We have the right to choose our diet, whether we want to exercise, smoke, or abuse drugs and/or alcohol. People who maintain healthy nutrition, exercise frequently, and refrain from smoking or abusing drugs and alcohol tend to live more productive and longer lives than people who do not.
Benefits of Regular Physical Activity & Healthy Nutrition
Want stronger muscles and more endurance? Exercise regularly. As our tissues become infused with oxygen and nutrients, our cardiovascular system works more efficiently and we have more energy.
Each pound of body weight contains approximately 3,500 calories. Whether we sleep, sit, stand, or exercise, our bodies are constantly burning calories. The more intensely we engage, the more calories we burn. We might not always make it to the gym, but we can always stay active. Injury withstanding, make time for pushups, pullups, or a quick jog. Consistency is key; some physical activity is better than none.
Get the heart pumping and blood flowing; hiking, basketball, and dancing are three of hundreds of ideas. Find something enjoyable and just do it. Unwind and break a sweat by connecting with family or friends in a fun social setting. Regular exercise makes us feel better about our appearance, while also stimulating our brain to release endorphins, chemicals that make us feel happier, more relaxed, and less stressed. Good physical health supports good brain health, fueling academic achievement, executive functioning, memory, and the speed with which we can process information. Physical fitness also reduces the risk of dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).
Exercise helps us fall asleep faster and get better, deeper, and more revitalizing sleep. It also helps prevent or manage many health concerns, such as stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, arthritis, many types of cancer, and even erectile dysfunction. With improved blood flow, people who exercise regularly are less vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases. As we get older, our bodies weaken, making us more susceptible to injuries caused by falling. The commitment to an exercise routine helps older folks maintain strength and flexibility, minimizing exposure to the consequences of preventable falls.
For most healthy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. For even greater health benefits and to assist with weight loss, at least 300 minutes a week is recommended. To think about this philosophically, William Shakespeare wrote, “Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners.”
Consistent physical activity—in small doses—is healthier than longer workouts spaced weeks apart. We should engage in strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. Aim for sets with a resistance level that starts to tire muscles between 12 to 15 repetitions. Depending on fitness goals, add either weight or repetition. If strength training is for endurance, lift less weight for more repetitions; for power, lift more weight for fewer repetitions.
Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, biking, and mowing the lawn (with a push mower). Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, punching a heavy bag, and dancing. Strength training includes the use of weight machines, our own body weight, and resistance bands. If we haven’t exercised for a long time or have any chronic health problems, it’s important to check with a doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Encouraging Children to Get More Exercise
Research shows that 80% of overweight children become obese adults. Children today spend far too much time staring at electronic screens. Encourage them to exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and make healthy lifestyle choices. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, children under age 6 should enjoy natural, daily physical activity like running, jumping, and skipping. Children ages 6 to 17 should exercise at an intensity high enough to raise their heart rate for at least an hour a day, six days per week: at least three days with aerobics and three days with muscle-strengthening.
When our children see a smile on dad’s face while we exercise, they’ll see working out as fun. Working out with music, going for bike rides, and inviting friends to join in are all in style; fun leads to engagement. We can sign up the family for an outdoor adventure, a martial arts class, or bring a football or frisbee to toss around at the park or beach. When contemplating gifts, think of those that promote exercise; rollerblades, bicycles, skateboards, and soccer balls are all great gifts that encourage physical activity. As children get older, consider buying workout equipment that can help them progress in their favorite sport. As we encourage our children to embrace the importance of their physical health, reflect on this Arabian Proverb, “He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything.”
Some parents are in denial, but we all know the truth: repurposing a Smartphone, an iPad, or a television as a babysitter is sub-optimal for childhood growth and development. Screens are just as, if not, more addictive than cocaine; it is crucial that fathers set and enforce screen time limits. Research after-school sports programs in the local community, let children choose something fun, and sign them up. Plan family vacations to incorporate some physical activities such as hiking, off-road cycling, kayaking, and snorkeling. Think outside the box, explore new places, and teach children to appreciate nature. Some of the activities we first try on vacation might even become family pastimes for years to come!
For the first 25 or so years of our lives (28 for women), our bodies tend to develop and strengthen, year after year. Then, our bodies begin their inevitable physical decline. By exercising regularly, we can live to our fullest physical potential. Let’s remember these wise words from Greek physician Herophilos, “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” —1 Corinthians 6:19-20 KJV
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PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.