We all know the importance of exercise… or do we? Is it really just to have defined abs or burn enough calories to eat whatever we want?

I remember a conversation I had with a wonderful friend many years ago. She was really getting into running and confided in me her motivation: “I work out a lot so I can eat whatever I want.” I remember, once upon a time, thinking a similar thought. Of course that idea came crashing down as I headed into my college years. As a dance major I was dancing upwards of 8 hours a day, running, and lifting weights. I was also eating “whatever I wanted” and was larger than I have ever been… even compared to being nine months pregnant.

For me, making a switch to real food was nothing short of dramatic in how it affected my body. Of course, every body is different and not everyone enjoys such easy weight loss no matter how “virtuous” their diet. Nonetheless, most people are beginning to believe the idea that diet plays a more vital role in nutrition than exercise.

And I agree…. to an extent.

Despite the fact that most people understand exercise is critical to good health, far too many people are getting far too little movement into their daily lives.

The effects of a sedentary life

Simplified, diet and exercise are the balance by which our energy lies. What we consume is energy in. Movement is energy out. Most people chastise sedentary lifestyles because our energy in is far outweighing energy out… and the result is most likely weight gain. And while this is true, being sedentary does even more harm to our bodies beyond just throwing our energy reservoirs out of whack:

  • One study suggests that sitting results in rapid and dramatic changes in skeletal muscle (specifically reduction in muscle triglyceride uptake)
  • Excessive sitting has been shown to reduce HDL (good) cholesterol
  • In healthy human subjects, 5 days of bed rest has been shown to increase plasma triglycerides and LDL cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyles has also been shown to increase insulin resistance   (source)

Keep in mind that these negative changes have little or nothing to do with the accumulation of body fat… meaning both thin and obese individuals suffer from these health risks when spending excessive amount of time sitting down.

These negative changes are likely related to reductions in the activity of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme which allows muscle to uptake fat, thereby reducing the amount of fat circulating in the blood… Sedentary behaviour may also reduce glucose transporter protein content in the muscle, making it more difficult for glucose to be taken into the muscle, and resulting in higher blood sugar levels. (source)

Now, I don’t want to scare people who have to sit at a desk job all day. You shouldn’t stress about the things you have no control over, but rather find proper motivation to make the changes you can.

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is so much more than just burning calories to fit into your skinny jeans. The importance of exercise goes far beyond diet plans. In fact, regular physical activity helps your body function better.

  • Exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other diseases
  • Exercise improves your chances of living longer and living healthier
  • Exercise helps protect you from developing heart disease and stroke or its precursors, high blood pressure and undesirable blood lipid patterns
  • Exercise helps protect you from developing certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer
  • Exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes (what was once called adult-onset diabetes) and metabolic syndrome (a constellation of risk factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes; read more about simple steps to prevent diabetes)
  • Exercise helps prevent the insidious loss of bone known as osteoporosis
  • Exercise reduces the risk of falling and improves cognitive function among older adults
  • Exercise relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety and improves mood
  • Exercise prevents weight gain, promotes weight loss (when combined with a lower-calorie diet), and helps keep weight off after weight loss
  • Exercise improves heart-lung and muscle fitness
  • Exercise improves sleep  (source)

But despite knowing the importance of exercise, there are still so many people who just don’t do it.

Take for example, my husband.

My husband is awesome-sauce times twenty. Seriously. He is a wonderful husband, father, and friend. He works harder than anyone I know.

But getting him to move has been HARD.

It’s not that he hates exercise or thinks it’s not important. Quite the contrary. He believes in the importance of exercise as much as the next guy… he just gets so bogged down by other “more pressing” things that exercise often gets pushed to the very bottom of his to-do list.

What do you do when you understand the importance of exercise, but feel that you have no time for it?

Easy. You MAKE time.

Okay, so that’s not as easy as it sounds… and truthfully our lives are so busy that it can be downright impossible to MAKE time for exercise along with all the other things that have to be done. But even though you can’t MAKE time, you can make your time work for you better in such a way that exercise becomes part of your life and not just another thing to do.

