Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being,
while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.
Plato’s words, not mine, and I’m not going to try and improve upon his prose—especially given I agree with the sentiment. I can’t compete with some of the greatest thinkers of the Western world, after all.
But Marathon Monday, an actual holiday here in Boston when tens of thousands of runners participate in the Boston Marathon, is a great day to take a moment to reflect upon the importance of fitness for overall health and wellness.
While this blog is dedicated to food, cooking, nutrition, and green eating, the subject of physical fitness comes up now and again. The fact is, you really can’t be as serious as I am about health and wellness if you aren’t in to staying fit. So I’ll come right out and admit it: I am a certifiied gym rat and enjoy all kinds of physical activity, including walking, running, strength training, spinning, swimming, step aerobics, Pilates, and yoga—among others. I was a certified fitness instructor for several years during graduate school and began running marathons in 2010. (Search this blog for “marathon” if you’re into that kind of thing.) Running a marathon is an incredible challenge, and if you’re so inclined, go for it! But you don’t need to run 26.2 miles, or even be a runner at all, to find the physical activity that works for you.
And the benefits come to mind as well as body.
The Mind & Body Benefits of Exercise
The truth is that I’ve always been active and exercise plays a major role in keeping me sane—note the italics here, for emphasis—as well as in shape. I also walk pretty much everywhere as a form of transportation to the extent possible, which is fairly easy to do in Boston. Walking greatly reduces your carbon footprint compared to driving a car, as you know, so this is one small way I exert my personal choice in influencing the sustainability of the planet. Of course, physical activity is the other key part of the energy balance equation alongside diet, so it’s clearly very important when it comes to weight management and obesity prevention, my research area of expertise.
Now, please remember that weight is a matter of health, not looks. While regular physical activity will help you manage your weight and improve your body composition and tone, it will also provide a host of other amazing benefits. Lowered risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and overall mortality are wonderful long-term effects yet the mental health impacts are enjoyed immediately. Endorphins are neurotransmitters released by the brain during a host of circumstances where your heart rate is elevated, such as physical activity. These powerful chemicals are no joke, leading to an improvement in mood and reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression. I’ve found running to work in the morning a great way to begin the day—when I do it, that is, as I’m not really a morning person. The point is that whatever I do, whenever I do it, my mood is always better after the fact.
Remember my use of the word “sane”?
And do remember that it’s never too late to start getting in shape, no matter your current level of fitness, weight, or age. I ran along side an 80 year man named Harvey during my first marathon. (See the photo?)
Need even more inspiration? Then check out this story about a 100 year old man completing the Toronto Marathon in October 2011, setting the Guinness World Record. Wow!
All of this reminds me of a quote by Ellen Degeneres: “You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is.”
No matter what age you are, or where you are in your own journey, here’s to your health!