At the beginning of every year, the gyms are loaded with people that have made a New Year’s resolution to get fit. The gyms stay packed in January, start to taper off in February, and by the end of March, it’s only the committed – those who were there in November and December the previous year – that remain.
Why does this happen? Why do people abandon their fitness resolution?
Personally, I think it’s because most people don’t get the real benefits of adopting and maintaining a fitness lifestyle. In fact the top two reasons people give for not exercising regularly is that
- they don’t have the time
- they are too lazy to exercise even if they do have the time
So on excuse number one, they don’t have the time, all I have to say to that is the they’re honest, I’m sure they can look around and find someone that is just as busy, with the same or even greater responsibilities and pressures, that fits exercise into their life. So it’s not about having the time, because you have the time for what you make the time for.
On excuse number two, this one really amazes me, because the people that say this literally dig their heals in and stubbornly stick to this.
But what are the costs of not exercising?
Scientists know that not getting regular exercise is associated with cardiovascular disease, risk of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, developing coronary heart disease, anxiety, depression, certain cancers, and greater risk of falling.
A lack of exercise is also associated with bone loss, and since you burn fewer calories, you’re more likely to gain weight. Since we start losing lean muscle mass as early as in our 20s, you may lose muscle strength and endurance, because you’re not using your muscles as much. Your metabolism may be affected, and your body may have more trouble breaking down fats and sugars.
Additionally your immune system may not work as well, you may have poorer blood circulation, your body may have more inflammation, and you may develop a hormonal imbalance.
A lack of exercise is also associated with cognitive decline, and increased risk of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
All due to being too lazy to exercise.
It’s that last one that really gets me. My father has dementia. He still recognizes me, but he stopped recognizing my kids, all of whom are in college, about 3 years ago.
His dementia drives my mom nuts. “What day is it today?” he asks her at least 30 times per day.
They watch a show called Midsomer Murders most nights. That show has 21 seasons. They haven’t gotten to Season 2, because my dad just knows he likes the show, but doesn’t remember any of them. So my mom gets to keep him company, watching the same show, night after night.
So the cost of not exercising regularly goes well beyond the effect on yourself, it affects those who love you.
I know a guy who watched his mother go from a vibrant and amazingly bright person to someone who had no idea about anything. Didn’t recognize him. She was a walking, vacant shell for the last 12 years of her life. He, his father and 3 sisters had to deal with that. Tragic. Maybe if she’d understood the benefits of getting regular exercise, and adopted a lifestyle that included regular exercise and a healthy diet, she would have lived out her last 12 years differently.
The most effective argument I’ve found for adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, a diet of fresh, whole foods, mostly plants, and healthy weight, is understanding fully that you're doing something that will dramatically improve your physical and mental health.
So what are the benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle, and is it really worth it?
The big one for me is the probability that by adopting a healthy lifestyle, I’ll hopefully avoid the dementia that my father has. That’s because regular exercise has amazing benefits for your brain.
Scientists know that regular exercise promotes neurogenesis, or the production of new brain cells. One meta-analysis study says “Physical exercise improved cognitive function in the over 50s, regardless of the cognitive status of participants. To improve cognitive function, this meta-analysis provides clinicians with evidence to recommend that patients obtain both aerobic and resistance exercise of at least moderate intensity on as many days of the week as feasible.”
And regular exercise, especially High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, literally reverses aging at the cellular level. If you’re over 50, Regular HIIT can cause your telomeres to lengthen and improve your mitochondrial function so your cells behave like someone 20-30 years younger. And you can get that benefit with just 20 minutes of HIIT, 3 non-consecutive days per week.
My personal favorite way to do HIIT, because it’s relatively easy, takes just 20 minutes, and allows what for me is comfortable recovery, is called Sprint 8. I do this mixing up walking and running, and also on the rowing machine. As an example, with running, Sprint 8 involves walking to warm up for 3 minutes, then running all out for 30 seconds, followed by active recovery in the form of walking for 90 seconds. I repeat this 8 times, then cool down after my last sprint for 3-4 minutes.
60 minutes per week for 20-30 years improvement in cellular health. The doctor who studies this, Sreekumaran Nair, M.D., PH.D., of Mayo Clinic, said HIIT is the “best anti-aging exercise on the planet.”
I guess the point is that you have the choice to either stack the cards in your favor so that you dramatically increase the probability that you’ll live long, healthy, fully functional life.
The alternative is to be on the wrong side of the statics: 52% percentage of people turning age 65 will need some type of long-term care (2.5 years for women, 1.5 years for men) in their lifetimes.
So I repeat: the most effective argument I’ve found for adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, a diet of fresh, whole foods, mostly plants, and healthy weight, is understanding fully that you're doing something that will dramatically improve your physical and mental health.
You get to be in control of your outcome, so as you look at your retirement investments, and plan your financial future, wouldn’t it also be wise to plan on a healthy retirement, so you can take advantage of your investments?
If you deposit money into your financial retirement account, doesn’t it also make sense to deposit time spent in the form of regular exercise and healthy food into your health retirement account?