Exercise is important.” Yeah, we got that. “Move it or lose it.” “Good things come to those who sweat.” “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” We all know what we should do. But actually doing it? Ah, there’s the rub.

Perhaps we’re coming at this exercise thing all wrong. We know what we should do. We might even know how. But we sometimes don’t fully understand why we should do it. If we did, we’d be more motivated to actually make it happen.

“Hey, I want to lose weight!” you may declare as your primary reason to exercise. If it is, there’s something you need to know.

There’s a saying among nutritionists that sheds light on that particular motivation. “You lose weight in the kitchen,” they’ll tell you. “You tone your body at the gym.”

Seems exercise isn’t what’s most effective when it comes to shedding excess pounds. Diet is. An overweight person with two broken legs in casts sitting in a wheelchair will lose weight automatically by switching from the standard American diet (high in sugar, salt, oil, and processed foods) to the Eden diet (exclusively whole-food and plant-based, centered on fruits, grains, nuts, vegetables, and seeds). Weight loss just happens effortlessly without lifting a finger. That’s because simply staying alive burns most of the calories that a plant-based diet provides without having to store any in layers of fat. Then, a person’s normal, daily activities consume those fat calories that have been stored in the past. The weight drops slowly but surely, a pound or two a week.

The end result of that single change is that this person will go from fat and flabby to skinny and flabby. That’s not exactly the result we’re looking for. However, if you include even a moderate exercise program in your life, your body will tone itself. It readjusts, rearranges, and reduces the flab while tightening the muscles. The new you looks fantastic! You also feel great. Mission accomplished.

Now, here’s why exercise is important.

body health

Consider these two facts:

1. Everything your body does, from digestion or planning your next move at checkers to cell division, takes place in a bed of body-processed water.

2. For any bodily function to occur, it needs oxygen. Water and oxygen are the very foundation of life itself. This is easily tested (although you might just want to take my word for it). Go without water or oxygen for a while, and something very unpleasant happens: you die.

What is it that carries water and oxygen to every nook and cranny of your body? Your blood. What is it that forces your blood through all those miles of arteries and veins? Your heart. And, what does exercise do? It strengthens your heart and, if done right, makes it beat faster and stronger when needed. So, it’s the movement of blood that feeds and nourishes every inch of you, from that little patch of wayward hair on top of your head to the somewhat leathery patches of skin on the soles of your feet. Movement is the secret. Movement is what it’s all about.

Anything you do that improves movement throughout your body pays rich dividends in your overall health. That same movement adds volume to your muscles, strength to your bones, and vitality to every organ. Lack of movement does just the opposite.

Are you beginning to see why you should exercise? It is, by its very nature, movement in one form or another.

And, as they say on television game shows, “Wait! There’s more!”

brain health

Like your other organs, your brain requires those same two important, life-giving elements: oxygen and water. These are just as vital to your brain as they are to your liver, lungs, and kneecaps. If you slow the delivery of oxygen and water to your brain, you diminish your ability to think clearly, reason effectively, and remember appropriately.

Not only that, as any psychiatrist will tell you, thinking begets thinking. The more you do it, the more neural pathways you develop throughout your gray matter and the better your ability to create, reason, and wonder at the world will be.

Again, this is testable. Rob someone of oxygen and water, and their brain goes from functional to delirium to death very quickly.

Here’s an interesting side note concerning water that’s included in the book Health Power, cowritten by Dr. Hans Diehl and Dr. Aileen Ludington. They write, “Our kids are drowning in soft drinks—soda pop has become their main beverage. The average teenager downs two to three cans a day, and some even six and seven. Many adults drink more beer than water. In addition, plenty of tea, coffee, and other beverages are consumed.”

Bottom line? Liquids that aren’t water can’t do what water does. Also, air filled with pollution and toxins can’t do what pure, fresh air does. We need both for good health, yet many of us are lacking in there areas.

So, our all-important exercise programs must be accomplished in clean air and lubricated with lots of pure water.

getting started

OK. We now know why we need to exercise. It’s vital to our body’s health, our brain’s health, and our overall ability to become the best version of ourselves we can be. So what does good exercise look like, and how should we begin?

