Naturopath Dr. Allana Polo operates a weight loss clinic near Vancouver, British Columbia. In a recent article on MindBodyGreen.com, Dr. Polo writes about what motivates her patients to change their lives. She says when patients come in, many are convinced that losing weight will make them happier. Being motivated by vanity is understandable, she writes, but she has found that over time:
…”looking good” is not a strong motivator for adopting and sticking with a healthy lifestyle. Despite losses, you may never feel you look good enough, which will leave you discouraged. Or you might get there and give yourself permission to fall back into old patterns.
I’ve seen the most dramatic results when patients have found deep and personal reasons to stick with a healthy living commitment, and reasons that reveal how good it feels to reconnect with your body.
Happiness, she says, can’t be found inside a pair of skinny jeans. She encourages her patients to master nutrition and to set forth on a path of choosing healthy foods. Then she recommends that they master fitness. Getting fit is not just a matter of toning your tuchis. Patients soon learn that exercise changes your body in five amazing ways:
1. Exercise makes your body a fat-burning machine.
When you do muscle-building exercise, you create minuscule tears in your muscles. As the tears heal, your muscles increase in size, growing bigger and stronger. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, even at rest. After you lift, refuel with a protein-rich snack.
2. Exercise strengthens your bones and protects against bone loss.
Exercise, especially high-impact weight-bearing exercise like running, aerobics, and dancing, strengthens both muscle and bone. This stimulates the growth of new bone tissue. As you get older, bone mass natural declines, and exercise counters that trend.
3. Exercise forces your heart to function efficiently.
When you exercise, you can feel how hard your heart is working, pumping more oxygenated blood to your muscles. As you continue to increase in endurance and strength, your heart muscle learns greater efficiency. This reduces your resting heart rate and decreases your blood pressure. When you exercise, get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes at a time.
4. Exercise is great for your lungs.
When you exercise, your muscles call on your lungs for additional oxygen. To make this possible, the muscles that surround your lungs expand. Over time, the volume of oxygen available to you increases. Exercises that require good breath control include running and swimming.
5. Exercise alters your brain.
Neurological studies show that exercise creates significant changes in your brain. It makes you more focused in every area of your life. Exercise supports the growth of new brain cells, improving memory and learning. Exercise even prevents and treats depression by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin. These are the hormones that give you that “runners’ high.” That’s a big benefit, because it encourages you to become addicted to that feel-good experience.
If you need to lose weight, or if you just want to stay healthy and feel better in general, get active. Find an exercise activity you enjoy, and do it consistently. Your body and mind will thank you.