The Importance of Exercise

We all know the importance of exercise in maintaining a healthy weight and strong muscles. Most of the information given us about exercise focuses on this. But I want to talk about another benefit of exercise, the benefit to emotional health.

There is a lot of recent research that indicates that regular exercise will help in alleviating depression and elevating mood. This has certainly been true in my life. During one of the most difficult years of my life (separated from kid’s dad, but not divorced) I had the kids all the time they we not at day care, had a management position at work and a 55 minute commute each way. The kids were too young to leave alone in the house and the only method/time for exercise I could find was to walk on my lunch break. I had a 4.2 mile loop around the hospitals and medical school. It took me into a couple iffy neighborhoods where the drunks bloomed on the front porch like flowers in May. They waved to me as I power-walked by. And I did power-walk. It was a furious, energy expending stroll and I credit it for pulling me through that dark time.

Nowadays, I have the luxury of leaving the kids at home, linked up to Facebook and Runescape while I go to the gym and lift weights and use the elliptical machine (more friendly on my knees than running.)

But in the past I have had other exercises. As a child, I swam daily. I ran cross-country in high school–never won anything, I just like to run. As a young adult, I had a job 10 miles away and rode my bike to it each day. As a young single mom without a car, I pushed my toddler in a stroller to daycare 1 mile, went 1.5 miles in the opposite direction to get to school, and reversed the walk in the evening. I walked to the grocery store and pulled the groceries and toddler home in a red wagon. I’ve had a treadmill in the basement, (you can get them very cheap on Craigslist) and done a 5am walk in the park. My all time favorite exercise was when I was a senior in nursing school and I joined the rowing (sculling) team. I loved being out on the water early in the day, watching the river otters and herons.

So, no excuses. Turn the TV off and get up and get moving. You’ll feel better.

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2 responses to “The Importance of Exercise

  1. Running, swimming and cycling have the beautiful quality of two intertwined rhythms — motion linked to breathing. For me it can be like meditation. In running, voices arise. In swimming, they are silenced.

  2. So true! Thanks for reminding us Fawn. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Exercise has also helped me emotionally during dark times. The problem is that I often give up exercise when everything goes well, the physical benefits of it have never been enough of a motivation for me.
    I will try to think of the way exercise helps me to be focused and centered next time I decide that other endeavours have priority.
    It is not that I don’t have the time, it is that my time alone is so rare and precious, I just want to sit on a bench and savor it 😉

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