We all know that exercise is a good thing but having reasons to exercise helps us to make the commitment to it and then helps us to stay committed. Take Oprah Winfrey for example. Oprah will admit that she has struggled with her weight for most of her life. She often refers to herself as “Miss Low-Fat” because in her busy and hectic work schedule she tried to lose the weight by just reducing the amount of fat in her diet. It didn’t work. In order for Oprah to shed the pounds and maintain a healthy lifestyle she had to make the commitment to exercise. As Oprah says, “To lose weight I need to run five miles at an eight-minute pace.” In addition to her daily run, she will also lift weights three days per week.
As a former owner of one of the largest health clubs in the Western suburbs of Chicago, January was our most active month. People would use their New Year’s Resolution to get healthy as one of their reasons to exercise. Our racquetball and tennis courts would be full, the running track would be packed, the aerobic classes would be standing room only, and the exercise equipment would all be occupied by people who wanted to get themselves into shape after enjoying their holiday treats. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more than half of the people who begin an exercise program usually have dropped out within three to six months after they start.
Although our track record was better than this, it is true that many people stop exercising for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, exercise is work and requires time. Getting back into shape and loosing the weight doesn’t happen overnight. The lack of immediate results frustrates people so they go back to their old habits. Since exercise wasn’t one of their old habits it becomes easy to drop. For these people, their reason to exercise wasn’t large enough to motivate them to continue; to help push them past the pain and frustration of not seeing their goals met.
In preparing the material for this article I saw headlines like:
From helping you to live longer, improve your cardiovascular health, have better sex, defeat diabetes, reduce your back pain, remove hidden fat, make new friends, etc., there are multiple reasons to exercise. Although each of these articles had great reasons to exercise many people still don’t take the time to do it.
Because their reason wasn’t motivating enough to either start an exercise program or sustain their commitment. From my personal experience in the health and fitness industry, I’d like to give you my take on this lack of commitment. My 5 core reasons to exercise approaches this issue from a different perspective.
Reason 1 – What’s Your Motivation?!
It all starts here. You’ve got to determine your motivation to exercise. Without a powerful enough motivation you will not make the time commitment necessary to exercise.
Most people in the industry will tell you that you need to exercise for yourself. I disagree. Your motivation needs to be greater than yourself. The reason why I say this is because it’s too easy to let yourself off the hook when you fail. And you are going to fail. There are going to be days when you’re mentally and physically too tired to exercise. They become your excuse to quit for the day which becomes a week and then a month and then a year. By having a powerful enough motivation you will continue even when life’s other commitments try to steal away your exercise time.
Your commitment to exercise needs to be something greater than yourself. For me it started in junior high school. One of my uncles told me that I was going to grow up to look just like him. This uncle was fat and out-of-shape. Right or wrong I said to myself, “No way I’m ever going to look like you!” It became my motivating factor to keep myself in good shape. As time progressed, my motivating factor changed. While in high school and college it was sports. I wanted to perform to the best of my abilities. When I got married I wanted to stay in shape for my wife. At the alter I made a commitment to her “for better or for worse!” Well, as long as I have the physical ability, I need to honor my commitment to give my wife the “for better” part.
Maybe your motivation will be to see your grandchildren graduate from college, or to get back into the shape for your spouse, or to address a health issue, or to climb that mountain you once dreamed about. Your motivation can vary and change but it needs to be dynamic enough to cause you to make the commitment to exercise. Of all the reasons to exercise, this is the first and most important one.
Reason 2 – What’s Your Goal?!
Knowing your goal will help you determine your time commitment. If your goal is to compete in the Olympics, then your time commitment will need to be extensive; 5 to 8 hours per day, 7 days per week. If your goal is to improve your overall health, then your time commitment is a lot less like 30 minutes per day at least 3 days per week.
By knowing your goal you will be able to adjust your time commitment to reflect this goal. Most people in the fitness industry will tell you that your minimum commitment to exercise is 30 minutes per day at least 3 days per week. But as Edward A. Taub, M.D. and medical director of the Wellness Medicine Institute in Mt. Carmel, IL pointed out, “Even moderate levels of exertion bolster the immune system. In fact, new studies show a small increase in physical activity, such as climbing five flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator, lowers your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, breast cancer and colon cancer.” Dr. Taub also notes that exercise fights “destructive thought patterns” associated with depression, anxiety, stress, worry, panic and anger.
