The Right Why To Exercise

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In No Sweat, Dr. Michelle Seager tells us:

“As it turns out, research shows that even reasons that sound very sensible and important may not lead us to the results we’re seeking. Some years ago, my colleagues and I conducted a study in which we examined the impact of people’s reasons to start exercising on their actual involvement in exercise. We first asked the participants to state their reasons or goals for exercising, as I just asked you. Then, to uncover their higher-level reasons for exercising, we asked them why they cared about obtaining those particular benefits. My colleagues and I found that 75 percent of participants cited weight loss or better health (current and future) as their top reasons for exercising; the other 25 percent exercised in order to enhance the quality of their daily lives (such as to create a sense of well-being or feel centered). Then we measured how much time they actually spent exercising over the course of the next year. The answer may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true: The vast majority of the participants whose goals were weight loss and better health spent the least amount of time exercising overall—up to 32 percent less than those with other goals. Think about that for a moment: Our most common and culturally accepted reasons for exercising are associated with doing the least amount of exercise. How can this be? Human beings, it turns out, are hardwired to choose immediate gratification over long-term benefits.”

Let’s remind ourselves of the immediate benefits of exercise. If we can cultivate a strong enough why for the immediate benefits, we can bear almost any how.

  • Exercise releases hope molecules into our bloodstream that help us be more resilient.
  • Exercise is as effective at treating depression as Zoloft.
  • Exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and Ritalin.
  • Exercise produces BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), like Miracle Grow for the brain.
  • Exercise is one of the best strategies to boost your willpower immediately.
  • Not exercising is like taking a depressant.
  • Exercise is the best deal in medicine, with a 64,000 percent return on investment.
  • Take 5,649 steps to sidestep depression, anxiety, and life satisfaction.