Yesterday in his post Yoga for Healthy Eating, Baxter wrote about a study that showed that obesity in modern societies was not caused by our sedentary lifestyle but instead by our eating habits. But the fact is, our current culture is a very sedentary one, and if weight loss isn’t a good reason for exercising, there are many, other important reasons, including both physical and mental health. If you’ve been reading our blog for any amount of time, you’ll surely have noticed that we’re strongly encouraging exercise in the form of yoga asanas as one of the most important strategies for fostering for healthy aging.
By chance on the same day Jane Brody of the New York Times addressed the issue of motivation for exercise (see Changing Our Tune on Exercise) by saying that the usual reasons experts give for encouraging us to exercise, including a desire to lose weight or improve your figure, to keep heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes at bay, to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, to protect your bones, and to live to a healthy old age, turn out not to be good motivators for people. Instead it is the short-term benefits of feelings of well-being and happiness that keep us exercising:
Now research by psychologists strongly suggests it’s time to stop thinking of future health, weight loss and body image as motivators for exercise. Instead, these experts recommend a strategy marketers use to sell products: portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness.
|Bees Sipping Nectar by Michele Macartney-Filgate|
It makes my life better.
I went on to say that I almost always felt better after taking a yoga class or practicing at home on my own. And that is what kept me coming back to my mat day after day. Of course, I’m delighted that the practice I’ve chosen will have most likely provide many significant long-term benefits for me (and I can already see that I’m aging well compared to more sedentary people my current age), but in the meantime, I’ll be practicing today because, well, it makes my life better. Jane Brody put it this way in her article:
I walk three miles daily, or bike ten miles and swim three-quarters of a mile. If you ask me why, weight control may be my first answer, followed by a desire to live long and well. But that’s not what gets me out of bed before dawn to join friends on a morning walk and then bike to the Y for my swim.
It’s how these activities make me feel: more energized, less stressed, more productive, more engaged and, yes, happier — better able to smell the roses and cope with the inevitable frustrations of daily life.
For more information, see the original study Brody references, The role of motives in exercise participation.