I love to exercise. I know some of you think that means I'm certifiably insane, or a masochist, but I truly do LOVE to work out. I like it for so many different reasons, and sometimes I feel like I need to defend myself because of the haters who make me feel bad for going to the gym. So may I present,
In Defense of Exercise:
1) The top reason that I exercise is for my mental health. Going to the gym or out for a run gives me some much needed alone time to think, pray, read magazines, listen to music, or catch up on the news. No matter how much my head tries to convince me not to work out, once I am done, I feel so accomplished and am a much better person for the rest of the day. When I don't exercise, I am cranky and sluggish and overwhelmed. Exercising releases endorphins, which are those hormones that make you feel good, and studies have shown that exercise is a great anti-depressant.
2) Taking time to exercise does not make you a selfish mom/wife/friend/daughter. I feel that some women may rationalize that they don't work-out because they shouldn't take an hour away from their children or husbands. They feel guilty for putting their work-out ahead of x,y, and z on their to-do list. But you want to know a secret? Being a healthy woman only makes your roles as mom or wife easier and more pleasurable. I am not in agreement with the new-age opinion that we moms should put ourselves first at all times (thanks for that misleading advice, Oprah), and things like pedicures or shopping trips do not rank high on my priority list. But exercise? Yes, that is a priority if you want to live a long healthy life.
3) In conjunction with the reason above, and contrary to popular belief...you DO have time to exercise. Listen, we have 5 children and full-time jobs, and my husband and I each manage to fit in about 7 hours a week of exercise. We take turns going in the morning on weekends, and in the afternoons/evenings during the week. I have a co-worker who wakes up at 4:30 every morning to be able to squeeze in her runs, and a friend who does workout DVD's at night once the kids are in bed. Is it always possible every day to find the time? Probably not, but if you prioritize and plan well, you can find a time to exercise on most days. And unless you work a very active job (farming, construction, personal trainer, to name a few) we need to find that time or else we would be living an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle.
4) Exercising sets a great example for our children. Did you know that obesity in children is on the rise, and it is now recommended that children get one hour of activity each day? When we were kids, we were normally active because we would ride bikes all over the place, play outside with the neighborhood kids, go swimming at the beach/pool, and basically be gone from home all day if we could. Most of us can't allow our children to live that same lifestyle today because we have to supervise them while they play outside. It's the same problem that adults have had to face. People used to walk everywhere and do daily chores by hand, and now the majority of us drive everywhere and sit at desks all day. So now we need to fit exercise into our life, and showing our kids that it is a normal part of our day will become the norm for their life as well.
5) I can't defend exercise without mentioning the physical benefits of it as well. Weight training builds muscles which increases our metabolism and helps our bodies burn calories. It also increases our bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis and arthritis. Cardiovascular training strengthens our heart and lungs and also burns plenty of calories. Core exercises help our posture and balance. Yoga and Pilates keep us limber and prevent us from pulling a muscle. You get the idea...it's good for your body. I realize that some people may exercise just to lose weight, which is great if you have weight to lose, but vanity shouldn't be the reason we work out. Being healthy is much more beautiful than being skinny, and hopefully we can keep health as our goal in all of this.
Ok, so that's all I can think of for now. I don't want to come across as preachy about the importance and general awesomeness of exercise, but I do hope to inspire some of you that need a good old fashioned kick in the pants ;)