Whether your goal is to run in a 5K or just to help you relieve the stress of work and life, knowing your goal will help you to set a realistic time commitment to exercise.
Reason 3 – What’s Your Program?
After you’ve determined your motivation to exercise and defined your goal, you can then develop your exercise program. When you match your program to your goals you will see and experience better results. If your goal is to improve your overall fitness so that you’re not so out-of-breath, then a simple exercise program could be parking your car as far away as possible and walking to your destination. And, once you get there taking the stairs instead of the elevator. This might add an extra 5 to 10 minutes to your routine but the health dividends far outweigh the time especially when your goal it met.
Maybe your goal is to run in a 5K race. You spend all your time on cardiovascular fitness because you think it’s just your heart and lungs that you need to get back in shape. As you train for your race you begin to have little nagging injuries like a sore knee and some pain in your lower back area. Although you have improved your cardiovascular condition, your exercise program has done little to improve the muscular structures needed to handle the physical stress that running places on your joints and low back. Running involves more than just your heart and lungs. Because of this, your exercise program needs to reflect this as well as your body’s weak points.
Pain and injury are two of the reasons most people stop exercising. Lack of results is another huge factor in why people quit. Of all the reasons to exercise, a properly developed exercise program can help to eliminate the pain and injury while helping you progress and achieve the results you had hope for. Take the time and commitment some money to invest in a personal trainer. They can help you develop an exercise program based on your goals and the resources available to you. A good personal trainer can make a huge difference between success and failure in this area.
Reason 4 – How Long Do You Want To Live?
Maybe you can be like the comedian George Burns who smoked as many as ten cigars a day and lived to 100. But Mr. Burns is the exception to the rule. Plain and simple, people who are physically active will live longer. Additionally, people who exercise on a regular basis reduce their risk for most degenerative diseases. This improves the quality of their life to match the increased quantity of their life. A properly designed exercise program can help you to:
If you want to be around to see your grandchildren graduate from college and have the spunk to help them navigate life, then use exercise to increase your longevity. It will also help reduce the vast number of ailments that could sidetrack you.
Reason 5 – What’s Your Excuse?
People who don’t exercise always have an excuse. Over 90 percent of the excuses fall into one of the following: lack of time, lack of energy, lack of equipment, and/or “I’m too old for this!” If you have time to watch TV you have time for exercise. If you lack energy then you need exercise because it will help you become more energetic. You don’t even need any equipment to start an effective exercise program. All these excuses mask the real reason you don’t exercise. It is lack of motivation not age that is holding you back.
It is never too late and you are never too old to begin an exercise program. A study published in The Gerontologist showed that exercise provided cardiovascular, respiratory, neuromuscular and metabolic benefits for older adults. The New England Journal of Medicine reported an average 113% increase in strength among elderly people who engaged in resistance training. In the landmark study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 90-year old men and women were able to increase their strength by an average of 174% after eight weeks using a 3x per week strength training program.
Of all the reasons to exercise, number 5 brings us back to number 1. Without a powerful enough motivation you will allow the excuses of life to keep you from the benefits of exercise.
In your quest to slow down the aging process and improve your overall health and wellness, you need to make exercise an important part of the equation. Exercise needs to be done on a regular basis if you wish to maintain its benefits. Even Oprah Winfrey has learned this lesson. “The hardest thing is maintaining, every day, some form of exercise,” Oprah admitted. “It’s just the hardest thing. I’ve adjusted to the eating, and it’s no problem for me. . . But exercise never ends. Every day you have to get up and do something.”
Now I don’t necessary agree with Oprah that you have to exercise every day but you do need to exercise at least three times per week, week in and week out. Challenging? Yes but not as challenging as an early heart attack or stroke or type II diabetes or any of physical ailments listed above that will take away your energy and zest for life. Remember, of all the reasons to exercise it really comes down to your motivation. Is your motivation great enough to make the time commitment necessary to become, and than stay, physically fit!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Exercise articles:
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