Why Be Fit? Good Reasons to Get into and Stay in Shape for Life
Why Bother to Be Healthy?
Remember that t-shirt, or maybe you have seen it on a car's bumper sticker, it says something like "Eat Healthy, Exercise, and Die Anyway." Well, truer words were never spoken.
If we know nothing else, it is that this life will one day be gone in a flash. So why should we bother to be healthy? Why not drink, party and gorge on Coney dogs and cheesecake at every opportunity?
The obvious answers are; reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health issues. But what about a better sex life? Sleeping better at night? Being more attractive (which leads to higher self-confidence)?
Oh, you've heard all these before? All right then, I'll offer one more. How about realizing your ultimate potential, both mentally and physically?
Maybe that sounds a little cheesy to you. But if does, ask yourself why. Is it because of the vague, hyperbolic nature of the statement? Fair enough. Let's face it though, without a belief that you can do better mentally and physically, your dreams are dead. When our dreams die, no matter how simple or small, we begin languishing in the mediocrity of our self-imposed status quo.
So why be fit and healthy? Because good health affects your mood, mental productivity and of course a properly functioning body.
The Mind/Body Connection
The connection between the mind and body is well established. Good emotional health empowers a person to deal better with stressful situations and evaluate their own emotions and thoughts with clarity. When major stressors affect our emotional health, it can weaken our immune system, cause increased blood pressure, insomnia and even affect our sex lives.
While we can't always prevent minor and major tragedies from occurring in our lives, we can fight to maintain a healthy balance. One of the best ways to do this is with exercise and a nutritious (and adequate) diet.
Exercise releases endorphins, which improve our mood. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment, another mood booster. We improve our physiques and feel better about ourselves when we exercise (as long there are no injuries!)
We can also work at maintaining a positive outlook by talking out our problems, using relaxation techniques and avoiding abusive behaviors. Our bodies and our minds are one, and when the mind has shed its excess weight, we want to get our bodies up and moving as well.
The Body's Positive Chemicals
Endorphins are neurotransmitters released by the brain in response to stress and pain. Typically they are released through continuous, long-lasting exercise, but can also be stimulated through massage and acupuncture therapy, certain healthy foods and sex.
Although an endorphin 'rush' causes our bodies to feel less pain and stress by interacting with the brain's opiate receptors, it does not lead to addiction.
Catecholamines are chemical compounds such as norepinephrine, dopamine and epinephrine. Although abnormal levels of catecholamines can lead to health complications, including depression, normal levels of these compounds, which can be released through exercise, are correlated with positive mental health.
Lower levels of catecholamines have been linked to obesity in several studies. In one study, epinephrine and norepinephrine values were lower in obese and overweight teenage boys following intense bouts of exercise, leading to the suggestion that depression and obesity may be linked.
Another positive side effect of exercise and good health in general is BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor. BDNF is important for long term memory, and plays a vital role in maintaining existing neurons. BDNF also contributes to the growth of new neurons and synapses.
Low levels of BDNF have may be linked to epilepsy and depression as well. There's that fitness connection again!
Disease and Sports Performance
High incidences of obesity are still on the rise in the United States. While it goes without saying that you won't reach your full potential as any type of athlete if a healthy lifestyle isn't followed, here are some other reasons to stay fit;
Research shows that as we get fatter, our risk of developing the following conditions gets bigger as well:
-Type II diabetes (the worst kind)
-High blood pressure
-High bad cholesterol
-Various organ diseases, but especially liver and gallbladder complications
-Sleep apnea/breathing problems
-Abnormal menses and infertility
The worst perpetrator of health problems as we gain weight is the visceral fat that clings to the abdominal organs. Research has shown that it releases all kinds of bad stuff into our bodies, and has also been connected to breast cancer and metabolic disturbances.
As we age, it gets harder to decrease or prevent the accumulation of visceral fat, but prevent it we must. In women this is especially important. Decreased estrogen in post-menopausal women may also lead to higher cortisol levels, which in turn encourages abdominal fat accumulation.
Vigorous regular exercise has been shown to be the number one weapon against the negative effects of these changes, for both men and women.
So why be healthy? Why prioritize exercise and nutritious eating? Perhaps this question depends on who you are. Maybe you are a teenager, or someone in their early twenties who dreams of athletic greatness, improved performance in a hobby, or just looking good (take advantage of those young years while they last!)
Maybe you work 50-60 hours a week and have trouble fitting everything in, but want to be able to finish a breast cancer walk, a marathon, or another such endeavor.
You could have dreams to climb mountains, or prefer to sit on the couch and develop websites to exercising. It really doesn't matter who you are. Your life and your goals can be improved by being active and working to realize your full potential. After all, we have been active for tens of thousands of years, but we've only been getting overweight as a society for a few hundred.
Do you have something to add to this article? Would you like to share your personal experiences? Please do! Leave your comments and stories below, we'd love to hear them.
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