When I was in high school, I wanted new bedroom wallpaper. I made what I considered to be a very mature case to my parents for why my wish should be granted.
My father said, “Okay, but you have to do something for me, twenty minutes a day, four days a week.” But he wouldn’t tell me what I’d have to do.
I was intrigued by the mystery, and also figured that I could stand anything for twenty minutes a day, four days a week.
His demand: that I go running during that time.
This was the greatest bargain I ever struck. I barely remember the wallpaper, but that deal turned me into a regular exerciser.
I’ve always been terrible at sports, so I thought I hated all forms of exercise. But I discovered that I like exercise, I just don’t like losing at games.
And I discovered that the best part of exercise was the mood boost it gave me.
If you’re skeptical about the connection between exercise and happiness, a fascinating Newsweek cover story about exercise and the brain includes the article, “Exercise is a state of mind,” which lays out the evidence. (I tried to include the link but I’m using the Big Man’s computer, and it mysteriously won’t allow me to copy…argh.)
As the article points out, regular exercise “improves your mood, decreases anxiety, improves sleep, improves resilience in the face of stress and raises self-esteem.” It also offsets the effects of aging. In fact, in some studies, the effect of exercise was equal to that of drugs or pyschotherapy.
A lot of people take up exercising when they want to lose weight, but I think that you’re more likely to stay motivated to exercise if you focus on the mental benefits instead of the physical benefits. Although it’s true that people who exercise regularly are better able to keep weight off, it’s very easy to get discouraged if you don’t lose weight easily — which never happens, right?
It’s better to focus on SANITY, not VANITY.
Just this morning, I was in an irritable mood, because the Little Girl was so fussy at breakfast. (She’s already taking her nap, and it’s only 10:30 a.m.) But I went to the gym after breakfast, and by the time I left, I felt great.