Chapter 2: EXERCISE
There is one misconception about exercise that most people believe, and that is that you lose weight by exercising. For the most part this is not true. If you believe that you can lose weight by exercising more, it is my opinion that you have been given poor information. Changing your eating habits is the only way to lose weight. Can you burn off some extra calories and fat by exercising? Yes, however, you can never exercise your way out of a poor diet.
Consider the following example. You eat a snickers bar with your lunch. Do you know how long you need to work out to compensate for those extra calories and sugar? Two hours riding a bike. Let’s be honest for a moment. Who has two hours to work out every day? I know I don’t and I doubt many of you do either.
Hopefully you see the error of believing that you can exercise your way into a new dress or pant size. When I was in undergraduate study at Texas State University, I would go to the gym several times a week to workout. Every time I went to work out I would see my friend Lauren. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that she was there every time I went to workout. When I arrived at the gym she was already red-faced from running on the treadmill or lifting weights. I would do my routine, which usually lasted about an hour, and then I would leave. Lauren was still there every time as I left. I would joke with her and ask, “Do you live here or something?” She told me that she tried to workout 2-3 hours every day. Now I know what you are thinking, she must have looked like a super-model with all of that exercise…right? Actually, Lauren was a bigger girl. She carried it well and was very good looking, but she never could get the weight off. The situation baffled me for years until I came to understand that no matter how many hours a day you exercise, there is no way to compensate for a poor diet. Case and point, I often saw Lauren at the fraternity houses or local bars drinking beer and eating the standard food for college kids: pizza, hamburgers, and French fries. Even with her exercise program that bordered on insanity she couldn’t outrun her diet.
At this point you are probably thinking that I am anti-exercise, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! I just think it is extremely important that you understand the real value of exercise. You have to know why you are doing something and understand the true benefits to appreciate its value. If you exercise to lose weight and don’t see rapid results (which you won’t) then you may become frustrated and quit. It is my intention to show you the true value of exercise and encourage you to do it for the right reasons.
As I mentioned before, as a chiropractor I believe that the nervous system is the most important system in the body. With that in mind, I have come to realize that the real benefits of exercise are related to nervous system stimulation. Increased immune function, increased energy, and decreased stress are the true benefits of exercise and a result of nervous system stimulation, in my opinion.
I’m sure each and every one of you reading this book has either gone through a period in your life where you exercised religiously or at least you know someone who has. Did you notice a difference in the way you felt during this time in your life? You probably slept better, felt like you had more energy, and fell sick less often than you normally did in the past. These are the real reasons you should value exercise and include it into your daily routine.
Consider the intent of our design, how often do you think we should exercise? Simple answer there…every day and tons of it. Hunting and gathering food, hauling fuel to keep the fire going, building and repairing shelter, and the list goes on and on. Our bodies were designed to walk long distances every day, run in short bursts (to catch our prey and avoid predators), bend, twist, carry moderate weight, etc. Our bodies were designed to move in such a way.
I am sure you have heard this common phrase before- motion is life. We were made to move around! With our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, it is no wonder that we are sicker than ever as a society. We were not made to sit all day. Unfortunately in school we are “trained” to sit down for hours upon hours and keep quiet and still. This is unnatural and not good for our health.
Now that you know my opinion on exercise, let me give you some specifics about what to do and how to do it. I will give you some steps to follow that I consider easy to accomplish for anyone and a few helpful tricks that could change your life.
First and foremost, walk, walk, walk. As I mentioned before, I believe we were designed to walk throughout the day. I try to walk at least a mile every day, and sometimes I get up to 5 miles. This is a simple exercise that anyone can do, and the best part is-it’s free! You can do it anytime in any place, regardless of where you are. Start with a few minutes a couple of times a week and work your way up as you feel comfortable doing so. Your ultimate goal should be to walk at least one mile every day. Make it a family exercise! On the weekends and evenings, instead of driving to the park I walk with my kids. The half-mile journey to the park is extra exercise for me and the kids don’t mind at all! Often times we find sticks, interesting rocks, and other cool things on our way. It is a great way to learn about nature, bond as a family, and get some vitamin D!
