When I decided to start running in 2011 it seemed like a crazy idea. If you read “I Am Not a Runner,” you will know what I mean. But a personal commitment to exercise had recently become a nagging whisper in my daily life, sounding something like “you need to exercise . . . you need to get healthy . . . you need to mooove before you CAN’T MOVE ANYMORE!”
Oh sure, I tried to be a serious “power walker” (I could do that!), but I still wasn’t really moooving in that out of breath way that indicated I was working hard. Then I read an article written by Oprah’s fitness trainer, Bob Greene, outlining “10 Reasons to Exercise,” where he suggested finding just one reason out of the ten that he offered to motivate me enough to do it.
And so I did. I exercise for my brain.
Many of you know my story by now of the three generations of women before me with dementia. You know that my mother is in the advanced stages of the disease, and that I would do pretty much anything to avoid this fate myself. So when I found out that exercise slows the aging process, reduces cognitive decline and helps preserve memory, my lazy days were over — I didn’t have a choice, I would be a lazy fool if I didn’t exercise.
The idea of exercising for my brain has been helpful. It’s been motivating because it feels just a tad more important than exercising for my butt or my thighs. According to Mr. Greene, some other important reasons to exercise are:
1. Fight disease 6. Alleviate joint pain
2. Lose weight 7. Ease back pain
3. Look better 8. Improve sleep
4. Gain energy 9. Fight aging
5. Less illness 10. Love your kids
Bob Greene goes on to say,
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to fight aging. Regular workouts drastically reduce the loss of muscle and bone, and improve circulation. Exercise may also help reduce inflammation and stave off age-related diseases. As if that’s not enough, physical activity seems to have a protective effect against dementia, and may help improve memory and other cognitive functions. One Harvard University researcher called exercise “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
Miracle-Gro for the brain? Yes please!
I like Bob Greene’s easy to understand article on the 10 Reasons To Exercise, but if you want something a little meatier that offers scientific research indicating the benefits of exercise on the brain, you can go to this New York Times article or this Time Health & Family article.
Finally, I want you to know that exercising is quite often difficult for this middle-aged, out of shape, incredibly lazy woman. I’m on again, off again and I still struggle to get to that place where exercise is a natural part of my daily life. (In fact, I’m procrastinating right now!) But I am motivated and determined to do the right thing for my body and my brain, by answering the whispers, and moooving!
Besides, it only sucks half the time, and the other half it doesn’t.