First of all, “good exercise” is any movement that you actually do. You like walking or jogging? Good! Is weight lifting your thing? Go for it. Do you have an exercise machine sitting in one corner of your living room? Well, what are you waiting for? Into biking? Me too! How about hiking? Don’t be surprised if you run into me out on the trail!

It’s movement we’re after—movement that increases the heart rate for a comfortable amount of time. It’s movement that stimulates your sweat glands just a little. It’s movement that gets you up off the sofa and provides your lungs a stimulating workout.

Start small and continue building your routine until it stops being fun. Then blend in that amazing, weight-reducing diet made up of whole-food plants—the diet God designed for us to enjoy—and you’re on your way to the new, slimmer, and healthier you.

live longer and better

Need more motivation? Consider this list included in Health Power under the heading “Exercise”:

  • Helps you feel good
  • Strengthens your heart
  • Lowers your blood pressure and resting heart rate
  • Lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol levels) while raising HDL (good cholesterol levels)
  • Strengthens your bones
  • Lifts your depression
  • Relieves your anxiety and stress
  • Increases your overall energy and efficiency
  • Helps you maintain a desirable weight level while it builds muscles and burns fat
  • Improves your circulation

And check out this startling statement included in the book: “Women who log at least four hours of exercise a week cut their risk of breast cancer by more than a third. Active people are about half as liable to get colon cancer as are inactive people.”

Keep in mind that exercise is cumulative. It adds up throughout the day. You don’t have to grind away at something for a long time. Just do little things like taking the stairs; parking far from the store entrance (instead of looking longingly at the handicap spaces); getting up and walking around while at work; or choosing an active hobby like gardening, bird-watching, or raising a two-year-old. You decide how, where, and for how long. You just gotta move!

getting personal

If you’ll allow me to get personal, may I share some of my own experiences with you? Perhaps I can motivate you to try your hand at one of these Mills-approved adjustments.

Almost two decades ago, when I became editor of Vibrant Life magazine and began learning what I just shared with you, I looked at my lifestyle and said, “Time for some changes Charlie Boy!” I was a bit overweight, suffered slight chest pain when exerting myself, and wasn’t exactly fond of the way I looked in the mirror. My diet was the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (that’s meatless but includes milk, cheese, and eggs) that many espouse. I enjoyed my fair share of sugar, oil, and processed foods.

Then, I made some changes. My wife and I went whole-food, plant-based exclusively. We also tossed out anything that contained processed sugar, oil, or high levels of salt and began making some exercise adjustments. We sold the riding lawn mower and replaced it with a battery powered push mower (after downsizing the lawn a bit). I began walking more, riding my bike more, and jumping on my mini trampoline more. I took frequent breaks during the day to just walk around and look at nature, and we switched to two meals daily with absolutely nothing other than water passing our lips in between.

An amazing thing happened: I lost weight, the chest pains went away; I became even more productive; my energy levels improved dramatically; I seldom, if ever, caught a cold; and I met a lot of cool critters in the woods.

Today, I’m 71 years old and weigh in at right around 150 pounds—less than I weighed when I graduated from college. I take no prescription medicines and have no chronic diseases trying to horn in on my day and my bank account. I could say that this is because of my genetics, but I can’t. The ancestral evidence is to the contrary.

Do I miss the old ways? Sometimes. Do I miss the old foods? Sometimes. Do I miss the old ailments? Not on your life! My exercise and diet choices have become my new lifestyle. I don’t even think of them as choices anymore. They’re just the way I live, and I like it.

Growing old brings with it health challenges of its own. Anyone with a forest of candles on their birthday cake will know exactly what I’m talking about. But there’s no reason to add lifestyle-generated versions of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, pulmonary artery disease, or arteriosclerosis to your day.

Instead, add more exercise. Add more movement. Add plates piled high with low-calorie, high-nutrition plant foods. Toss in an endless stream of pure drinking water, a mind-calming trust in God, and a positive outlook on your life. You’ll be amazed at how it changes you from the inside out, making you that much more eager to do God’s work on earth.

With Isaiah, we can all discover that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Charles Mills has served as editor of Vibrant Life magazine, and he is a part-time health journalist for Heartwise Ministries (heartwiseministries.org). He has produced and hosted health-related radio programs for more than twenty years. He writes from wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Why Exercise Is Important

by Charles Mills
  
From the November 2021 Signs