Terry Waters, a former college wrestler and baseball player, loved working out. He got real pleasure out of pushing himself hard at the gym, and he liked the feeling of tired but virtuous afterwards. He figured regular physical activity and its health benefits would always be a part of his life.
Then came marriage, three kids, a demanding job as a software engineer in Boston — and a thousand and one excuses not to make it to the gym. “For a little while, you convince yourself you’re still in pretty good shape,” Waters remembers. “Sure, you’re a few pounds heavier. Sure, your blood pressure’s a few points higher. But you’re still pretty healthy, right?”
Sitting in high school biology, listening to the teacher drone on about
genetics, I snapped to attention when she used male pattern baldness as an
example of a dominant trait. My heart started pounding with fear - with bald
men on both sides of my mother's family as far as the eye could see, I was
doomed to have a chrome dome.
I remained anguished about the prospect of being bald for the next 20 years
as my hairline retreated and my hair steadily thinned. Bald men seemed
disfigured to me....
Well, maybe not. By the time he hit 40, Waters was 20 pounds heavier than he’d been in college. His blood pressure was nudging up into the danger zone, and his cholesterol level was just on the borderline of worrisome. His father, who was 67, was on medication for both high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Two years earlier, the old man had been rushed into surgery for a heart bypass operation after suddenly becoming short of breath one day while on a bike ride. “Believe me, I didn’t want to go there if I could avoid it,” says Waters.
It was time, he decided, to get back to the gym.
Moderate exercise even a couch potato can manage
A lot of middle-aged men like Terry Waters know the dilemma. As family and work life become more demanding, exercise begins to drop lower on the list of priorities. Sure, you know it’s supposed to be important. But when the lawn needs mowing and the kids want attention, it’s harder to justify lacing up your running shoes for a good workout. Eventually, it’s easy to think, “Why bother?”
Why? For one very good reason. Staying active throughout your life is the single most powerful way to remain healthy and live long enough to enjoy your family and all the things you’ve worked for. Following the recommendations from WebMD’s Exercise and Fitness Tips to Improve Your Health offers so many far-ranging health benefits that you may decide a gym membership might be the most important investment you can make for your health. If drug companies developed an anti-aging pill with even some of the benefits of regular physical activity, all of us would be taking it.
“It’s hardly news now that exercise keeps your heart and lungs working efficiently,” says Steven Blair, PhD, professor of exercise epidemiology at the University of South Carolina and one of the country’s leading exercise scientists. “But we’ve also come to understand that exercise can help prevent adult onset diabetes, improve bone health, and even lower the risk of some cancers. Physical activity also appears to help ease depression for some people.”
Still not convinced you should hoist yourself up off the couch? Consider the following 10 health benefits you can get from even a moderate regular workout.