Exercise is not just for Skin & Bones

Exercise LungeThe other day, I couldn’t bring myself to go to the gym. Perhaps it was the late night coffee, lack of sleep, gloomy day…didn’t even want to put my gym clothes on. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t feeling my usual get-up and go. But rather than wallow at home, sitting on my bum the remainder of the day, I decided to go for a walk, instead. And though it wasn’t a hard-core workout, I did get in some brisk walking and aerobic benefit. And once I got started, I was glad I did.

Sometimes we don’t feel much like exercising, but the benefits far outweigh the comfort of staying sedentary. Sure, it’s easier to sit on the couch and watch TV, read a good book / magazine, or get online and while away the hours. But charging your body has more benefits than you may think.

I interviewed some top physical fitness professionals to get their expert advice on the subject.

Kristin McGee, Health Magazine’s contributing Yoga and Fitness Editor, is a fan of strength training. “(This type of exercise) forces the muscles to pull against the bones, stimulates the bone building process,” explains McGee, a personal trainer, yoga teacher and pilates instructor. She adds that any exercise that places force on a bone will strengthen that bone, and that includes yoga.

McGee’s favorite yoga postures? Plank, downward dog, arm balances, leg balances, and warrior poses.

“(This is) where we are stacking our bones properly in each pose and holding the poses which puts a load on the bones, says McGee. “YogaTone goes even further by placing us in a yoga posture and then lifting weights… it’s the ultimate bone density building workout!” And research shows this is the case.

Improved bone health! This keeps us mobile and able. Below are some other great reasons to exercise:

A better night sleep! “Physically fit people fall asleep faster, feel more rested the next day and sleep better,” says McGee. “Exercise releases feel good endorphins and gets the blood flow circulating, when bed time comes around, one who has exercised during the day, feels more calm and relaxed and can doze off easily. Movement taxes our muscles which then tell us later at night they need to rest so it’s easier for the body to drop in to a deep state of sleep,”  she says.

Clearer skin! According to McGee, exercise increases blood flow which can clear up your skin and improve your immunity. “Our skin is our largest organ so if we move and exercise and get the blood flowing to our skin, it shows,” says McGee who encourages us to think about getting our ‘post work out glow!’

Improved immunity! McGee says exercise improves your immunity in two ways:

1.     It increases the speed at which the body eliminates waste products. “If you move and get a good sweat, your body will get rid of extra waste products that carry infection,” says McGee.

2.     Raising the core temperature of your body helps fight infection since many infectious agents can survive the heat. “Thus your body has a fever when it’s trying to fight off an infection,” she adds. “One of my clients swears by a good run when she thinks she is coming down with something.”

Jessica Smith, certified wellness coach and creator of the “10 Pounds DOWN” DVD Series, provides  3 more reasons to get your body moving (and these reasons are precisely why I exercise):

A boost to your mood! Several studies have shown the mood boosting benefits of exercise. “When you workout, your body releases feel good endorphins and can help to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety naturally,” says Smith.

A tool for weight control! “Sure, eating well is a huge part of the weight loss equation, but regular exercise is one of the top tools for long term weight loss success. Even something as simple as walking can help you maintain your weight,” advises Smith.

Less stress! Numerous studies have shown the immune boosting benefits or regular physical activity, plus its a great stress reliever. “Too much stress can cause disease and illness in the body, and regular exercise can help keep stress at a manageable, healthy level,” explains Smith.

So get up and move! A little exercise can go a long way toward your overall health and well-being.

An RD Behind the Plate,