Time to get moving.

Ever since my little girl was born (yes, over five years ago) I’ve noticed that I just don’t move as much as I used to. I could blame motherhood, working at home, the demands of parenting, or a number of other factors… but the truth is I have nobody to blame but myself.

I needed to get moving again.

I had the motivation. I know that my body feels better when I get physically active regularly in my day. My problem (as I’m sure many of you can relate) was simply that I’d let other things take priority… until the day was done and I hadn’t done much moving at all.

Several years ago I purchased a fitbit zip to help me track my movement. I was shocked to see how little I really did…

But I was more amazed at how easily I was able to get a lot more movement in my day with a little reminder and purpose.

Once I started tracking my steps I found it easy to get in my 10,000 steps a day… even if it was a little bit at a time. I also found my energy coming back as I moved… making yoga and strength training more easy, too. Talk about a win/win.

Turns out that Newton guy knew what we was talking about: An object in motion stays in motion. The more I moved the easier it was to keep moving.

Do what works for you, but do something.

You don’t need to purchase a fancy pedometer or have an expensive gym membership to get moving. For some people these things may help, and if it’s in your ability to purchase helpful tools, I say “go for it.”

But all we really need to get moving is a body.

Let’s define “exercise”

With so many “rules” on how much exercise you should be getting a day, it’s easy to think that if you are spending 60 minutes in a gym that you aren’t doing anything.

Wrong.

Exercise is defined as “Activity requiring physical effort, carried out esp. to sustain or improve health and fitness.”

Notice that is says nothing about running marathons, joining crossfit, certifying in yoga or the like. That’s because there are infinite ways we can move our body.The key to good exercise is to find what you love to do.

Hate running? Don’t do it. Think aerobics is boring? Forget it.

The only caveat I would add here is that it is  important to train your body in different ways. And that includes strength training… of some variety.

Just because you know the importance of exercise doesn't mean it's always easy to fit in. Learn how to get moving more, no matter how busy you are!

Easy ways to get moving

  1. Set an alarm every hour and get up and walk for at least five minutes. This could possibly be one of the most powerful things you do for your body… especially if you have a sedentary job.
  2. Go to a park. Ever watch kids at a playground? They are all over the place. Something about parks and playgrounds that just brings back some “fun momentum” to get you going. Play a game of tag with some friends. Try out the swings. Roll down a hill. Watch some kids and be inspired.
  3. Start and end your day with movement. Gently stretch the moment you get out of bed. Learn a short yoga routine to end your day. Walk around the block morning and night. Make movement the “hello” and “goodbye” of each day and notice how much better you feel.
  4. Do what you love: Tennis, swimming, wii dancing, jump rope, basketball, yoga, weights, running, walking, whatever! Don’t limit yourself by some “standard” of proper exercise. Just move.
  5. Stack your life: I’m borrowing this phrase from Katy Bowman because I love it so much. So much of what we deem “convenient” is actually nothing more than an excuse not to move. From cars to email to smartphones… it’s amazing to see how technology is making things “easier” by taking away the necessity to move our body. Why walk to the store when you can drive? Why head on over to the neighbor’s house when you can text.

Start finding ways to get the things done on your “to do” list by adding movement to it. Fold your laundry while doing some basic stretches, make that phone call while you walk in the park, carry home the groceries for that mile. There are lots of ways to move your body while doing all the stuff you normally do. Stack your life.

Exercise is important – so just get started.

Of course it’s even better if you can find some dedicated time to get moving. The importance of exercise is not just a physical one. I believe there is also a mental and emotional component that make finding time for dedicated moving essential to good health. It’s important to find time to do things you ENJOY that get your body moving. After all, our bodies were designed to move!

If you’re looking for an incredible way to thank your body and restore your movement potential, be sure to check out my Inside Out program here. You can preview three full classes and my favorite workout for free. Just scroll down to the “Course Curriculum” page and try it out. No excuses, get moving now.

So start today. Start now. Move. Exercise. Be healthy!