I often get asked why I like exercise. It seems not everyone shares my enthusiasm for movement. The question arose again recently so I decided to address it here. There are many so I will stick to my top five.

One of the biggest benefits is stress management. I sometimes have a very difficult day where I feel stressed, overwhelmed, and sometimes even incompetent. I get tired, develop a headache and just want to bury my head in the sand. Instead, I exercise. An hour of movement, getting my heart rate up, strengthening my muscles, sweating the aggravation out, then stretching out and settling my mind not only makes me feel alive, it makes me feel like I can handle all of the things that seemed so daunting before. One of my favorite workouts to do when I am really stressed is kickboxing with a bag followed with tai chi/yoga. No harm, no foul and I can sleep at night which also helps manage stress.

It also helps me breathe. I have asthma and a very fine appreciation for the ability to just breathe. An asthma attack (or any form of breathing limitation) is not fun. As a kid, it was annoying, embarrassing and scary. As an adult, I understand it better and realize there are things I can do to help myself. One of them is regular cardiovascular exercise.

It helps me socially. I love group fitness and I love to play. It doesn’t matter if we are the same age, sex, social class, ability level, etc. for one hour we are all in it together.

Exercise helps me settle my mind and organize my thoughts. My mind seems to go too many directions at once and I have a difficult time accomplishing anything because I am too scattered. I tend to do a little bit of a lot of things but not get any one thing done. With regular exercise I am able to focus on tasks, prioritize, and get things done. (I think it has much to do with the first benefit I mentioned).

I physically benefit from exercise and I enjoy that. One of the purposes of regular exercise is to make our daily activities easier. I am grateful that I can take the simple act of walking for granted. There are many who cannot. I feel the ability to move freely and painlessly is a huge gift and I am incredibly grateful to have it.

These five benefits are just the tip of the iceberg for what exercise can do for one. I just mentioned the ones that come to mind because I experience them on a daily basis. Exercise can be used as a tool for good health in many ways and coupled with good nutrition can be the difference between living life and just existing.