Does exercise make you healthy ?

Does exercise make you healthy?

The short answer is No. I am sorry to disappoint you, but the fact that someone goes out to a gym or goes power walking twice a week doesn’t necessarily mean that they are healthy. In the same way that going to church once a week doesn’t make for a religious person and eating brown bread doesn’t mean that you have a healthy diet. Our obsession with being healthy or our conviction that we ought to be, easily draws us to the extreme behaviour where we dive into a detox, a 12 week programme, a health farm or a stop smoking programme combined with going to a gym 4 times a week. Armies of people join health clubs in January and after the summer holidays and armies of people fade away from those very clubs as their retention dwindles after a month or two.

So does exercise make you healthy? Being healthy is a way of life. It is all the things you do on a regular basis from the thoughts you think, the meals you prepare and the activities you take. Everything you do has a consequence in the body, therefore those thoughts, meals and activities will leave a residue depending on how “nutritious” they were. Health is not an afterthought, like the drinking of a litre and half of water at night because you suddenly realised you were super de-hydrated, doing a 2 hour workout on a Sunday because you have sat behind a desk all week or having one early night because you are tired. In the same way you are not UN-healthy if you have a good night out, an indulgent holiday, or a weekend off. It is all the things we do on a regular basis that add to the mathematical equation of being overdrawn in our wellbeing account or in credit.

Does exercise make you healthy? Health is not one thing, it is a million things. And it begins with your values, your personal beliefs and self respect that you have a magnificent body and mind which are your responsibility to look after. And that in doing so you will get rewarded plus interest by having more energy, more youth, more get up and go (and less injuries, less self loathing, less fat, less stiffness and less tiredness).  Exercise can play a very important role in living a healthy lifestyle, because our bodies were made to move. But do something you love, something that stretches you or fills you with life.

Does exercise make you live longer?

The short answer is Yes. The human body works on a “use it or lose it” principle. In the same way that machines get rusty and fail to operate properly when being left unused and un-serviced, the human body will deteriorate slowly over time if it doesn’t get worked. Your heart is a muscle designed to pump oxygenated blood into your system, working closely together with your lungs. If it never gets trained that amazing system will lose it effectiveness. Your muscles will weaken and slacken if all you ever do to stimulate them is tap a computer keyboard or open the mail. Your circulation system, your digestive system, your immune system and your mental health, all are positively impacted by exercising. The amount of adrenaline responsible for stress and a huge pressure on our bodies and minds is diminished by exercising.
So does exercise make you live longer? There are always the sceptics who have examples of people who lived into their nineties and never exercised at all, or very fit people who died at an early age. But no one can escape the common sense argument that our bodies were made to move. We know that for a fact, even if you just think about what sitting down, standing or lying for long periods does to your body. It is uncomfortable, gives you sores and stiffens your joints, swells your ankles and weakens your heart. Because we live in a world where much is automated and done for us, we need to go out and exercise in facilities designed for it or take to the great outdoors. Otherwise your exercise would come from walking to the river to wash your clothes, hunting for your food, building shelter and so on. Exercise is the common maintenance for your bones, muscles and organs. Just like you clean and repair your home and have your car serviced. It is very likely to make you live longer, but above all you will have a much improved quality of life.

Can treadmill exercise get rid of belly fat?

The short and straight answer is Yes, as long as you moderate your calorie intake. There is no exercise in the world that can help you adapt your physical shape alone without you taking care of your diet and eating habits. Therefore exercise and nutrition go hand in hand.
It is a common misconception that you can spot reduce, i.e. by working out in a certain way, you can lose fat off a certain area. It simply doesn’t work like that. Fat is stored in genetically preconditioned place. One person may hold body fat on their legs, another one on their belly and a third one on their hips. To a degree this also has to do with your fat intake and exercise habits when you were young. So if you have children be aware that the fat stores are “set up” up until the age of 13. A overweight youngster is highly likely to become an overweight adult.
The plan of attack should be to reduce your overall fat percentage and by doing the correct exercises combined with the right diet adjustments, you can make that happen. If you store fat on your belly then that is where it will most likely come off if you focus is on reducing your fat percentage and improving your diet.

