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Are some people still unaware that exercise is good for you?

Published July 19. 2019 10:43PM

I’ve had more than a few people tell me that there is no such thing as a positive addiction, and that because I have not gone a day without at least 60 minutes of exercise since I broke my leg 10 years ago, I’m no different from a guy who lives to get high. When they do, I do not take offense.

I inquire about their hygiene habits instead.

I ask if there was ever a time that they were rather nicely dressed, perspired just enough to feel slimy, and showered soon after even though armpit-soaking activity later in the day would make a second one necessary. The half dozen or so times I’ve asked this, the answer has always been yes.

When I ask why take the first shower, there’s always a pause. The last time, that woman eventually said, “Because I just feel better afterward, I guess.”

“Hey,” I replied, trying to make it sound as if my question hadn’t been a trap. “That’s why I never miss a day of exercise. You think that means you have an addiction too?”

I share this story not to flaunt my Churchillian-like wit or argue that there indeed is such a thing as positive addiction, but to create three categories of people: 1) those who feel the need to exercise as strongly as I do; 2) those who can skip two or three days each week and not feel the need; and 3) those who never feel the need so they exercise infrequently or not at all.

If you’re in group No. 1, feel free to skip the next bit of quoted material. If you’re not, please read — again and again! — what Richard Crevenna, head of the Department of Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation, and Occupational Medicine at MedUni Vienna, Austria said after helping lead an exercise study of over 3,300 Austrian volunteers who were at least 65 years old.

“I never cease to be amazed that — despite the proven benefits of exercise — far too many people continue to do too little physical activity. People of all ages should be more active, so as to stay healthy and independent for longer and remain self-sufficient.”

The link between physical activity and health is as well-known as it is indisputable, which motivates many to exercise enough to enhance health. But if you know that and still find yourself exercising less than you should, focus on how a lack of it often equates to the lack of control Crevenna alludes to later in life.

Ask yourself: Do I want to be able to feed and bathe myself in my golden years? Crevenna and his team found that you’ll be three times more likely to do so if you exercise as you age.

Do I want to be able to clean my house, go shopping, and attend a baseball game or take in movie when the mood hits? Crevenna and his team found that you’ll be two times more likely to do so if you exercise.

While neither of these statistics should totally surprise you, Crevenna’s summation of the research just might. “There is only one thing we can do: continue to strive toward greater public awareness!”

Really? Do you actually believe that there are still people unaware that exercise is good for you? Is that even possible?

But since it is possible that you may have forgotten a few of the benefits, here are — in the name of public awareness! — the two most important ones directly associated with aging. When you do so regularly and correctly, exercise keeps you from losing as much muscle mass and aerobic ability as those who don’t.

In fact, if you incorporate the proper degree of intensity to your exercise, at the age of 65 you will function as effectively as someone who’s 35 or 40 and doesn’t do any exercise at all.

Moreover, regular and correct exercise delays the graying of hair, the wrinkling of skin, and the increase of visceral fat in the abdomen, as well as reduces the aches and pains associated with getting older.

Since 2008, the U.S. government has been telling everyone regardless of age to perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly and stressing that doing so lowers the risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Another important consideration is that exercise is synergistic, so you’ll have more overall energy and be more productive — as well as stronger muscles and bones and better sleep patterns.

Don’t forget that while 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise helps your health, additional health benefits accrue from two, 30-minute weightlifting workouts a week. These are most pronounced when you take at least one set for each major muscle group to temporary failure — regardless of the amount of weight used.

But don’t lift to temporary failure until you’ve lifted moderately for at least two weeks and you’ve performed that exercise motion previously.

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