I’ve been an active person my whole life and even when I’m not exercising I’m usually fidgeting and moving—probably a pain in the butt to be around. I was lucky enough to marry an amazing lady who is even more active and we’ve exercised through our 40 years of marriage, she more than me. The lady has done 9 marathons and probably logged 30-40000 miles of running and dragged me along for most of them. She really enjoys every minute of a run whereas I am mostly enjoying her company and looking for the finish. When we’re not running our down time is filled with biking, swimming, tennis or walking. The benefits of all these years of running weren’t apparent to me until grandkids. Our fitness level lets us enjoy activities like walking for hours through a zoo or amusement park without having to wait for a shuttle. Heaven is playing pitch and catch with them or tossing a football or Frisbee and when we go to the beach I can still take off my shirt showing off my one pack. Exercise has enhanced my quality of life and those miles of spending time with my wife are an irreplaceable gift.
A lot of people look at our lifestyle and think we’re totally whacked and no way would they have the time or desire to exercise that much. Well you don’t have to be extreme to benefit from exercise. Due to some breakdowns in my aging skeletal frame I walk more than run these days. And for all you reluctant jocks there are some secret benefits to exercise that might get you to consider taking a walk. Obviously there is the weight-control benefit but there are added under-publicized rewards. Secret benefit 1 are the running shoes. Years ago when I started running I purchased a pair of New Balance running shoes available in widths to fit my EEs. Wow! They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned like walking/running on pillows. And your money’s good whether you’re a runner, walker or just need a pair to navigate to the TV room or fridge—they do come in wide widths.
Benefit 2 is the most important—STRESS RELIEF. I think that today’s world generates more stress than ever in our lives: jobs, family, money, traffic, health, deadlines, weather, wars, crime and all the disasters in the world that are instantly tweeted or Facebooked to make sure there is no relief from the negative in our lives. Coping with all these pressures is a universal problem and early in my running life I found that exercise is a great stress eliminator. And the exercise doesn’t even have to be intense. I put on my sport headset hooked to my iPod and set off for a 3 mile walk often feeling like life sucks. Magic happens as I walk. The planets seem to realign and suddenly I feel great and just focus on the moment realizing that worrying about problems I have no control over is pointless and that I have probably given trivial problems more importance and stress-inducing worry than they deserve. I’m just enjoying my walk and all the world around me.
There is some scientific basis for this relaxed, calm feeling in that exercise stimulates the brain to produce endorphins (euphoric inducing chemicals). As quoted from an article in WebMD on Exercise and Depression: “Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.” I’ve also found that there is a relationship between how energized I feel and the effort I put into my exercise. You have to break a sweat—sauntering isn’t walking.
I’m not an expert on health but I do know what works for me so if you want to relieve that stress get off your butt and move. I’m not trying to trivialize major problems that life throws at us, but putting on those running shoes to go for a walk or play pitch and catch is a great sedative and does brighten up my day and control my BP. And common sense should tell you that if you don’t exercise regularly you should check with a health care provider before you lace up. To review the remedy for stress relief: life sucks->walk->life is good. Exercise rocks!