The 5 Immediate Rewards of Exercise
It can be tempting to hit the “snooze” button on the alarm clock in the morning. It’s easy to rationalize sleeping in, skipping our morning exercise routine and getting that extra bit of shut-eye. After all, it’s only one day; we’ll get back at it tomorrow. Our muscles won’t turn into jelly and we won’t put on 15 pounds if we skip one day, will we? There are few activities easier than not exercising in the morning.
While it’s true that missing a day here and there won’t shorten our lifespan or have a massive impact on our overall health, we’re missing a vital piece of the puzzle with this type of thinking. We know the long-term benefits of a healthy exercise program — stronger muscles, better overall health, greater ability to take care of those we love and enjoying a longer lifespan chief among them — but there are immediate benefits that we shouldn’t ignore. My Theory of 5 mentors and I have found that those who take advantage of these benefits on a consistent basis will give themselves the best chance for success in all areas of their lives.
And, once we get used to having these rewards daily, the idea of facing the day without them makes everything seem much more difficult.
What We Receive
While there might be a short-term pleasure when skipping a workout and giving in to the temptation of “taking it easy” is the path of least resistance, let’s consider some rewards we could be giving up:
Increased Physical Energy — My Theory of 5 Mentors and I are believers in exercising first thing in the morning because it “wakes up” our bodies in a way that coffee or other caffeinated methods just can’t. Raising our heart rate and warming up our muscles lets our bodies know that it’s time to get going, and this rise in our energy level lasts the entire day. While our competition is gradually ramping up and getting going, we’re already at full power with the whole day ahead of us.
Better Mental Focus — Part of “waking up” with exercise is that it engages our minds, as well, and gets our brain better focused on the challenges the day will bring. Since this is a natural way to energize our minds, we won’t experience the crash that follows a caffeine or sugar rush. Some people go through their day never fully awake because they haven’t raised their heart rate appreciably since they dragged themselves out of bed. Getting the blood pumping and the endorphins flowing is a great way to tell our brain that it’s time to move.
Better Sleep — Dealing with challenges in our careers, our family and other areas of our day-to-day lives can certainly wear us out and exhaust us mentally. We may be tired when our heads hit the pillow at night, but if we haven’t burned any physical energy during the day, our bodies won’t want to relax to the point where we can get good sleep. If we got up early and had a good workout during the day, however, sleep will come naturally, and we’ll be more refreshed in the morning — and in a better frame of mind to continue our exercise routine.
Boosted Metabolism — Our bodies react to the demands we put on them during the day. If we never get our heart rate up and our muscles energized, our metabolism will slow because it “knows” that we won’t demand anything more during the day. If we exercise regularly, however, our metabolism will kick into a higher gear. We’ll have more energy, burn calories more effectively, better maintain blood sugar levels and be more “alive” in every sense of the word than those who sleep in and sit on the couch for hours at a time.
Improved Mood — We’ll be in a better mood after working out, especially in the morning, for two reasons. First, the act of exercise releases those all-important endorphins — the “feel good” hormone — and gives us a healthy, natural “high” as we put our bodies into motion. Second, we’ll also feel better about ourselves because we had the discipline to engage in our workout, and that gives us a sense of accomplishment. When we have success like this in the morning, that feeling stays with us throughout the day.
Short-Term Motivation for Long-Term Results
Often, the reasons we feel we need to exercise focus on our long-term goals. We want to build muscle mass, lose weight (or body fat), be able to compete in sports or just live a longer, healthier life. These are all valid reasons and should figure into our overall health plan.
But let’s not lose focus on the daily benefits of an exercise program. The five rewards listed here are what we immediately receive when we have the discipline to get up early when the temptation to stay in our nice, warm bed is almost overwhelming. Long-term dreams of running the seven-minute mile or having six-pack abs often won’t have enough impact to do the job. On the other hand, knowing that we’ll have more energy, better focus and a clear advantage over our competition should motivate us to get up and running.
We should also be aware that missing a morning here and there can lead to missing more mornings here and there and eventually derailing our efforts altogether. It’s easier to maintain a consistent exercise schedule if we are committed to it and making it a key component of our daily routines. Giving into the temptation of the snooze button one morning allows our subconscious to form bad habits. Self-discipline isn’t a one-time effort but an ongoing action. This is the only body we’ll ever have, and we need to recognize that fact and act accordingly.
With fitness, as with many areas of our lives, if we take daily short-term steps on a consistent basis, the long-term benefits will take care of themselves. So, the next time the alarm clock rings way too early, keep these five benefits in mind and you’ll find all the will you’ll need to get up and give the snooze button a rest.
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