Why We Have to Exercise

I always find it strange that people view exercise as a choice and not a necessity. The general population has set exercise aside for a lifestyle that includes a desk job, poor eating habits and inactivity. Diabetes is an epidemic on the rise, and our youngest generation is the first predicted in decades, on average, to not live longer than their parents. The crazy thing is that all of this can be prevented or reversed by merely changing something we are in complete control of, our lifestyle. By embarking in regular exercise and healthy eating habits, Type II Diabetes can be prevented (or reversed), along with a slew of other diseases, and our physical functionality can be maintained as we age.

We all have to exercise. It doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside; if we are not taking care of ourselves, our health is deteriorating, whether you look good on the outside or not. A few years ago I bought a classic car. The previous owner had it garaged for years so it looked amazing on the outside. Unfortunately, when I started driving it regularly, problems started surfacing. From sitting, the gaskets were all deteriorating due to fluids pooling in the engine and never being circulated through the act of driving. Part of the care of a classic car is driving it and it would have saved me money in expensive repairs if the car was exercised. This concept applies to people too. A little bit of exercise makes a huge difference in our health and prevents a lengthy list of health problems that we would have faced if we were inactive. Just like my car, if you look great on the outside it doesn’t mean everything on the inside is working properly. I had a client a year ago that was lean and inactive. When I did their initial screening before our first workout, I checked their blood pressure to find it was extremely high. Thin doesn’t mean healthy. They were a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen, in large part due to inactivity.

Science tells us that our bodies adjust to the demands we ask of it every day (the SAID Principle). Without outside challenges our muscles shrink, only keeping what is necessary to get through our inactive day. When inactive, our cardiovascular system also adapts in a negative fashion. Our oxygen absorption lowers, making the heart have to beat more times per minute to do the same job, our cholesterol increases, our ratio of good to bad cholesterol worsens, and many times we become insulin resistant over years of inactivity (pointing us down the road to diabetes). If our heart and lungs only have to get us from our bed, to our coffee, to our car, that is all it will prepare to do.

Like brushing our teeth every day to take care of our teeth, if we take the time to take care of our body it always reflects in a positive way. Through resistance training, our muscles get stronger, supporting our joint health and our functionality as we age. Through regular cardiovascular exercise we encourage a healthy cholesterol level and ratio while discouraging insulin resistance and high blood pressure. I have worked with a large number of diabetics over the years and as little as 30 minutes of regular exercise three times per week has resulted in a need for less medication within a few weeks of exercising. As the SAID principle implies, the more regular your exercise program is the better the result. Nearly every type II diabetic I have worked with has been able to reverse the condition through the progression and maintenance of exercise and healthy eating habits. The SAID principle applies to everyone, no matter what age or condition someone has. Everyone’s body responds to higher demand by trying to overcome that demand with additional strength and efficiency. I worked with an 87 year old client a few years ago who was able to get off of his oxygen tank through medication and embarking in regular cardiovascular exercise. He started small, walking as slow as 1.0 mph on the treadmill and we worked him up in intensity slowly with each workout. Within a few months he was able to live life without supplementary oxygen which drastically improved his quality of life. I don’t see exercise as a choice. It’s a necessity.