So you are eating less and enjoying it more, calibrating yourself, you’ve learned how to handle restaurants and holidays. Now perhaps you are wondering, “But do I still need to exercise?”
Here is one way to look at it. If you ate nothing, you would lose weight – quickly. Somewhere between zero and the amount you were eating, there is a point at which your weight will stabilize, and just below that, begin to come down – with or without you exercising. So strictly speaking, you do not need to exercise in order to lose weight.
On the other hand, slimming down is only one component of becoming fit and healthy. Even if you are only doing it for appearance, you will look better – and feel better – when you exercise regularly.
Muscle and body tone
Even the muscles you do not directly work on will be firmer, rather than flabby, better toned. An exercised body has a better shape; your posture will be better, your movement becomes smoother and easier.
Your metabolism speeds up, moving your caloric break-even point higher. This is because regular exercise builds muscle, and muscle has a higher metabolism rate than fat. Your body steadily uses more energy. This is more significant, in the long run, than the immediate amount of calories you burn in a single workout.
A vigorous 30-minute workout will burn 400-500 calories, which your body will take from your stored fat, unless you make up for it by eating more. That is a big temptation – a vigorous workout tends to make you hungry. Keep in mind that a large blueberry muffin adds 350 – 425 calories; a 16-ounce frappuccino adds about 410. If your goal is to eat/drink these things with impunity, your 30-minute workout may just do it. But if you want to lose weight, don’t waste your sweat in this way.
Heart and blood vessels
Regular exercise helps ream the plaque from your arteries and strengthens your heart. You have more energy and more endurance; you can do more. Not to mention, better sex.
Your bones become stronger, healthier, and less brittle, helping to prevent osteoporosis.
Exercise increases circulation, bringing better blood flow to your skin, carrying nutrients and flushing away impurities and toxins. You look healthier; you have a certain glow.
People who engage regularly in moderate exercise report fewer colds than their sedentary peers. Too much, on the other hand, is too much: overdoing it with prolonged intensive exercise can actually lower your resistance. Likewise, too rapid weight loss can negatively affect your immune system. Consult your physician if this is an issue for you.
Healing from muscular-skeletal injuries
Targeted exercise and movement under the supervision of a physician or physical therapist can help heal damaged muscles, ligaments, and tendons, even those resulting from old injuries.
Relieving stress and mild depression, improving how you feel
Exercise is a proven stress-buster. I personally know, from long experience, that if my mood is down, a good workout will always make me feel better: more resilient, calmer, more cheerful, and I think more clearly. Works every time! And regular moderate exercise causes the brain to release endorphin – the body’s own “feel-good” neuro-peptide - and elevates the brain’s level of dopamine, a chemical involved in motivation, pleasure, and learning.
Feeling better physically
I also know from experience that if I have a mild headache or my energy level is low, a moderate workout will turn it around. So I get on my elliptical knowing that, even if I am feeling yucky, I am guaranteed to feel better soon.
Satisfaction and self-esteem
It is a great feeling to know that you are doing something that is good for yourself, in the short- and the long-term. Over time you develop a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, which translates into improved self-esteem and trust in yourself and your body.
Regular exercise helps you to sleep better. This is more than just being tired when it’s time to go to bed – your improved brain chemistry has something to do with it.
What if I don’t like to exercise?
It’s nice if you like it, but really, you don’t have to love it, or even like it. You are spending 30 or so minutes - possibly not all that pleasant – several days a week, so that you can feel good and have the body and health you want all the rest of the time for the rest of your life.
And if you dislike the particular kind of exercise you are doing, do something else. If you don’t like being on a boring machine for half-an-hour, go find a nice place and walk. If swimming bothers you, run or walk. And vice versa. The important thing is that you use your muscles and get your heart rate and breathing up for a period of time, several times per week, ongoing.
Think of it this way: how do you want to feel, day-in and day-out? And what kind of body do you want to live in?