The Real Power of Exercise

Are you one of the many people who loves exercise? You can’t wait for that hour of the day when you put your shoes on and hit the trail. Or get on your bike and start the ride. Or get in the water for your swim, clearing your mind with each lap. Maybe you love your yoga practice or you are a SoulCycle junkie. If you love exercise, you are one of the minority of Americans who have a dedicated, exercise routine that gives you mental and physical benefits each time you do it.

The effects of exercise are huge. I have never seen a study saying that exercise was harmful, other than for people engaging in ultramarathons and excessive exercise. Yes, too much of anything is bad. Exercise and therapy are more powerful for treating depression than antidepressant medication. Exercise helps body image and self esteem, helps anxiety and insomnia and even people with dementia and Parkinson’s see benefits from exercise. It’s powerful shit. I don’t think there is any pill that can do everything that exercise can.

If you think evolutionarily, humans have only been living indoors with readily accessible food for a very short portion of our species’ history. For thousands of years, we lived outdoors, moving all the time to find food, plant and gather food and stay safe. We didn’t work in office spaces. We MOVED!

Exercise is just movement. Kids do it naturally all day. Watch a kid in the summer time. They move all day long and never call it exercise. We can learn a lot from kids about the joy that comes from movement.

I’ll never forget an experience I had when my kids were pretty young. I, like most parents, had a habit of taking my kids to various places to play and then sitting around while they played. I’d check my phone or chat with the other parents. One day at a Monkey Business, which is a huge warehouse filled with bouncing castles and bouncing slides, my kids were running off to start playing and a dad who was there, said something to me that changed my life. He said, “Don’t sit around. Come out and jump. It is so fun!” Then he left with his own kids and did everything they did. To this day, I wish I could thank him profoundly.

I decided to give it a try. It was so fun. By the end of the hour, I was sweaty and happy. Much happier than I’d be if I’d sat there doing nothing and being bored. From then on, I rarely watched. I ran with them at the park, got on the swings. I even did the monkey bars which almost ripped my arms out of my sockets. Don’t do the monkey bars!

Kids just get it. They ride bikes and swim in the pool for fun; not for exercise. It’s a lesson we can all learn. Find the thing that gives you joy and then make it into your exercise. It can be dancing or rock climbing. It can be anything where you move your body a lot.

Here is what makes me genuinely sad. People know how good exercise is for them, and they still don’t do it. In my practice I recommend almost everyone start exercising, and you can’t believe the excuses I hear. I hear about lack of time, lack of energy, lack of money, dislike of sweating and muscle aches. I hear every bullshit excuse you can imagine. That is what they are, even if you are dedicated to your excuse. It’s bullshit.

People much busier than you work out. People poorer and richer work out. People with aches and pains figure out how to move. Hell, everyone my age has something that aches. It’s part of the badge of honor of being someone who works out.

The more significant issue about making excuses is that they rob you of your power. When you say, “I don’t have time,” it indicates that you don’t have control of your day; any of it. It demonstrates a helpless way of thinking, instead of creativity and problem solving. When you say you would rather spend time with your kids, It tells me that you don’t prioritize your own health and happiness as much as you prioritize your kids. They are both important. One doesn’t trump the other. You can figure out both. I promise you.

In addition to excuses, I also hear judgments. They sadden me most of all. I have heard people discussing some celebrity’s weight loss and say things like, “Well of course she can lose weight, she has a trainer and a chef.” Not only does it take away from that person’s accomplishment, it means that you can’t do it because you don’t have a trainer and a chef. You strip your power and the other person’s efforts all in one judgmental moment.

How about the judgment that people who exercise are selfish. “Of course she looks good. She goes out and runs while her kids watch all that television.” Ouch! Not only do comments like this mean that you don’t have to exercise because you aren’t selfish, they make you superior to people trying to value their health.

I’m sure you have heard this analogy, but I’m going to repeat it because it’s powerful. What if you were told the day you got your driver’s license that you got one car for the rest of your life. It would be your only car ever and you couldn’t replace it when it died. Would you take care of it? Get oil changes and engine tune ups? Of course you would. We all would because we need to drive.

Now picture that the car is your body. It’s true. We get one body and we determine how well it will work and how long it will last based on our behaviors. Knowing that exercise is so beneficial, I hope you decide to develop the habit of consistent exercise.

It will make you feel strong, happy and powerful. Maybe it will be really hard at first, but each day gets a little better. Just start small and add 1% more a day. It will do the opposite for your well-being that the excuses and judgments have been doing. Look at your day, find the time, and do it.

That’s it! Go be a badass and fix your own shit today!

You can listen to me talk through this in the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below or in the following places:

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