I knew I was onto something last month when my personal trainer asked me if I ever get stiff and sore after the punishing workouts he gives me every week. My answer was that I usually don’t. He then wanted to know what I have to eat before and after training, because he knows that I work my socks off in his sessions and that his other clients, and he himself, often seem to get aches and pains, whether they train at my intensity or not. I would add at this time that he is at least 20 years younger than I am! So this got me thinking – is the thought of getting sore after exercise one of the reasons that people don’t want to do it? Or is the biggest challenge getting out of the door, finding the time to do it, finding someone to do it with, or not having found something they like doing, or one of numerous other obstacles?
Don’t get me wrong, exercise is hard. But it can also be immensely enjoyable. Having run up two mountains this morning before breakfast, I know how difficult it can be to keep going when your lungs are screaming at you. You don’t have to make it hard when you start out though. Like all good things, it’s best to start small and build up slowly. More is not always better, especially if it means you can’t walk for a week afterwards.
Magazines, some books and the media in general will tell you that you have to exercise for an hour a day for it to be worthwhile. Most gym classes last for an hour. Some other classes, such as the karate and yoga I go to, last 90 minutes. That length of session can be pretty daunting for the first-timer, and if the busy business person, or mum, or entrepreneur think they have to do that 4-5 times a week to maintain their fitness level, it is hardly surprising that most people baulk at the idea and don’t even start. Overwhelm has made them fall at the first hurdle.
Let’s get things straight; I am a big fan of intense exercise. I also love endurance workouts, such as my 7 mile run this morning, made extra hard because of the huge hills it contained. However, I am realistic. And, you will be glad to hear, so is your body. It doesn’t need to be intensively exercised in this way to give you great health benefits; all it requires is some consistent movement.
At The Real Truth About Health conference that I attended in New York in January, one of the topics of discussion was the impact of walking on the risk of heart disease. It amazed me to hear that brisk walking for just 30 minutes a day gave the same benefits in the prevention of heart disease as 60 minutes of hard running. Whilst there will always be a small percentage of people who are unable to walk, it is accessible to practically everyone else and doesn’t require any expensive equipment to get started.
For the time pressured, there are brilliant workouts that take as little as 10 minutes a day. These are very high intensity and therefore not suitable for all, but are a great way to maintain the many benefits of exercise if, for example, you spend your life on the road. It’s also a mindset thing. Sometimes all you have to do is change your attitude towards something. Brian Clement recently told me that he sees exercise as a normal part of his working day. If he hasn’t exercised, he hasn’t finished work. If you’re a great worker and don’t leave until the job is done, you can apply this ethic to your daily exercise, even if you only manage a 20 minute walk before dinner (or breakfast, or lunch for that matter). I apply this in my own life, and always feel better for having made the effort.
Which brings me on to mood-boosting. People who exercise usually seem to be happier than those who don’t. I know that’s a bit of a generalisation, but it is backed up by scientific facts. Endurance exercise produces certain chemicals in the brain which are responsible for a feeling of elevated mood. They are the body’s natural morphine-like compounds, known collectively as endorphins. Exercise has been proven more than once to be more effective than medication for treating mild to moderate depression. It also has none of the unpleasant or dangerous side effects. A bit of muscle soreness aside if you overdo it, the only “side effects” you might notice over time are a leaner body, more defined muscles and reduction in your blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk. And isn’t that well worth “staying at work” for?