I was born and grew up in Russia. My family wasn’t really into sports and is still not, although both my parents did a fair share of ice skating when they were young, because it was very popular at the time. My dad worked in military forces and had the trainings that his job required, and I remember him wanting to teach me how to fight, but I was about 5 or 6 then and I wasn’t interested. Why should I learn fighting when I can play with my new dolls? Nonsense!
All my childhood years I had quite a poor health. I wasn’t sick with something serious, but my immune system was down for some reason and I couldn’t spend a month without catching cold. Due to these colds and flues I missed a lot of classes from year 1 to year 11, and I had been free of Physical Education classes for all my life. PE classes in Russian schools are not the same as here or anywhere in Europe and the rest of the world. The only countries I can’t speak about are those Eastern countries around Russia. Children do all sorts of activities on PE classes – running, skiing, playing team sports like soccer, basketball. They have monthly tests to pass, which include crunches, pull ups, press ups, running and sprinting, rope skipping, etc. You have to be really athletic to do well in PE classes, and it’s tough to be really good. So having this magical doctor’s cert that I can’t attend PE classes seemed like the best thing in the world. I was never alone passing the classes in the ladies’ changing room in the gym, there were more girls like me. But I was the only one who was ‘permanently’ out of the game, aka the luckiest in class. Only now I understand how much I’ve missed spending those hours telling ghost stories and messing around in the changing rooms. And unfortunately there was no one to teach me right about the importance of sports and fitness in out lives, except maybe my dad, but he wasn’t bothered with doing so either.
In 2008, being only 18 years old (so young, I know!), I got married to my amazing husband, who, luckily, has always been into sports. He loved playing basketball, he used to play soccer at school, he was always sporty. And three years ago he dived into the world of natural bodybuilding, sacrificing 1.5 hours 4 to 5 times a week to do his training. I remember how it all started – it was Christmas 2009 that we had spent at home, watching “Friends” for 3 weeks and eating a lot of home-cooked food, which is considered ‘healthy’ by housewives in Russia, but is nowhere near healthy for me now. Getting back to college after the holidays were over, we were shocked how much out of shape we were. And we had planned a summer holiday in Spain, so we decided that it was time to start working on our ‘beach bodies’. While he started on his bodybuilding program, I really wanted to get a six pack and also gain some strength, so I started doing yoga and undertook a challenge for myself – 100 crunches every day till our holiday. I thought I was so active back then, but only now I understand that I wasn’t exercising. A few asanas and a hundred crunches is not fitness. But all the knowledge comes with time, right? I’m glad it came.
Until I started working out regularly, I never knew what my body was capable of. And while it still isn’t capable of a lot of things, it’s also capable of many things I couldn’t even imagine. I just had to start somewhere and give it some time to see that. Not am I only fit now, but I am much healthier than ever before. Well, I still catch cold sometimes, I am a human after all, but I am not the same ‘sickish’ girl anymore. And during these three years of on and off exercising, I am much fitter than those who went on all the PE classes, because like many others they were simply forced to do what they had to do to get the grades, while I am here dedicated to what I love doing.
And now, onto the actual subject of this post. The benefits of exercising. There are lots of them. But let’s start with the more obvious one.
- Stronger Immune System
Many times I thought that if I had gone to all those PE classes, maybe I would have been healthier and wouldn’t have had to miss so many classes. But I can’t turn back time, and all I can do now is not to stop to keep myself healthy in the years to come. I don’t want to be 40 and complaining on back and joint aches, and unable to stand up straight if I had to bend down to pick something up.
This is actually a great thing to think about – Start investing time in fitness now to get all the benefits of it later. Exercises strengthen your immune and cardiovascular systems, build up muscle, which is essential in preventing joint pains and injuries at older ages. It also contributes to preventing diabetes, obesity and weight gain and even stroke.
- Stronger Mind
If you can make time and put every effort into exercising, it teaches you consistency, discipline and dedication. Exercising can help you keep your mind clear and boosts your brain activity, helping you stay more focused on tasks.
- Stress-free Life
Well, it doesn’t promise you stress-free life really, but exercising is one of the best ways of coping with stress, all for the same reasons as above. It helps clear your mind, lifts your mood and makes you a happier person in general. Don’t ask me why, just try it and you’ll see.
- Higher Self-Esteem
It is a very good benefit, actually. Exercising makes you feel good about yourself and seeing results makes you feel even better. It teaches you to appreciate your body and care for it, it makes you see yourself in totally different light. From the day you dedicated your life to fitness you will never feel the same again. Fact.
- More Energy
The paragraph title speaks for itself, but I will add that physical activity nurtures your body with oxygen, which in its turn boosts energy levels.
- Better Sleep
Exercising promotes better sleep, so even if you don’t workout today, at least go out for a walk 1 hour before your bedtime. It will make you feel more relaxed, and oxygen inflow will help you fall asleep faster and deeper.
There are a lot more benefits of physical activity, I am sure. These are just the first ones to spring to mind. If you’re still not convinced, go and research some more. But for me knowing that it can improve my health is more than enough. There is nothing I want more than to be healthy, fit and energetic even 30 and more years later 🙂