I am one of those people for whom fitness is necessary on a Zen level. I sometimes joke that working out keeps me off of drugs, and while I will laugh as I say this, I am not entirely kidding. Endorphins help to keep my anxiety at bay. The same is not true for my mother; she does not need that chemical release to feel sane. Most of her life she’s also had this knack for eating whatever she wants (though throughout the years she has been quite reasonable with her diet) and staying fit in form. But in the past couple of years, my mom has discovered a newfound appreciation for a fitness routine. If you are anything like her and haven’t established a firm fitness plan, the following are some compelling reasons why today is the perfect day to begin!
Exercise fights inflammation
I was delighted by this finding. I know that diet is deeply connected to inflammation in our bodies, but a study cited in Experience L!fe’s article entitled “How Exercise Decreases Inflammation” also found that “both aerobic and nonaerobic exercise have been shown to lower levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP (the body’s marker for inflammation). The lower the body’s CRP, the less inflammation is present.” (Note: Exercise can also induce inflammation if you get too ambitious with your workouts without giving your body proper recovery.)
Exercise can increase bone density
Want to stave off osteoporosis and sarcopenia? Impact exercise, which can be as simple as hopping and sprinting, can help you build stronger and healthier bones. In The New York Times article “Ask Well: Exercises to Strengthen Bones,” Dr. Jon Tobias, professor of rheumatology, explains that when we engage in more impactful exercises, ground-reaction forces are created “that move through your bones and stimulate them to “remodel” themselves and add density.”
Exercise gives your brain a boost
Dementia and Alzheimer’s run in my family. I get a bit paranoid about it sometimes, especially when I am standing in front of my students and I forget how to spell a word. NPR’s “How Exercise and Other Activities Beat Back Dementia” offers me hope. Neuroscientist Art Kramer emphasizes that indeed the best thing you can do for your brain is exercise. Kramer conducted a study which found aerobic exercise to increase brain volume. The more brain volume, the better your memory. So, not only are my runs helping me get ready for my summer wardrobe, but now I’m picturing my brain in a bright pink bikini right now, strutting down a white, sandy beach.
Exercise can help you have beautiful skin
Since moving to China, I have encountered a new kind of no-see-um, that tiny little fly-bug that bites without notice and leaves a large welt on your skin. I am highly allergic to this new breed, and thus I am scarring from the bug bites. The good news is my time on the elliptical is helping speed up blood flow throughout my body. In Time’s “Fitness: The Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise” Mandy Oaklander and Heather Jones explain aerobic exercise helps to deliver “oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster.”
Exercise strengthens relationships
I am using the study of my own life as evidence here. As I consider the people with whom I have set track records, climbed snow-capped mountains and simply sweat alongside in a hard HIIT workout, I note that at the end of activity, I feel closer to these people. Supporting one another through a difficult day at the gym or throughout a race training program builds strong bonds, develops trust and honestly and makes us want to hug each other – and hugs make this world go round.