I have written pretty frequently about my previous non-relationship with exercise. I would joke that when other people went to the health club, I went to lunch. I honestly couldn’t categorize exercise as anything less than loathsome. This was largely because I had never gotten over the hump of being in such bad shape, so I had no endurance and no muscles to speak of.
What is so astounding to me now is how good exercise makes me feel. Not just while I’m doing it, although I love the way I feel when my muscles first start to warm up. Exercise has given me a big energy boost and it has made me strong. (Well, mostly. I can’t seem to open a can to save my soul. Although that might be God’s way of keeping me humble!)
It is hard to express how much exercise has helped change my life. As much as I experienced life through my “fat” filter, I also experienced it through a haze of pain. Yes, my much-abused knees certainly took a starring role, but it didn’t end there. All my joints ached all the time. Pain was a constant hum in the background of my day, sometimes coming to a crescendo, but ever present. While I still have occasional aches and pains like everyone else, it is now easily managed and dismissed. That, in and of itself, is a transformation, don’t you think?
I knew that my obesity and its complications were highly likely to limit my life. It is sad to say that in some ways, I didn’t mind that so much, because my quality of life was not great. Add on the potential of a few more years where you’re alive but disabled and unhealthy and it doesn’t seem like those years are a bonus. But, feeling great, like I do now? You bet I want to stick around! My bucket list is a long one!
So, my experience was that exercise was a complete game-changer. Now it turns out that my experience is not unique. A study recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that taking up physical activity, even later in life, significantly improves healthy aging. The English Longitudinal Study of Aging followed 3,454 older men and women—who were healthy at baseline—for eight years. Participants were between the ages of fifty-four and seventy four. Those that either continued physical activity at least once a week, or started physical activity were healthier than the people who didn’t exercise.
Getting over the initial loathing of exercise is not easy. It takes determination and endurance. Also, bribes work well. I read when I was on the elliptical; I read something that was fun and frothy and hopefully, full of sex. I could come down to breakfast and start making excuses of why I didn’t need to exercise, but fire up that Kindle and I was racing down to the basement!
Perhaps, if you have not yet made the exercise commitment, you are considering trying it. I am afraid Yoda said it best. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” In the past, when I said I was going to try, it was immediately time-limited in my head and full of excuses.
The brass ring is pretty real and shiny, though. Better health. Feeling strong and energetic. Expanding that beautiful horizon in front of you to take in more, be more. Some time spent on exercising seems a very small price to pay for such a big payoff, doesn’t it?