Fitness, what’s the point?

Tired, sweating, lactic acid, muscles in pain, sore for days after, can’t sit on the toilet, coming down the stairs sideways, going up the stairs on all fours! It isn’t good for you. No, it really isn’t, there’s no punchline here. Exercise is NOT good for you. It is the recovery afterwards where the improvements come. Strength and muscle gain, fat loss, improved flexibility. We can achieve the endless benefits of training if we’re prepared to push ourselves to and beyond our pre-existing limits to begin with. It isn’t an easy journey though and certainly not guaranteed. Hence the term, “pursuit” of fitness.

Which begs the question, why bother then? Why bother putting yourself through the physical, mental and emotional mill that is a tough training session. Why commit yourself? If it’s a choice between Netflix and squats, there’s only one winner in my opinion; and it’ll only make you sweat if it’s an engaging thriller!

Not exactly the kind of chat you’d expect from a “Fitness Professional”. It is the truth though. Fitness is a pursuit, not a guarantee and we’ve all dabbled in it at some point or another. If you decide you can commit yourself though, stay focussed, dedicated and disciplined, the results can be life-changing.

So, what are the benefits? Let me tell you some of them.

You’ll look good naked. OK, I’m just kidding (kind-of), but there’s the physically aesthetic aspect of fitness. Most people would admit, they embark on their fitness journey for reasons relating to their appearance. There’s nothing at all wrong with this, we should all seek to better ourselves. Consistent training can result in sometimes quite dramatic physical changes. The most obvious one is a reduction in body fat. The term used by most people is “losing weight” but the real objective is a reduction in body fat levels which can be reflected on the scales. The mechanism for this is two-fold. An increase in physical activity will increase your energy expenditure (calories burned) promoting a calorie deficit (consuming less calories than your maintenance requirement (BMR)). We can also push ourselves further into a calorie deficit by managing the number of calories we consume daily. For example, if you calculate that your maintenance calorie requirement per day is around 1500kcals and you consume roughly that amount but do a daily workout that expends from 250-300kcals, your net calories consumed per day will sit around 1200-1250, resulting in you losing weight and reducing body fat levels!

Exercise can also help build muscle. This is also frequently coined as the term “toning” because building muscle sounds too much like what Arnold Schwarzenegger was doing in “Pumping Iron”. The fact is though, building muscle is what is happening when your arms and legs appear more “toned”. This response occurs through a progression in the volume of resistance training over time (sets X reps X weight). This is the consensus in the fitness industry on how to build muscle. This usually results in an improvement in definition of certain body parts being trained. In the legs, a clear distinction between the quads, hamstrings and glutes (upper portion) to the calf muscles (lower portion). Improved triceps (bingo wings!), shoulders and biceps. This usually results in clothes fitting better which is an added incentive for a lot of people. An increased amount of muscle mass will also increase your maintenance level of calories (BMR). This means, you can consume more calories without the added consequence of putting on weight or additional body fat. YOU GET TO EAT MORE!! This is the reason why a lot of people who do consistent resistance training have a greater degree in the flexibility of their dietary choices and suffer less of the weight-gaining consequences of consuming high calorie foods. This is an added incentive of building muscle which contributes to an improvement in your overall appearance.

OK, so you look better, but what about how you feel? Many people who take part in regular exercise would happily admit they have a dependency upon it. Why though? Exercise releases endorphins in our brain that trigger feelings of pleasure, achievement and relief. This is very appealing to people who might not get to experience these emotions and feelings in their every day life. Have you ever put yourself through a mentally and physically tough training session and felt sheer euphoria afterwards? Exercise can also reduce the effects of anxiety and depression. Today with increasing work and social pressures, more and more people are experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression, thus looking for some form of relief. A study by Blumenthal et al, 1999 concluded that aerobic exercise could be used as an equally effective intervention in older patients (>50) when compared to use of anti-depressants over a 16-week intervention. The changes you might experience in your physical appearance because of your hard work discussed earlier, can also increase your confidence levels in yourself, thus making you a happier person overall. It’s also widely believed that regular exercise increases your energy levels. A strange thought to consider at first, how increasing your overall energy expenditure could increase your energy levels in other areas of your life? The clients I work with on a day-to-day basis feel that by making some time for exercise in their day, it increases their overall productivity levels in other aspects of their life including work and family!

So, Fitness, what’s the point? Hopefully after reading this blog you have a better idea or at least confirmation of some of the ideas you already had! The physical improvement you can achieve whether that’s by losing body fat or increasing muscle mass can lead to a dramatic change in your overall appearance. This can lead to increased confidence and overall happiness levels and a greater feeling of being comfortable in your own skin. There’s also the mental and emotional benefits people experience from fitness. The research seems to support the idea that exercise can be used as an effective intervention in combatting the effects of depression and anxiety. A massive benefit considering the amount of people who suffer with these daily. If you take part in regular exercise, there’s also a good chance you’ll have more energy and be more productive. This has a positive trickle-down effect to your family and colleagues and may also encourage a higher output from them.

Hopefully the pros far outweigh the cons in terms of fitness and why we should factor it into our lives daily. People want to live for as long as they can but it’s not just about living for a long period of time but having a high quality of life. Being able to run, jump and chase your loved ones around the park for as long as they need you to. Feeling happy and confident in your own skin being able to wear any outfit that catches your eye. Reducing the effects of anxiety and depression and having more energy to put into the things you love doing including spending time with your family. Overall conclusion? Make time. Make time on most days of the week to do something to improve your overall health and fitness. Regardless of your ability level, regardless of your time constraints, work and family commitments, just, make, time. A 15 minute walk every other day over a prolonged period will leave you in a far better place physically and mentally than if you weren’t to bother. Just make time.