I sometimes talk with people who say they don’t have enough time to exercise. The older I get the more that reminds me of people who say they don’t have enough money to save for retirement.
I can relate. When I was younger and rising in my career, I rarely made time to exercise. I was too busy killing it to realize it was killing me. And it almost did.
As I’ve shared before, it took a significant health scare for me to reorganize my priorities. My time at the office went down, and time with my family went up. So did time on my feet—usually running. Nowadays I exercise five or six days a week. I hate missing it.
Skipping exercise to work or play is like trying to increase your checking account by starving your retirement fund. It doesn’t actually work. We’re just redistributing pleasure and pain—more pleasure now, more pain later.
It seems okay when we’re young, but it’s catastrophic as we age. The short-term gains turn out to be false. And we miss out on the long-term benefits that regular exercise brings.
Here are three powerful reasons exercising is like dumping gobs of money in your 401(k), and why shorting the contribution is only shorting yourself.
- It will make you healthy. If we want to control our weight, lower our stress, stay strong, increase our energy levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and generally live longer, then exercise is the answer.
“Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exercise actually slows the effects of aging on our cells.
And you don’t have to become a gym rat or triathlete to reap the rewards. “You can put yourself at lower risk of dying early by doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity,” according to the CDC. That’s less than twenty-five minutes a day. Even a brisk walk is helpful.
- It will make you focused and smart. Exercise is not only good for the body; it’s also good for the brain.
Aerobic exercise like running can significantly improve our ability to focus. I’ve been running for years now and can vouch for that. Aerobic exercise also improves memory and is more effective than “brain games” in keeping our minds young.
One of the reasons is that exercise actually spurs growth in certain parts of our brain. Researchers think the reason is increased blood flow and oxygen. But whatever the cause they say, “the evidence for the beneficial effects of physical exercise on increasing brain volume and enhancing cognition within developing children and older adults is quite convincing.”
It might even make you rich. Researchers in Finland followed 5,000 male twins for almost thirty years. By tracking which were active and which were sedentary, they determined that regular exercise contributed to 14 to 17 percent higher long-term income levels.
What’s the secret? It turns out that regular exercise forms the kind of character that wins in the marketplace. According to the researchers, it “make[s] people more persistent in the face of work-related difficulties, and increase their desire to engage in competitive situations.”
There are plenty of reasons to avoid exercising. But most of them aren’t very compelling, especially when we realize the costs will catch up to us in the form of diminished health, diminished intelligence, and even diminished income.
The good news is that most of us can start turning that around beginning today.
Question: What would be possible in your life if you were stronger, smarter, and earned more money?