Exercise: A Friend with Benefits

Hello Exercise, long time no-see. Why should we be friends? What can you do for me? You say you want to be with me forever, but I’m not sure I can commit for the long-run. Can we start things off slow and see where this relationship takes us? I don’t want to let you down, I’m afraid I’ll just disappoint you. The last time we were together you brought me more pain than joy, will this time be different? I’m so busy, I’m not sure I have time for you? It’s not you, it’s me, I’m just not ready to commit. It’s nothing personal, but you don’t seem like my type of Exercise.

If you could talk to “Exercise” what would you say? How could you make your relationship work? Where might you find value in your relationship with Exercise?

Let me see if I can help shed light on some of these questions. As far as the value of exercise, it really is a remarkable partner in health. Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. It’s also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. That’s a nice friend! Not only that, but your time together will help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer (namely colon and breast), strengthen bones and muscles, control weight, improve sex, and in general help you live longer. Thank you Exercise, I’m grateful to you!

You don’t need to spend as much time with exercise as you might think to get those relationship perks either. You can lower your risk of dying early by doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, which averages out to around 20 mins a day. You can even break it up and spend 10 mins twice a day. You can spend time together gardening, biking, walking, and dancing around in your living room naked! No judgement here, whatever works to keep your relationship with Exercise humming along J.

Note: Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you'll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.

Get creative in how to incorporate more time with your new friend Exercise. Consider spicing things up with technology. After a break-up with Exercise I used the 5K Runner: Couch Potato to 5K app, which incorporates walk/run cycles to get us back on track. Maybe you want to introduce Exercise to your love of Zombies, try the Zombies Run app which incorporates running into a game! Or maybe you and Exercise can get a dog together and enjoy some quality time walking Fiddo.

Once you’ve achieved a relationship milestone of 150 mins a week together, consider upping it to 300 for additional health benefits, or simply increase your intensity. However, before you let your enthusiasm and love for Exercise get the better of you remember, to consult with your doctor if you have any health conditions that could be exacerbated by exercise and always start slow!

Coaching Corner:

  • Why do you want to exercise more?

  • How could you incorporate exercise into your life?

  • What creative solutions do you have for overcoming barriers to your relationship with exercise?