Motivation can be like a fleeting shadow; one minute it’s there, then its gone. When you start exercising, knowing what to expect can help you stay driven.
Your Body’s Reaction While Exercising
The act of physical exercise will change your physiological state. Your body needs to adjust to the increased demand of energy. Over time, these physiological changes contribute to long-term health and well-being. Here’s some immediate reactions to expect:
Heart rate – increases to pump more blood into your muscles.
Breathing – increases to feed more oxygen into your cells.
Temperature – rises due to your body burning energy and increased heart rate.
Sweating – due to the rise in blood pressure and temperature.
Burning – a sensation from built-up lactic acid (caused by your body creating energy when it can’t get enough oxygen).
Alertness – increases from more blood and oxygen sent to the brain.
Good news: there’s light at the end of the tunnel—and the beginning and middle. This list highlights some of the improvements with regular exercise:
Changes Within Days
- Energy levels rise
- Better moods
- Breathing improves
- Metabolism improves
- Immune system improves
- Brain function improves.
Be careful of increased appetite (eating too many calories will undo your hard work). And muscle aches and pains (do appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises).
Changes Within Weeks
- Better sleep
- More confidence
- Cells break down body fat instead of storing
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced risk of depression
- Skin, hair and nails will look healthier
- Better endurance
- New brain cells are formed
- Improved blood pressure and circulation.
Be careful of sweat rash (there are creams and ointments to fix this) or your motivation wavering (grab some helpful tips from my article: master the mental challenge of fitness).
Changes Within Months
- Weight loss
- Better coping with stress
- Stronger heart
- Better lung capacity
- Muscle growth and definition
- Stronger ligaments
- Increased athletic power
- Easier to stay committed.
Be careful of plateaus (see recommendations below).
Changes Within Years
- Improved life expectancy
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Improved bone health
- Look younger
- Clear muscle definition
- Better mental health/more peace of mind
- Reduced risk of disease and cancer.
Note: your rate of success can be affected by other influences such as diet, tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
HOW TO OVERCOME HURDLES
Use Your Brain Like a Muscle
Work on your mindset. The more you do it, the stronger it gets. Having a strong mindset can help in all sorts of ways: it’ll nag you to workout instead of loafing, push you through the burn while you exercise, help you resist temptations. As you smash through your challenges, it’ll become your biggest cheerleader.
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” – William James
Soothe Aches and Pains
Exercising intensely effects your muscle tissue which causes stiffness and soreness. To avoid excess pain or possible injury, it’s important to stretch before and after your workout. It improves blood oxygen flow and lessens the stress in your muscles. A good night’s sleep (minimum 7 hours) gives your body sufficient time to rebuild torn muscle fibres.
Additionally, take a hot bath or shower. Heat therapy helps your muscles and joints relax. A massage can also untangle any knots. Most importantly, don’t overdo it. A rest day can help your body recover.
Amp up the Nutrition
Eating healthier increases your energy and metabolic rate. The more energy you have, the easier to stay motivated and the more effective your workout.
Food such as vegetables combat insulin resistance and help weight loss. Being slow to digest, it keeps you full for longer. Fibre stabilises the blood sugar and reduces cravings for junk food and alcohol. It’s also good for the gut bacteria, which is said to influence our energy levels.
Calorie-wise, nutritious food has more value. It provides more vitamins than a big mac, and it won’t take you a week to work off a single snack!
Power Through Plateaus
After a period of exercising and weight loss, your body can slow its progress. This is due to many factors including muscle memory, nutrition and self-preservation. Your body adapts to your changes. As you lose weight your metabolism slows down. Eventually weight loss can stall, despite using methods that worked before.
But don’t despair! There’s plenty of ways you can break through plateaus.
Eat more vegies, protein and drink more water. Green tea is also suggested to help weight loss. Review your eating habits: switch to small regular snacks or try intermittent fasting. Adjust your overall calorie intake. There are online tools that calculate your resting metabolic rate (also known as basal metabolic rate, BMR). This determines how many calories you burn while resting.
Keep your body guessing by varying your workout routines. Try new manoeuvres and make sure you’re always challenging yourself. Keep moving afterwards as activity stops your muscles from seizing.
Plan Then Plan Some More
It’s hard to reach your destination without setting a path. Having goals will keep you on track. As you face potential barriers, you can review what’s worked for you in the past, what needs to change etc.
Setting goals gives you a sense of progress and achievement.
What if you Stop Exercising?
Aside from possible changes to your mental state, there are physiological aspects too. You’re at risk of weight gain, losing muscle mass, metabolism slowing down, decrease of blood flow to your brain and oxygen to your cells. Long-term risks include weak immune system and microbiome, leaving you susceptible to disease.
Worth the Effort
As you can see, adding exercise to your weekly routine can be highly beneficial. Are there any particular gains you’ve noticed from exercise?