So it is a new year, and for many people, that means that they have set an intention or made a resolution to either begin exercising or to commit to doing it more regularly. Unfortunately, unless we have compelling reasons for making changes in our lives, even the best intentions often fall by the wayside for most of us after a very short time.
Most of us know that exercise is good for us. And we know it makes us feel better. And, if we do it right, and correct any poor eating habits, we can also enjoy a side benefit of losing weight and fitting into a smaller clothing size. But the benefits go far beyond that. Countless studies have proven that exercise can:
Make our heart stronger and more efficient, resulting in lower blood pressure
Reduce our risk for heart disease by lowering our cholesterol
Reduce our risk for strokes
Strengthen our immune system
Release endorphins (the body’s own version of morphine), which produce an analgesia (painkiller) and feeling of well-being (a healthy alternative to anti-depressants)
Increase our endurance, strength and flexibility, relieving many aches and pains
Improve our quality of sleep, helping us feel more rested
Extend our lives, and improve the quality of that longer life
It is also very important for our brains and central nervous systems, resulting in increased cognitive function and combating dementia and mood disorders
An international study which has just been published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reports that “Children who get more exercise also tend to do better in school, whether the exercise comes as recess, physical education classes or getting exercise on the way to school.” (Reuters)
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published a report which “compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.” (The Huffington Post).
So while physical education time is being cut from many schools in favor of more classroom time to meet testing standards (which we are clearly not doing), perhaps one of the simplest solutions we could implement to actually improve children’s performances is to increase their exercise time.
And according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), “The problem of childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. The annual cost to society for obesity is estimated at nearly $100 billion. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise.”
So while knowing that exercise is beneficial for us may not be compelling reason enough to commit to a regular exercise program, perhaps the health & well-being of our children is. We need to model positive behaviors for our kids, and loving ourselves enough to take care of ourselves is a good place to start. Given the rather grim statistics on our children’s current educational performance and health picture, we really can’t afford not to! Remember, exercise can and should be fun. Because let’s face it, if it’s not, you probably won’t do it. Try hiking, swimming, dancing, biking…whatever gets you moving and gets your heart rate up will be beneficial. Let’s get those endorphins pumping!
Photo Courtesy of Vera Kratochvil