Much of this material is adapted from my book, Making Life Easier: Simple Systems to Manage Your Time, Money, Things and Life


We take our bodies for granted, rarely giving them much thought except when they malfunction. When we think of the pleasures of the body, we usually consider only sexual pleasure or the delights of food. But there is a much deeper pleasure that comes from giving your body what it truly needs and feeling the deep satisfaction that results. A good workout – not too hard, not too easy* – can result in the body humming with pleasure in much the same way as after a good meal, massage or orgasm. As a bonus, the deep pleasure from a good workout lasts longer than any other form of pleasure – the body will continue to hum for a day or so after. Following one good workout with another (but a different type! – this is essential to prevent injury) the next day, will cause the body to continue experiencing the pleasure of singing muscles. Added bonuses: this pleasure has no after-guilt or remorse, you will become more fit and capable, prevent premature aging, look and feel better, and probably lose weight (if desired). Way better than cake!

Physical and mental health are essential to have the energy, strength, and clarity to be organized, have effective systems, and keep up with the tasks of daily life. Since we are really only one being, physical and mental health are inextricably linked, and anything that affects one affects the other as well. Exercise makes a dramatic and often instant improvement on both physical and mental health, and is the primary, safest, and most effective prevention and treatment for many disorders.

Health does not maintain itself, and the older we become, the more maintenance is required and the more important maintenance becomes. Older bodies have less tolerance for oversights and indulgences. The greatest benefit of systems for health is in preventing illness and creating a feeling of well-being.

Improved physical and mental health is so precious that whatever time and effort must be invested to make them as good as possible is more than worthwhile. Systems needed for best health include ensuring sufficient sleep and good nutrition, maintaining medical regimens and relaxation time, healthy relationships and regular social contact, and consistent good health practices, including regular and varied exercise.

Everyone needs some form of exercise for at least 30 minutes, four days a week. More than that is even better. Becoming more organized will likely lead to greater willingness and more opportunities for exercise. Making a date with yourself (or someone else if helpful) for exercise may help ensure that this very important activity gets done. Making your exercise an activity you actually enjoy will increase your willingness to keep it up.

There are three types of exercise that everyone needs for best health:

  1. Aerobics – essential for good cardiac function and weight control; can take any form that gets your heart rate up to roughly 80% of maximum for at least 12 minutes (see your doctor before undertaking such a program); this usually requires actually doing the exercise for 20 minutes to allow the heart to gradually reach maximum and for a cooling down period (just go more slowly towards the end of your routine). Common forms are fast walking, lively dance, swimming, cycling, and aerobics classes.
  2. Strength-training – keeps your body strong to prevent injury and cope with life’s demands; also has many forms, such as isometrics (tightening your muscles against each other to tone them), free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, Pilates (particularly focused on core – abdominal – muscles), maintaining good posture.
  3. Flexibility – needed to prevent the stiffening and rigidity that often comes with age; includes activities such as stretching, range-of-motion exercises, many martial arts, and yoga. Massage and self-massage also aid flexibility.

Think about natural opportunities for exercise in your life – while cleaning, working at your desk, running errands, watching TV, standing in line, waiting at the doctor’s office. Here are some exercises you can do while in unusual places and doing other things:

Walk – It’s free, easy, always available, can be a social opportunity, and a sensual feast in the right areas. Speed up (after gradually building fitness) and it’s aerobic (walk in low-traffic areas to avoid air pollution). You may beat the bus to your destination with a bonus of improved health.

Stairs or hills – Another easy, free, potentially aerobic activity.

Strength training
Isometrics – Progressively tighten and release muscles. This is best done in small muscle groups and for short periods initially, then gradually increasing the intensity, number of repetitions, and duration of tension. Strengthening the abdominal muscles with isometrics is very effective, prevents back problems, and improves appearance. Kegel exercises for ladies become more essential with age. Work around to as many muscle groups as possible. These exercises are largely invisible so they can be done anywhere without anyone noticing. Challenge your creativity by thinking up new ways and places to do isometrics. There’s really no reason not to be doing some form of isometrics most of the time when close concentration is not required. The Internet offers many resources for learning isometrics.