As far as exercised is concerned, this is likely the most valuable tip I can give you: if you can afford a treadmill, buy one. If your family will allow you to put it in the living room, do it. Some interior decorators may scoff at this idea, but you could always wheel it into the garage before your next dinner party if you are worried about how it will look. The reason I want you to place the treadmill in the living room is to eliminate any excuse for using it. With it right there in the family room, you can use it while the kids are playing, watching television, etc. There is no reason why you couldn’t walk during one television show, and eventually try to work up to walking for an hour each day! You will find out very quickly your body will adapt and start to crave your daily walk. You will become addicted to the new level of health!
As a student in a very demanding doctorate program, I learned very quickly that exercise was one way I could keep my body healthy and my mind sharp. Sitting in the classroom from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. was not very conducive to great health. One of my goals during my time at Parker University was to come out healthier than I entered. Similar to the phrase, “Never trust a skinny chef!” I believe you should not put your faith in an unhealthy doctor. I made a commitment to my own health during my time at the University, and the treadmill was a big part of that pact.
There were many times that I felt I just couldn’t sacrifice a whole hour to exercise when I could be studying, but I felt like I would go absolutely insane if I didn’t get up and move around a little. So I came up with the idea of studying while I was working out. The only way that I found to be effective was to walk on the treadmill and read or look at flashcards. An amazing thing happened-my grades went up! I noticed that the material I studied while walking on the treadmill seemed to stick in my mind better; I was able to recall much more of the information from my exercise study sessions. And it wasn’t just me observing this phenomenon!
Friends of mine would see me studying on the treadmill and would often join me. We would get out our notes and walk and ask each other questions. After the test, every single time someone studied with me in this manner they would tell me how much they remembered from our exercising study sessions! Just like sleep, exercise improves mental function and stimulates the nervous system.
Many of us have jobs that require us to take work home with us. Teachers bring home stacks of papers to grade, lawyers read over cases, and people involved in business are constantly reviewing material for meetings and presentations outside of the office. Why not combine exercise with work that needs to be done outside of the home? I think you will find that the information you review on the treadmill will stick with you longer.
An important part of developing healthy habits is to impress upon your children how important it is. Combining exercise and study is a great strategy to pass on to your kids. Why not quiz your kids with flashcards as you walk to the park? Their test scores will go up and they will be developing healthy habits that last a lifetime.
You can also combine your personal development goals with your workouts. Often times I enjoy walking around the neighborhood practicing one of my presentations as I stroll. I simply print out the power point slides before I go and walk and talk to myself. My neighbors might think I’m a little off the wall but I’m ok with that! If I do not have a public speaking event in the near future I use that time to listen to something informational or motivational. Exercising feels great, exercising and growing as a person feels amazing! I have also noticed that time seems to slip away as you walk with the intention of practicing a speech or listening to a motivational speaker. I tend to keep walking until the speaker is finished or until I feel that I have mastered my talk. Often times this amounts to 3 miles or more and over an hour of exercise.
Just a few words about high-impact exercises and excessive weight lifting. First of all, it isn’t natural to do it often. I’m sure that our early ancestors carried loads of moderate weight on a regular basis; there may have even been times that it was necessary to lift 100 pounds or greater. However, lifting 300 pounds on a weekly basis was not likely to occur. Although these types of exercises can lead to great results physically in the short term, there is a cost. Many of the guys and gals you see in the gym putting up extreme amounts of weights will eventually suffer an injury that could have the potential to impact them for the rest of their lives.
Now that you are looking through the lens of intended design, I hope you are starting to see why certain things make sense and certain things don’t. Walking, running shorter distances, and working out with body weight fits the formula of human design. Hopefully you are also starting to see that exercise was not meant to help you lose weight, our ancestors didn’t have that problem. Exercise stimulates the nervous system to help boost your immune function, increase your energy level, and relieve stress. Once you began exercising for the right reasons and the right way, you are more likely to stick with it.