Four things you need to know about exercise, but might be surprised to learn

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Yesterday I went to work out after having been on a “hiatus” due to busy travel, a project deadline, and a cold. Well, it wasn’t easy. The easy part was getting OUT of the exercise routine. Why is exercise so hard to work back into my schedule? This happens to me every so often. I get on a regular workout regimen, and then something happens to get me right out of it again. Things like a crazy homeschooling schedule, a busy sports season with the kids, or a sickness that passes from one child to the other, to the other, to Dad, and finally to me. So once the interruption is over, I try to get back to some kind of regular gym attendance, jogging plan, video workout, or something. But it is just so hard.

And do I REALLY need to make it a priority?

I mean, housecleaning and laundry count as exercise, right? Lifting and toting children, along with all their necessities is a good substitute for cardio and arm workouts. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself all these years.

But I know better. I want to keep this whole exercise thing in the right perspective for good reasons. And I want YOU to have the right perspective, too. I really do. You see, when you understand the reasons behind all this, you will reap the benefits for yourself and your family.

To make it easier (and so that you don’t feel like I am hurling cannon fire at you) I boiled these things down to 4 simple points. Yes you already know most of these, but I am hoping you will be impacted by the WHY behind them.

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  1. Regular exercise is an investment.

What? Are you going all financial on us, Sherri? No. I like saving money, but talking budgets and finances?…no…However there IS a financial principle behind this point. You already know that a good money investment will give you more money in the long run. You don’t see the benefit right away, but you do eventually get the benefit, right?

Well, exercise is like that. Regularly moving, getting your heart rate up, and (yes) sweating are all good for you. They build muscle, strengthen your circulatory system, and even help to clean out toxins that build up in your body. Of course, after a day or even a week of extra movement, you may not see that benefit. Maybe after a month, you might notice that when you go up a flight of stairs, you are not breathing as heavily. In the longer term, your balance becomes better, and you may be able to ward off sickness more easily.

  1. You will likely be able to move more easily when you get older.

When I was in my 20s, it was very easy to stay fit. I think that it had to do with the fitness of youth. Our bodies are much more forgiving when we are young, quickly recuperating after a fun day of Frisbee playing or healing quickly when we get a bruise.

For me, it seems like each decade of age affects me. It’s a biological given that we have to work harder to maintain muscle mass. And balance is not as easily maintained. So it is important to keep my core muscles built up. That makes my back feel better, too. Why is it that back pain and motherhood go hand in hand? (Maybe it has something to do with picking up a crying toddler while holding a laundry basket. Have you ever done that?)

  1. You may even lose a bit of weight.

Well, we all know this one. But now I am feeling it. As a person gets older, the body’s metabolism slows down. It takes fewer calories, then, for our body to do all its daily processes. But if you eat the same amount of daily calories as you did when you were younger, then, well… we’re back to another financial analogy. Too much input and not enough output means that you have excess “funds in the bank.”

Working out helps this situation in two ways. Regular exercise actually increases your metabolism. Your body burns more calories so you take care of those excess caloric funds. Secondly, the actual energy expenditure of a workout enables you to not have to worry so much about every calorie you take in.

Here’s the way I look at it: if I work out more, I may lose some weight. Or if I work out more, I get to eat more. And I like eating good food.

  1. You will be modeling the importance of exercise for your children.

This is perhaps the most exciting point. You see, your children learn what a “normal” lifestyle is by watching you. The way your family does things is the only vantage point they have to what life looks like as they grow up. Now, this is a big responsibility, and there are many very important factors (more important than this one) that as parents, we need to consider as we raise our children.

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But a lifestyle where you consider the importance of your overall health is a good model for children to follow. When our children were little, we encouraged them to try new athletic activities. Some were organized sports but others were just things we did together. We would go for a jog around the neighborhood together. We had regular park play days. As they entered junior high and high school, we asked them what their physical activity would be for each semester. If they weren’t participating in a sport, we made it a strong suggestion (read here, parental requirement) for them to choose a regular activity where they were moving their body, whether it was jogging, going to our local YMCA for a workout, swimming, or working out along with a video.

This helped to build a pattern in their minds and in their lives that we hope would continue as they became adults. And it works better if Mom and Dad are doing it, too.

I admit that this is an area where I have been less-than-regular. Things always seem to take precedence over exercise in my day. But I continue to try to make it a priority. Over the years, I’ve done regular swimming, Tae Kwon Do, exercise videos, jogging, and gym workouts. I keep having to ask myself, “What will my activity be this semester?”

And it is OK if it changes from year to year. As long as it is one of the things I consider to be important, I will benefit in many ways.

As this new year is under way, think about how you can make this important activity a part of your regular schedule. For your good health and the health of your children!