By Shari Levine
I hate the word exercise. It brings up visions of a smelly gym full of miserable people paying big bucks to sweat all over high-priced exercise equipment. I get an image of people running on a treadmill while they listen to a walkman, watch TV and flip through a magazine. I am reminded of how at every Thanksgiving dinner we (the women in my family) have the same annoying conversation about needing to work it off at the gym the following morning. I think about all the times when I have said something like, I ran three miles this morning, so I deserve it, before putting my fork into a gooey slice of chocolate cake.
Another word people use for exercise is workout. What's this -- work? No thanks. I've got enough work to do already. A workout sounds like something you HAVE to do, rather than something you WANT to do. It sounds painful.
And, what does getting in shape mean? Your shape is your body's physical dimensions. So, how you get in shape when you are technically already in your shape? I think of the term get in shape as another way to say lose weight, with the focus on how you look, NOT how you feel.
So, what's my point?
Even though I hate calling it exercise, working out, or getting in shape, I love to be physically active for the purpose of feeling good, being healthy, and having fun. Girls who are physically active enjoy many benefits including increased muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility, improved self-confidence, positive body image, and less stress.
Now, let's explore the ways that being physically active helps your body and your mind.
You have probably already heard a lot about the great things exercise does for the body. Aerobic is a fancy word meaning with oxygen (an important element in the air we breath). Aerobic exercise is any kind of activity in which your muscles use oxygen. When you are moving quickly and notice that you are breathing heavily, your muscles are using oxygen to keep you going. Physical activity makes your muscles grow stronger and sometimes larger. As your muscles grow stronger, you are able to do more active things for longer periods of time, in other words, you build up endurance.
Make sure that whatever you choose to be your exercise is something you like to do, rather than something you think you HAVE to do.
Your heart is the biggest muscle in your body. It pumps blood to all of the cells in your body. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart as well as all the other muscles in your body.
Physical activity helps the mind as well as the body. A Melopomene study of teenage girls found that physical activity increases self-esteem, promotes a positive body image and helps girls feel better about themselves. Girls who are involved in sports learn the useful skill of working as a team, and often build strong bonds with teammates. But you don't have to be on a formal sports team to get all of the great benefits from physical activity.
Make sure that whatever you choose to be your exercise is something you like to do, rather than something you think you HAVE to do. If it's fun and you enjoy it, you are more likely to do it regularly.
Which of these alone activities do you do? They are ALL good ways to get your body moving!
- Riding a bike
- Walking the dog
- Ice skating
- Shooting baskets
- Bouncing a soccer ball on your knee
- Swimming or practice diving
- Hitting tennis balls against the wall
- Shoveling snow
Do you do any of the following when you're with a friend? Why not pick a new one to try!
- Playing ping-pong
- Jumping rope
- One-on-one basketball
- Tossing a Frisbee or a ball
- Going for an adventure walk or hike
- Skiing or Snowboarding
- Snowshoe hiking
You have to find a whole group of friends to try the following. Ask around and see who might be interested.
- A game of baseball or softball
- Hide and seek
- Capture the flag
- Play hockey