The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Barefoot Living

Exercises benefits and ills

I’ve met people who abhor all manner of physical activity, and consequently avoid it like the plague. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I know people who are addicted to a daily, hard-core workout routine. And neither of these lifestyles is particularly healthy.

It is the purpose of this article to adjust your perspective on exercise. Viewed in the wrong way, exercise is either a terribly uncomfortable waste of time, or a compulsive need fueled by the neurotic and self-defeating desire for perfect health. Viewed correctly, however, exercise becomes as vitally important and refreshing as sleep.

Of the two aforementioned negative viewpoints, the one completely opposed to physical activity is by far the more prevalent, and the more difficult to correct, so I’ll just jump right in.

Two people walk across campus after finishing class for the day. Person A enjoys the fresh air and a chance to stretch his legs after a long day of sitting and listening to professors ramble on. Person B can only think about home base, and the chance to finally collapse in front of his computer or television and relax for a while.

Person A is living in the present moment and finding joy in the light exertion of his afternoon stroll. Person B treats the walk like a chore, or some unpleasant obstacle to be overcome.

Both are tired, certainly, but Person A understands that to be mentally tired is very different than to be physically tired. In fact, Person A knows that a good 20 minutes of cardio followed by a hot shower really helps to take the edge off, and makes it much easier to unwind. Person B wouldn’t dream of spending his valuable “chill out” time doing any kind of work whatsoever, and especially the kind of work that hurts and makes you breathe hard.

Person A could never fully explain the tremendous, holistic benefits of exercise to Person B because Person B has never experienced them. In other words, you need to actually feel the way exercise improves your quality of life before you truly understand, although I’ll do my best to highlight a few aspects of that improvement.

You’ve probably heard that exercise releases endorphins in your brain, and that endorphins make you happy; well, it’s true! Depression can have a debilitating effect on the whole of one’s life, and regular exercise will curb depression at the neuro-chemical level much better than Prozac (among other nefarious drugs). Not to mention that endorphins are free.

But you might not have heard how regular exercise alleviates insomnia, strengthens the immune system, lowers stress and blood pressure, and helps to treat type II diabetes. Hell, it even improves cognitive functions such as learning and neurogenesis, not to mention helps maintain a healthy weight, muscle strength, bone strength and joint mobility. Do some research. Ask your doctor.

I really can’t say enough about the benefits of exercise, but in a nutshell it gets all the many complex parts of you pumping in harmony and working with greater efficiency toward any particular end you could possibly conceive. If that’s not enough to get you off the couch, then you might as well stay there forever.

Now, exercise is not always healthy. There’s a big, big difference between feeling the burn and harming yourself. The intensity of one’s workout is not nearly as important as its duration and consistency. That is to say, exercising doesn’t mean you need to kill yourself. If you raise your heart past 150 beats per minute for 20-30 minutes three times a week, you will feel noticeably better inside of a month. Period.

Do you want to know what the best part of working out is? After feeling the benefits, you’ll want more. You’ll start pushing yourself harder because you know it’ll make you feel even better and do your body more good. You’ll have more energy to burn in every aspect of your life. Pretty soon you’ll find the gym as natural a part of your schedule as sleeping and eating.

This brings me to the other negative viewpoint people have with exercise: Some people take exercise too far. They push their bodies beyond the point of recovery and end up doing damage. Sometimes it turns obsessive, and people find themselves spending upwards of three hours at the gym every single day. Whatever reasons drive them toward this kind of self-imposed punishment these people certainly aren’t helping themselves.

Your body needs proper rest. You shouldn’t work out the same body part on consecutive days. Feeling sore the day after working out is perfectly natural, but feeling sharp pains during or immediately after a work out is bad. Do research. Ask your doctor.

The hardest part about going to the gym is not inside the gym; it’s getting up and going consistently enough that it becomes a habit. Nobody’s perfect, and each trip to the gym is good. Don’t beat yourself up, just expand into your potential.

Any questions? Want talk about any aspect of barefoot living? Drop me an e-mail.

Keven O’Toole is a junior philosophy major and can be reached at [email protected].

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