So, can treadmill exercise get rid of belly fat? Of course it can. It is a great cardio vascular activity that increases your heart rate into your fat burning zone. Make sure you are not too out of breath as body fat gets “burnt up” with the use of oxygen. If you are new to working out on a treadmill, start with power walking and over time increase the speed and add some hill work. Interval training whereby you alternate your training intensity by for instance walking for 3 min followed by jogging for 2 min, is great for fat burning. If you are most accomplished then build up your jogging time and speed on the treadmill, also introducing hill work and again intervals are a great tool. Having said all this I am not a great fan of long treadmill workouts as I believe they can get boring. They serve their purpose especially with an iPod on and if you have the ability to watch the news, but don’t underestimate doing the same type of workout in the great outdoors.

This kind of treadmill workout needs to be accompanied by resistance training if you are going to be successful in reducing body fat. Working big muscle groups all in an all over body workout either on machines or even by using body weight is essential.

Lastly, with regards to your diet and reducing belly fat, it is my experience that wheat and man made foods are best to be avoided. Also reduce the amount of carbohydrate intake after 5pm.
Have a look at my free eBook “100 Investments in YOU” for 100 tips to help you on your way.

4 Responses to Does exercise make you healthy ?

  • Kirsten, I can endorse everything you say in this article. I’m much healthier this year because I’ve focused on a balanced nutritional diet, counting calories to the gram and tracking my calorie burn.

    I exercise in moderation but less than in the past. I’ve lost 55Lbs since February 2011. I’ve received similar advice from my dietitian and physician for years. The difference is, I stopped kidding myself about diet. I was eating too much of the wrong food. Sticking to RDAs in the correct ratio’s of Carbs, Protein and Fat has been the key.

    Hope this consistent with your approach.

    • Kirsten says:

      Hi Rich, thank you so much for your comment. First of all, congratulations on losing that much weight this year. That is just fantastic. I would say that -whatever happens in November or December- your 2011 has already been a great success. Most importantly, it also sounds like you have made a lifetsyle change, rather than having been on some sort of “regime”. Re-addressing the way you think (or as you say “kid” yourself) is the key to a lifestyle change. I work with so many people who have tried to find the “quick fix” their entire lives. I try and teach them that it is what we do on a regular basis that counts. Making small changes and adaptations and finding what works for you is the key.
      You are absolutely right. A balance between carbs, protein and fats, with good hydration and portion sizes. Stop eating before you feel full and try and eat a light (low carb) evening meal. You need the complex carbs during the day, so use vegetables/stirfry’s in the evening. But make sure you have plenty of variety, eat what is in season and always enjoy your food! It is great you exercise as well. Don’t worry it is less than in the past. I used to train 5-6 times per week, but that was before running after 2 little boys and running a business!
      It has been great hearing from you. Keep up all the hard work and good luck!

  • Ian Chapman says:

    I agree with a lot of what you say, though some of it is misleading. Your 1st question “does exercise make you healthy” – Ans NO…. but of course exercise CAN make you healthy as you indeed go on to say…as in it is PART of what can make you healthy. Most questions cannot be answered effectively with a yes or No – so why bother and give a false impression of the answer??
    Similarly, “can treadmill exercise get rid of belly fat” – YES but then you go on to say, correctly that you can’t spot reduce fat..i.e the treadmill DOES NOT specifically reduce fat around the belly but its overall fat reduction. Overall though, a good post.

    • Kirsten says:

      Hi Ian. I didn’t mean for this piece to be misleading in any way. I work with many clients and groups of people every day, week, month, who ask me questions like in the blog piece because they want to find a quick fix. They often pressure me into a Yes/No kind of answer, which is what I tried to reflect in the piece. Many people try to get away with exercising to ease a guilty conscience. Nothing with regards to health, fitness and wellbeing is black or white or yes/no. It is the combination of lifestyle, interest, self esteem, knowledge, time etc. that gets people to make certain choices. I believe that at the core of it lie qualities such as valueing our quality of life. Then it is important to get the information one needs to make exercise and healthy eating fit in the life you lead.
      Thanks very much for the comment.

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