4th most “harmless habit” that “ages” you

Touching the otter statues at the National Zoo in DC

It may have been 100 degrees out and so sticky I was sweating while standing still, but walking around the National Zoo in DC was FUN! And THAT is what excercise should be about: fun and feeling good.

Okay so I am a huge non-fan of “OMG!  Don’t do *insert random everyone-does-it-activity-here* or you may AGE!  Or WORSE… LOOK OLDER!” doomsday articles.  Namely because no matter how “good” you are, humans remain mortal.  We age.  We will all, at some point, die. No amount of creams or good sleep will prevent that eventuality forever.

Still, like any good troll-bashing post or flame-war, I just can’t help but take a look so I can shake my head at just how fervently writers want the world to agree that Aging = Worst thing ever! (other than being fat, natch.  I think being fat AND aging would bring about some sort of super-apocalypse according to writers of such articles and “helpful tips”.)

That is why I was pleasantly… pleased I guess, to read about tip #4 in this Yahoo article about 9 common human habits that may *gasp* may you look/feel/act/emote an age older than you are (or, you know, your actual age, since isn’t the goal of all life to get to age 18 or 21 and then somehow LOOK that age in perpetuity??)  Bear in mind though that mostly the “helpful tips”  list is basically the same, tired list of recycled writing garbage (I mean, seriously: keep social contact with your girlfriends because it may reduce your chance of obesity???)

Anyways, the tip reads thus:

4. You only exercise to lose weight
Exercise is one of the best turn-back-the-clock agents around, but too many of us don’t reap its full benefits because we only associate physical activity with weight loss. If you tend to hit the gym in 2-week stints to shed a few pounds, but then take a few months off from physical activity, you’re missing out on some major health perks. Research shows that vigorous exercisers have longer telomeres—cellular biomarkers that shorten as we age—compared with healthy adults who rarely work out. Being active consistently can help fight brain fog, reduce inflammation, and prevent type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions that crop up over time. (Emphasis mine)

Get that?  If you continue to think of exercise, of moving your wonderful body, that shell in which your mind lives, as merely the arduous means to one pathetic and non-sticking end (weight loss); you’re not going to stick with it.  And then you lose out, not just on the small weight reductions you might experience until your body adjusts to your new habits, but also many fantastic benefits: enhanced mind function, better sleep, reduced risk of various possible ills…

Just think how much better off we’d be if exercise was not toted around as the cure-all (combined with low-cal intake and copious amounts of “willpower“, natch) for the Fat That Ails Thee and was simply promoted as the fun, amazingly refreshing, body and mind enhancing activity it should be known as.  How much better off would we be in a world/culture whose mind-set regarding exercise was tied to the belief/understanding that moving around is fun.  Period.  End of story.  Not “good for losing weight!”  Not “great for looking/feeling/emoting a younger you!” Just “moving around is fun.”

Aged-appearance-reducing effects or hoped-for weight loss effects be damned, this here fat woman wants to remind you that moving around, exercising the body you have, is FUN.  And any level of it you choose (see that key word here: “choose”. Remember that no matter the purported effects of any activity or habit, they all remain your choice) could be better done as an “end”, rather than a doomed-from-the-start “means” to some kind of  more youthful appearance or thinner waistline  “end”.

So, as I happily think of the lap-swimming I have to look forward to later this afternoon, and the belly dancing show I have this weekend (for which I just finished a fabulous red cabaret costume last night!); I put this question out there to you:

How much better off would your stress levels be? How much more relaxed would you be?  How much less of a struggle would getting out and about to move around (and to consider all of the many ways you already DO move around every day) be?  If only it wasn’t done solely for the sake of Losing Weight or Looking Younger? If we could all get on-board with the idea of moving it, without the hopes of “losing it” (“it”, of course, being weight and/or age)? Would the tempting draw of some activity you have always dreamed of doing finally outweigh the negative connotations/connections it may have had as being simply a drudgery, a task done for the sake of gaining some bit of immortality?

I’d like to think that in such a mind-set; many more of use would be consistently “reaping the benefits” without this mental connection between exercise and hopeful weight-loss/youth-gain.  Sure we’d still be the same-ish sizes and ages we always were before, but we’d finally be having FUN while doing it, instead of dreading ever single moment.  That, I think, would be worth the change in perspective.


8 thoughts on “4th most “harmless habit” that “ages” you

  1. I blame the Puritans. “Fun” is “Bad”, “Work” and “Punishment” are “good”.

    So… exercise as a way to punish your body is virtuous. Exercise as a way to blow off steam, have fun, or any other none painful reason is bad.

    This country has a very hard time shaking itself from that foundation upon which it was founded.

    • Statistical Freak I have to agree about the difficulty the cultural mind-set seems to having in “shaking free” from the idea that exercise must always and only be a sort of punishment for not fitting a particular physical ideal!

  2. Are those otters you’re petting in the photo? (I may have squeed a little.) I would like to approach swimming the way they do– it would be a lot more fun.

    • RachelB those are indeed *statues* of otters (I just WISH they were real!) I would totally love to rock the otter-style swimming too!!

      Kate: it IS a tough mindset to shake. I wonder sometimes if that nagging voice in the back of the mind saying “just a few more and you can justify eating *insert something edible here* without guilt.” ever completely goes away.

      lifeonfats: that’s what I’m hoping. Bit by bit I want this message to spread: moving around for FUN is far better for your stress levels and overall health than cramming in some obligatory exercise you hate!

  3. I’m struggling with the concept of exercising for reasons other than weight loss because that’s the mindset I’ve had forever. Even as a kid, pretty much all activities were about losing weight, not having fun. It’s a tough mindset to shake.

  4. When it’s been drilled into your brain by so many sources that any form of exercise that doesn’t involve going to a gym, playing a sport, or doesn’t involve dread, isn’t exercise, it’s hard to let go of that definition.

    Hopefully the increasing message that exercise, in any form or time limit shouldn’t be done just for weight loss but to improve your overall physical and mental condition will change this rigid mindset.

  5. What about those of us who hate exercise whether or not it involves weight loss? Feeling better afterwards (for me) is more in the nature of feeling better because one has temporarily ceased to bang one’s head against a wall. It has also managed to bring on a couple of depressive episodes.

    What is this thing called FUN thst you get from moving around?

    • Mulberry: the exercise has caused depressive episodes? Or the not doing it? From my own experience I’m coming from the point of having always used exercise to “Battle The Bulge!”TM so I’d be interested in other folks’ experience coming from the point of view of exercise as a similarly drudgery used to combat depression.

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