Resistance – Use your own body weight or an object to counter the action of various muscles, such as pushing off against a wall, park bench, or washing machine, doing lunges, pulling against resistance (street signs or bus shelters), or pressing your hands against each other in front of your body. Many resistance exercises can be done while waiting for buses, standing on line, etc., using common objects as equipment. Resistance exercises allow strengthening to happen nearly anywhere, anytime. Again, creativity is a great help here.

Straighten up – Really good posture strengthens the abdominal and back muscles, improves circulation, respiration, and sense of balance, raises energy levels, aids self-confidence, and looks better besides. You can (and should) do it anywhere and all the time. Slouching compresses internal organs, interfering with their function.

Range of motion (ROM) – ROM is gently putting joints through the full range of movement that they should be able to do, or as close as they can without strain. ROM functions really have to be maintained throughout life or your body will have less capability, flexibility, and comfort than is possible. These movements can be done anywhere you can do stretches (in other words, nearly anywhere).

Stretches – Most body parts benefit from slow, gradual, careful stretches. This is also good waiting-for-the-bus or standing-on-line activity. Leaning or bracing against a tree, bus shelter, or street sign is good for stretching many muscle groups.

Whatever your exercise choice, it should not hurt. The slogan “no pain, no gain” is rubbish. Be mindful (that is, paying very close attention to the muscle groups affected by each movement) while exercising and don’t push to do too much, or go too fast. Prevent injuries to avoid pain and being unable to exercise. Intensity, resistance, duration, speed, and repetitions should all increase very gradually. All exercise programs need to slowly build tolerance for doing more. New exercises should be done slowly with careful attention to correct form (i.e., one that will prevent injury) so that doing them right will be incorporated into your muscle memory before increasing weight, resistance, speed, or the number of reps.

Be creative about finding places and ways to add exercise to your daily activity, mostly while getting other things done. Make a game of finding ways to exercise anywhere – your body shouldn’t deteriorate just because you are busy with other activities. Finding ways to include different forms of exercise throughout your day will pay very big dividends.

Cope with any shyness about doing visible exercise in public by realizing what a great example you are setting. Others need encouragement to exercise more too, so you are helping them get over their inhibitions by showing how easy this is. The opinions of anyone who would think less of you for doing this are not worthy of consideration.

There is a big difference between exercise and activity: you can be busy all day with activity without making any demands on your muscles at all. Your body must have real exercise to be healthy. Many people imagine that exercise will make them tired and sap their energy for doing other things, but the right kind and amount of exercise is more likely to give you energy. A 20-minute aerobics session will likely leave you charged up and feeling great for the rest of the day.

The cartoon below shows the vicious circle that many people get into regarding exercise: they think that they don’t have enough energy to exercise, yet the longer they don’t do any, the less energy they have. The solution is just to start doing some very small activity, such as walk around the block or 3 minutes of easy movement such as dancing. Being consistent and doing a little more each day matters more than the specific exercise you choose. As you become more toned and fit, you will be able to do more, particularly once your body becomes accustomed to the demand. Daily aerobic exercise will help weight loss, energy level, and self-esteem, increasing your ability and desire to do more.

The truly magical thing about exercise is that keeping up a regular program of body-energizing, strengthening, and flexibility will help virtually every other area of life as well. Not only will your body feel better, but many demons will lose their hold over you, your mind will be clearer, and decisions will be easier. You will feel better about yourself, and others may perceive you more respectfully as well. You will gain what you want to gain and lose what you want to lose with exercise.

* my solution to the not-too-hard, not-too-easy problem is to start every new exercise with only ONE repetition, then the next time I add (no sooner than 2 days later), one more, then add one more each time I do it. This strategy prevents injuries and keeps the body singing steadily. Most trainers would say that this approach is too cautious and doesn’t challenge the body enough, but my experience is that winding up in pain after an exercise session will discourage most people from continuing and the faster progress is not worth the risk of giving up.


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© Gloria Valoris, 2015

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