It's that time of year again when Mass Media amps up toxic messages about diet and exercise. They promise you drastic changes--"want a NEW body?"--with minimal efforts--"want to avoid GRUELING HOURS in the gym?"--at risk of TOTAL FAILURE. And they play up only the most superficial of successes--what you're gonna look like "when you're done," as if you could maintain any of it without considerable and continuous effort and attention.
You've heard these messages, as well as all the supporting messages that sow discontent, jealousy, and competition. They echo and cultivate and invent your fears. They put pressure on your "pain points," as it's called in marketing lingo, and encourage you to believe that you aren't good enough as is, that happiness comes from being skinny and the envy of all your friends.
Can anything be positive if it comes from and runs on a place of negativity?
So let's reframe our collective view of exercise. There are so many benefits to exercise that have nothing to do with what you look like or how others perceive you. It's about YOUR BODY and that EXERCISE positively affects (i.e. improves the function of) many if not all major systems of the body. The list goes on and on, but here are a few of the ways that exercise really improves your life:
Exercise reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and releases endorphins like seratonin. Seratonin is a natural pain inhibitor. It regulates mood and sexual function. Seratonin directly or indirectly influences most of our 40 million brain cells. To activate these feel-good hormones, do at least 15 minutes of high-intensity exercise.
Bone and Connective Tissue Health
Just as physical activity strengthens muscles, it also strengthens bones and connective tissues. In response to exercise, the body reinforces the bones with more calcium. Exercise also lubricates the connective tissue and promotes collagen production. Strong bones, muscles, and connective tissues improve balance and coordination and reduce the risk of injury. Do 30 minutes of weight-bearing and resistance activity 3-4 times a week.
Exercise improves blood and lymph circulation. The lymph system is part of your immune system and it's instrumental in flushing toxins from the body. The system has no pump of its own, like the circulatory system, so it relies on movements of the organs and muscles to push the fluid towards the heart so it can be cleaned. Exercise also increases intestinal contractions, speeding the elimination of waste.
We encourage you to think about exercise like water, sleep, and healthy food--basic things your body needs to survive. In 2022, let's stop viewing our bodies through a lens of disappointment and focus on all the ways our bodies excite, fascinate, amuse, and serve us.