great exercise if you have arthritis because the water supports your joints. The humid air around a pool sometimes makes breathing more comfortable for people with lung problems.
Even people who can't, or don't like to swim can get a good workout by walking through the water. Try walking fast, and you'll get cardiovascular benefits. Walking in water is a great way to rehabilitate if you're recovering from an injury and certain types of surgery because the water acts as a spotter, holding you up.
Stand up when you're on the phone. Breaking up long periods of sitting has metabolic benefits. Even standing for a minute or two can help.
Grow a garden. No matter how green the thumb, the digging, the planting, the weeding, and the picking will ramp up your activity level and exercise sundry muscles. (Easier said than done! All my attempts turn to crap!)
Lemon, coconut & chia seed muffins.
These muffins are delicious as they are, but when I made them last I didn’t have coconut flour so I used regular flour but added a bit shy of 1 cup instead. I also didn’t have coconut oil so I used butter at the same ratio and they turned out just fine/
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