This morning I read an article by Emma John from The Observer called Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin. It inspired me to write this post this morning. The article did have many valid points, but I wasn't completely sold. As a teenager, I actually did lose weight by exercising without changing my diet, although this wasn't something that I planned. When I lost the weight (about 10 pounds) I was running track, finishing up the end of a dance team season, and taking dance classes after track practice. I ended up burning more calories than I took in, and that lead to weight loss. Every person's body is unique, and therefore it's impossible to claim that nobody can lose weight with exercise alone. However, my point for writing this article isn't to prove or disprove the article I mentioned above! I want to talk about my reasoning for putting exercise on such a high pedestal.
Although it cannot be proven that exercise will result in all people losing weight, there are so many benefits to exercise that make it worth while. With exercise, rather than losing pounds people may lose inches. You'll gain muscle, which weighs more than fat, and your heart, lungs, immune system, and overall general health will thank you. I'm certain that I won't be able to express all my opinions about exercise in this post, so what I'm going to do instead is make a list. With the help of some reliable sources, here are the reasons why I believe exercise is as important as a healthy diet.
- Your outlook on wellness may be altered. Health and wellness is something that I have generally always cared about, but it wasn't until I started exercising and researching fitness that I decided to dig deeper into issues about genetically modified foods, our overweight society, and learning about natural remedies to combat everyday illnesses. For me, exercise has opened a door to a healthy lifestyle and a different way of thinking.
- Exercise controls weight. According to Mayo Clinic, "Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss." Although exercise might not directly lead to weight loss for all people, if a person is trying to maintain their weight, exercise can help.
- Exercise can help with your overall mental health. I recently read an article from The Huffington Post about the mental health benefits of exercise. The actual article listed 13, but I'll let you know which mental health benefits I can attest to! Reduced Stress: Exercise kept me sane during my tough college years where I was working two jobs, dancing professionally, and taking 16-20 credits per semester. Boost Happy Chemicals: I'm always (and I mean always) in a good mood after I move my body! Improve Self Confidence: Exercise, specifically dancing, has lead me to appreciate how my body looks, what my body can do, and help me to care about my body by opting out of recreational activities that could harm it. Alleviate Anxiety: See "Reduced Stress" above! Sharpen Memory: I would always study after exercising, and I found it easier to stay focused and remember key points. Increase Relaxation: I decided to start practicing yoga for this very reason, and it certainly helps me to relax. Get More Done: I'm always more likely to clean my home if I have exercised earlier. Tap Into Creativity: My best ideas for creative writing have come during or after a workout. Inspire Others: If it weren't for fitness, I wouldn't be inspired to write, so I wouldn't be here trying to inspire you!
- If exercise wasn't as important as maintaining a healthy diet, the American Heart Association wouldn't publish a statement saying, "Diabetes patients should have regular exercise, weight training."
- Having strong abdominal muscles, commonly achieved through exercise, can help alleviate and prevent back pain. According to the Harvard Health Publication, one of the 5 ways to a pain-free back is by staying fit; specifically, "...stretching and strengthening both your back and abdominal muscles is important not only for treating low back pain, but also for helping to prevent recurrence of the problem." Some of the other suggestions are maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, proper backpack wearing technique, and by developing habits that will ensure that you are performing everyday tasks in the best way to avoid hurting your back.
- Studies have shown that people who exercise have a longer life expectancy. According to NBC News (via Reuters), US News (with a focus on seniors), Medical News Today, and a shelf of textbooks and scholarly articles I have collected throughout my research, exercise benefits people in multiple ways, leading to an increased lifespan.
John did a good job of explaining how exercise may not be the best way to bring down the numbers on your scale, but I certainly wouldn't cancel my gym membership as suggested by the author in the beginning of the post. Exercise has benefits that will help you lead a better life physically and mentally! Both dieting and exercise are important to living a healthy life.