Benefits of Regular Exercise – Here is a confession: I’ve been nursing a rib injury for the last three weeks and it’s making me a bit nutty. I have a tear in the intercostal muscles of my ribcage. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I never really thought about the fact that there are muscles in your rib cage (Thank you, Dr. Slade, for the tutorial). I’ve learned that not only do I have muscles there but that they’re actually pretty vital to things like…I don’t know… breathing. My injury was nothing heroic, like I was injured whilst traversing Kilimanjaro or shoving an on-coming car out of the way of a baby carriage, but alas, that is not the case. I tore the damn thing lugging the world’s heaviest suitcase up the subway stairs on a visit to my daughter, Charlotte last month. Incredibly stupid way to get a fairly painful injury, but there you have it.
The tear needs time to heal and it’s preventing me from running for a few weeks, because the impact jostles the ribs and… ouch! So I’m off the streets, at least off running on them, till the end of the month. As I told you a couple weeks ago (in my blog: I Guess I’m A Runner Now?) I came to exercise, later in life and kind of by accident, so I don’t know a heck-of-a-lot when it comes to fitness. Now that I have been forced to take an unplanned break from it, I am discovering a myriad of “secret” things that exercise has been doing for me, even if I wasn’t aware of them and some of them only due to their absence.
The Surprises of Exercise
What I have found out is that running helps me with stress. Running helps me sleep better. Running allows me to eat whatever I like. And running helps me with so much more. So I started looking into these extra, “bonus benefits” of exercise and I’m excited to share a few things that I’ve learned with you in today’s blog. I’m a little more cranky as I write this… but I think you’re going to be surprised by some of these “secret” benefits that even a little exercise can bring.
Everyone, or at least everyone who’s not currently living under a rock, knows that regular exercise brings a multitude of health benefits, like weight loss and improved cardiovascular fitness. In fact, The Mayo Clinic says that regular exercise can “prevent or manage many health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes… many types of cancer (and) arthritis.” But, did you know that regular exercise can also:
1. Help to Prevent Falls?
The older I get, the more the idea of falling gives me pause. I am not that “thing made of rubber” that I once was, who could bounce back up from a fall and laugh it off. Now, if I fall there are real consequences and most of them aren’t too good. In fact, according to DailyCaring.org, 1 in 4 older adults falls each year. OMG! That’s a lot of folks on the ground! Believe it or not, exercise can actually help to reduce the likelihood of a fall, no matter what your age. Why, you might ask? Well, it is because exercise helps to strengthen your muscles and joints and this naturally leads to better balance. Who knew? Want to get with the Exercise a Little/No Fall Program? Check out this link to a video with some easy exercises to improve your balance from Eldergym.com.
2. Help With Depression/Anxiety/Grief?
As I mentioned earlier, exercise, for me, really helps with stress. It’s hard for me to think about the worries of the day whilst I’m running up the hill near my house; hell, on that hill I’m really only thinking about trying to live all the way home! I found out through my research that there’s actually a medical reason for this phenomenon: regular exercise stimulates various brain chemicals that help to elevate your mood and leave you feeling more relaxed and happy.
Wow! How awesome is that? This is not to say that serious anxiety or depression issues can be solved with a bike ride around the park or a weekly yoga class. Mental health issues and illnesses are serious business and require professional help, so please seek aid if you are more than “blue” or stressed. Regular exercise can not treat these issues no matter how much of it you do. However, what regular exercise, can do, is help with everyday stress and sadness. It can help improve your mood and outlook – and I think that’s a good reason to consider it.
3. Improve Your Social Life
Bruce and I run together; I like it because it gives us additional time each day, to share the same experiences and sights (whilst I’m regularly gasping for air). Running improves my social life because I do it with Bruce.
Exercise can improve your social life in much-the-same-way. Running, walking, dancing, yoga, spin… all these forms of exercise can be done solo, of course, but they can also be done with others – friends, classmates, partners, spouses. My dear friend, Sheila, for example, walks regularly with her gal-pal, Alda. It helps their muscles. It helps their hearts. And, I dare to say, it helps their souls. As they walk together… and chat… about the events of their days or some of the memories of their 50-plus year friendship…they improve their lives – social and otherwise. Exercise can improve yours too.
Benefits of Regular Exercise – A Word of Caution
Exercise is not for the faint-of-heart… literally. So before you just decide to up and run a marathon, please make sure to check with your doctor and get the green light. And then, with her blessing, try some regular exercise… it may just surprise you!