April 4, 2018 0

Get Moving – Why You Need To Exercise

Posted by:Dr. Brian Mowll onApril 4, 2018

Spring is finally here, which means many of us can venture outside, enjoy the warm temps and sunshine, and get our bodies moving after a long hibernation. So why is it that many people choose to stay inside and remain couch potatoes?

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” – Plato

Why is it so darn hard for so many of us to get active and stay active?

Two reasons: 1) the longer you perpetuate a habit, either good or bad, the harder it is to break, and 2) most people attempt to exercise for the wrong reason, namely vanity.

While it’s understandable to want to look better in and out of our clothes, there are so many other reasons we should be committing to an exercise program. Here are 7 of them:

1) Exercise is an antidepressant.

Whether you’re feeling down because of a specific life event (death of a loved one, being laid off, confused about your career path), or suffer from chronic depression, you may have tried pharmaceutical antidepressants in the past. While many people have experienced relief from these medications, all too often they come with nasty side effects.

Exercise is a natural, safer alternative to treating depression. Aerobic exercise, specifically, has been found to be as effective at relieving symptoms of depression as traditional medication. [1] The effects from exercise have also been found to last longer than those from medication.

2) It reduces stress and anxiety.

People deal with stress and anxiety in different ways. Some eat Papa Johns pizza, some lay in the fetal position next to their dog, and some eat Papa Johns while lying next to their dog.

There’s a much healthier way to chill out, and it can even involve your dog. Exercise helps to modulate the stress hormone, cortisol. Consistently high levels of cortisol can result in learning and memory problems, lowered immune function, decreased bone density, increased weight gain and blood pressure, and heart disease, and high blood sugar. [2] So if you are experiencing a lot of stress in your life right now, get moving, and help balance that cortisol.

“ Exercise is the most potent and underutilized antidepressant…and it’s free!” – Unknown

3) It reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Way too many people are walking around with metabolic syndrome and don’t even know it. And that’s a huge concern because this syndrome, if left unchecked, will lead to an early grave.

Metabolic syndrome has three equally-dangerous factors: increased blood pressure and cholesterol, high blood sugar, and excessive fat around the waist. Know what can tackle all three of these issues? Yep. Research has found that exercise can completely reverse metabolic syndrome and the physical damage it has already caused. [3] The key here is the type of exercise.  That why we recommend including resistance training and high intensity interval training with your slow, fat burning cardio.

4) It obliterates tons of other diseases, too.

You can lower your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and the list goes on and on by moving your body. Exercise is such a powerful preventative strategy that Dr. Jordan Metzel has declared exercise to be “a miracle drug that prevents almost every illness, is 100 percent effective, and has very few side effects.” I second that.

5) It helps your eyesight.

Guess what one of the best ways to protect your eyes and ward off age-related vision loss is? Be more specific……. Okay it’s specifically cardiovascular exercise. Researchers found that active mice kept twice as many retinal neurons as their sedentary friends. Other studies have found a correlation in humans. [4]

6) It strengthens bones.

Decreased bone density effects men and women as we age, making us more prone to fractures and becoming dependent on others. This is no way to live and there’s no need for it, either. The best way to build and maintain bone density into old age is via weight-bearing exercises, like weightlifting, running and dancing.

Research has shown that adults who exercised moderately or strenuously had better bone density than those who exercised little or not at all. [5]

7) It literally makes you younger.

It turns out the fountain of youth requires a little sweating and grunting. Not only do people who exercise appear younger, they actually are on a cellular level. This is thanks to telomeres, or the cap on the ends of DNA. When we’re young our telomeres are long but they get shorter with age. In the past everyone assumed, oh, well, that’s life and aging.

But recent studies have shown that endurance athletes have longer telomeres than their peers, and even people who get moderate exercise can lengthen theirs by 10%.  [6] Of course the bad news is it will take you even longer to start enjoying those senior discounts.

These are truly only some of the amazing benefits of moving your body more. If I listed them all you’d be here through dinner.

Tips to Help You Get Moving

1. Recognize that how good you feel IS the reward.  

It’s no news that rewards are great motivators, and some people do reward themselves for working out. “If I go to the gym I can eat some fruit.” Or “If I go to spinning class this week I can buy that cute T-shirt I saw at Target.” Now I’m not saying these kinds of rewards don’t work, I’m just saying this mentality treats exercise like the enemy, like the medicine that needs a spoonful of sugar to go down.

You’ll do much better if you focus on that amazing feeling you get after you work out. Not only is your body flooded with endorphins, but you also feel emotionally and mentally good about yourself. It’s a perfect storm of good feelings. Focus on this feeling and recognize that IT is the reward.

2. Don’t make exercising more difficult than it has to be.

Who says you have to all of a sudden spend 5 days a week doing CrossFit? Who says you have to spend an hour every day on a treadmill? Who says you have to move your body in a way you don’t like or that bores you?

The point is not to become perfectly-sculpted and insanely healthy overnight – the point is to move your body more today than you did yesterday, and move it more the day after that, and the day after that.

Choose exercise you enjoy. Ride your bike with your kids after dinner. Jump on a trampoline. Take a long walk on the beach. Play more golf. It’s not complicated – don’t make it so.

3. Reimagine yourself.

When you think about exercising or talk about exercising with others, how many times do you think or say, “I’m just too lazy I guess. I don’t know what my problem is, I think I’m just too tired to exercise.”

Think and say these thoughts enough and you create a monster: you as a tired and lazy person.

“ Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale

Change – real, lasting change – will require you to reimagine yourself as an energetic person who craves being active. Your actions and instincts work hard to align with the identity you’ve created for yourself. Become a healthy person who truly enjoys being active in your mind, and your body will naturally follow.


[1] Effects of Exercise Training on Older Patients With Major Depression, October 25, 1999, Vol 159, No. 19 [JAMA]

[2] Cardiovascular Consequences of Cortisol Excess, Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2005 Dec; 1(4): 291–299 [NIH]

[3] Targeting the Metabolic Syndrome with Exercise: Evidence from the HERITAGE Family Study, American College of Sports Medicine

[4] Aerobic Exercise Protects Retinal Function and Structure from Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration, The Journal of Neuroscience, 12 February 2014, 34(7): 2406-2412; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2062-13.2014 [JNeurosci]

[5] Lifetime Leisure Exercise and Osteoporosis The Rancho Bemardo Study, American Jnl of Epidemiology Volume 141, Issue 10Pp. 951-959. [aje]

[6] Telomere Length and Long-Term Endurance Exercise: Does Exercise Training Affect Biological Age? A Pilot Study, December 26, 2012DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052769 [PLOS]

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