1. OK starting with the obvious – fitness. This will not prevent me breaking this down into other factors later in this list.
2. Weight loss. My very enthusiastic GP sent me to a variety of very expensive specialists recently. Each said there was nothing wrong with me that losing 20kgs wouldn’t fix. I bit my tongue and refrained from saying “Thanks – I knew that when I walked in. Here’s several hundred dollars for stating the obvious.” These people have very expensive degrees. However, message received.
3. Brain fitness. A recent study by Michelle W Voss from the University of Illinois (Journal of Applied Psychology) has linked exercise with improved mental performance in multitasking, planning and inhibition (not sure whether the latter is a good thing or not). Also good for memory and alertness.
4. Stress relief. Again, going for the obvious. Burning off that excess energy resolves the “fight or flight” adrenaline and other hormone build-up associated with stress.
5. So I can eat all the chocolate I want. Or maybe decrease my cravings for chocolate, as my stress levels will be lowered. Ditto for alcohol, and sugars in general. Seriously though – as well as the calories burned off by exercise, having a higher muscle:fat ratio means more energy is burned off by basic metabolism. Fat does not burn calories.
6. Preventing osteoporosis. Strength training has been shown to prevent bone loss. I am not in the high risk age group for bone loss, but let’s get in early.
7. So the rest of my body can be as fit as my fingers (which are regularly exercised on the keyboard). OK – slightly facetious, but my fingers get a lot of exercise.
8. For mood enhancement. Exercise has been shown to elevate the mood through the production of endorphins. A psychiatrist friend used to take his patients on what he called “circle therapy” where he literally conducted therapy as they walked around the oval. Can’t hurt for the rest of us.
9. Vitamin D. OK, so this is a little bit of a long bow to draw, but with our sun-avoidance as a result of skin-cancer scares, many people are Vitamin D deficient. This can affect nerve health and mood. A little bit of exercise outside, particularly when it isn’t really sunny, is a good thing.
10. Energy levels. As with many things in life, it is a “use it or lose it” proposition with energy levels and fitness. The more energy you expend, the more you get. This one also includes increased mental and physical stamina.
11. Better sleep. Providing you don’t exercise just before sleep. A fit healthy body that has expended a reasonable amount of energy, is much more likely to sleep well.
12. To stave off various types of chronic disease and risk factors. Yes, yes, BORING. But cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes. I am sure there should be an etcetera there. Sigh.
13. For better self-image. Yes, a fit and taut body would make me feel better about myself.
14. Apparently the above will all give me a better sex life. Enough said.
15. Increased life expectancy. As little as 15 minutes exercise every day can increase life expectancy by three years. More exercise = more benefit. And if you add onto that staving off chronic disease and osteoporosis, it should be a healthier three years as well.
16. Reduced cancer risk. The strongest links seem to be with reduced risk of breast cancer, but lower weight is also associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer and other cancers. The link with reducing breast cancer risk is to do with lower levels of specific hormones associated with developing breast cancer – and the risk reduction can be up to 60%. That’s pretty significant.
17. To beat infectious disease. The evidence is, I believe, a little shaky, but a fitter body means a stronger immune system, means overcoming infectious disease. Can’t hurt.
18. To save my joints. Losing weight through increased fitness will both take the strain off my joints (particularly knees, hips and ankles) and also support the joints with muscle mass. Win-win.
19. To travel the world. A school-friend just FB’d a message that she had started training for the Angkor Wat half-marathon. What a great reason to travel there! I don’t care if I come last, I want to run in the Paris marathon that finishes at the Arc de Triomphe. I am sure there are many other places I could run – and sightsee and shop! Anyone wanna join me?