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Exercise is a necessary part of any program of lifestyle enhancement and healthy living, because our bodies are designed that way.  Movement keeps our bodies young by keeping our muscles toned.  In turn muscular action provides a pump to circulate the lymphatic network that nourishes and detoxifies our system. Probably the most important muscle that is strengthened with regular exercise is the heart.  The heart behaves like all muscles in that it functions more effectively and grows bigger and stronger with consistent workout.  The incidence of heart disease is prevented or slowed by the improvement of one function, vascular reactivity. This is the ability of the our blood vessels to open and close responsively as more or less blood flow   is required.

Exercise is important for stress management because it improves the tone of the vagus nerve, the messenger from the heart to the brain.  Most of us have had the experience that a good workout or enjoyable sports activity can provide release for our minds as well as our bodies.  This is partially due to the release of endorphins and enkephalins, substances produced in the brain that relieve pain and promote relaxation.  Endorphins actually create anatural ‘high’, an intense feeling of well-being that increases as levels in the blood are elevated by activity.  When we exercise we also boost metabolic function by burning fat and normalizing blood sugar.  The resulting energy boost is another reason why exercise is a ‘natural high’ that can be such a positive experience.

Weight–bearing exercise stimulates the laying down of structural components like calcium that promote bone soundness and strength.  Stretching enhances joint function and flexibility and, along with diet, is an important preventative measure for the stiffness and frailty associated with aging.   Aerobic exercise tones the heart and lungs and alleviates stress by slowing the heartbeat and dissipating adrenaline.  We are never too old to exercise.  Time magazine did an essay on longevity that highlighted a woman who is more than 100 years old.  A gentle daily workout with a personal trainer keeps her in shape.

Rest is always important but a sedentary lifestyle is generally not conducive to vibrant aliveness and longevity.  It’s also important not to overdo it when we do work out. Of all the benefits listed, an important one not yet mentioned is that it’s fun!  It’s fun to feel alive and active the way our bodies were meant to feel before we took to our couches, our cars and our desks.  As the commercial says: “Just do it”.