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Poll: Do You View Exercise as a Punishment or a Health Benefit?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I must admit until I found my passion for running I looked at all types of exercise as a form of torture. I felt as though I was being punished due to my lack of discipline when it came to my eating. Exercise was like taking medicine—you know you must do it, but you disdain every minute until you are done for the day, only to have to do it all over again the next day.

But what I have discovered in my 4 ˝ year journey is that exercise is far more than punishment; it’s actually the best medicine many of us can take, and sadly one that many of us don’t want to take.

What if I told you working out just 5 hours a week would increase your life's longevity, would you be willing to commit the time and effort to do so?

Studies have shown that the health benefits of exercise far exceed weight loss alone. We can actually make our bodies more efficient and better able to fend off illness and disease by committing to only 5 hours out of every week to our health.

So what are some of the health benefits of exercise?

  • Exercise improves our heart and lungs. Exercise not only increases the size of our heart, but it also allows it to pump with greater force with each heart beat.

  • Exercise helps lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels responsible for increasing our risk for heart disease while raising HDL cholesterol levels which help usher the LDL out of the blood stream.

  • Exercise helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Exercise has been shown to make our body more insulin sensitive, therefore allowing the glucose to be ushered into the cells more efficiently.

  • Exercise helps us sleep better at night. Exercise also allows us to fall into a deeper sleep more quickly than when we are not as active.

  • Exercise helps lower blood pressure by making our blood vessels more elastic.

  • Exercise is a great stress reliever.

  • Exercise has been shown to help with depression and anxiety.

  • Exercise increases the size and number of the mitochondria in the cells. The mitochondria, also known as the powerhouse of the cell, are responsible for helping us burn those calories from fat and glycogen. This is a good thing.

  • Exercise can increase bone density. By increasing bone density we may be able to prevent or lessen our chances of developing osteoporosis.

  • Exercise increases our balance and functionality. In other words, we are better able to perform every day household tasks with greater ease, especially as we grow old.

    These are just a few benefits that exercise can bring to our lives. Sadly, many of us are quite eager to pop a pill for the rest of our lives than to take the medicine that can truly transform our lives and that is called exercise.

    Find your passion in an activity, whether it is running, walking, swimming, water aerobics, rowing, cycling, yoga, Pilates, etc, and you will be motivated to get up and move every day. It is truly about finding the joy in the activity and when you do, nothing will keep you from embracing a healthy lifestyle.

    Do you look at exercise as a joy or more as a source of punishment? In your time on SparkPeople has your view regarding exercise changed? Have you started doing an activity that you never imagined doing while reclaiming your health?

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    I always see it as a health benefit but my enjoyment depends on what I'm doing! If I'm walking/biking the same path day after day it's a burden. I really enjoy exploring new parks and areas. Keeps it fresh! Report
    Sometimes I dont want to do it but always feel so much better when it is complete. it really is uplifting and helps me in so many other areas of my life. I am such a more pleasant and energetic person after working out Report
    It depends on what it is. I started strength training again, and I can't really say I look forward to it. (That might change, though. It used to be the other way around: I actually LIKED strength training and didn't like cardio.) However, I also started doing yoga and a walking/running program to work up to running a mile, and I look forward to both of those sessions. (Although when I tried yoga a few years ago, I was SOOOO bored. Actually, the first time I tried it again recently it seemed incredibly boring, too, but I kept doing it. Not sure what changed so that I actually like it. I just kept hearing over and over from people how great it is and how much they love it, so I figured I'd give it a second try.) I really want to learn how to kayak--it just seems fun. Dancing = fun. Really, though, even if I do look forward to some kind of exercise, I still really have to push myself to get it done. Feeling tired all the time = harder to get moving = harder get myself to exercise. I always feel better afterwards, though, so I try to keep that in mind. I mean, even if the work out really exhausted me, at least I feel better/accomplished for having pushed myself. I've noticed it's getting easier to get myself moving, though, and hopefully it'll keep getting easier. Report
    I would say as a Health Benefit because I am not punishing myself for anything but rather taking the steps to get healthy and more energetic. Report
    I would say both --
    I haven't yet found the activity that I'm passionate about. I enjoy walking, but some days it's hard to motivate myself - even though I know it's good for me and that I'll feel better.
    Not giving up though! Eventually, I'll find something!
    I would say both. Report
    I've always loved walking but I rarely did it at an intensity that qualified as exercise unless I was walking up one of Seattle's perpendicular hills. However, I got very good at finding all the elevators and escalators that were open to the public so I didn't get the benefit often.

    Other than casual walking, about 4 mph, I've always hated exercise. Partly that is because I have exercise induced asthma and I hate wheezing. Even more than hating general exercise, I really despise sports. PE was required when I was in school and the worst part were the games.

    Since I developed fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue I've put on 150 pounds -- basically there is two of me in one body. With that weight gain came inflamation of the L5-S1 nerve (like sciatica but a different nerve cluster) so even walking became excruciating.

    Since coming to SP I've started trying to fit exercise back into my life. The first week I walked 280 steps around my office and was in agony and wheezing by the time I'd finished. The second week I was just in pain and gasping. After the 3rd week, while I was still in pain, I was only breathing hard. But, this is still under 3 minutes of exercise at medium intensity! Still, I hope to get back my ability to walk for pleasure as I lose weight and gain fitness.

    Part of that process comes from a series of stretching exercises I learned in a fibromyalgia outreach study. The hip stretches are probably responsible for the decrease in pain while I walk.

    Finally there is strengthening. I have never done weight training in anything but a desultory fashion. But in the past couple of weeks I've been doing some of the strengthening exercises from SP. With FMS you have to build very slowly to avoid triggering a flare. The first week, I triggered a bad one and had to stop all exercise for 10 days. Since then I have been working slowly up and am now doing 1 full set with no weight, just isometrics. My sister gave me a set of resistence bands for my birthday so I'm ready to back down on reps a bit but add resistence.

    I can't honestly say I love to exercise but I will say that I find it a lot more satisfying now than I ever did before.
    I love exercising and see it as a health benefit. I have been off my exercise train for a while, but hope to jump back on asap. I don't like what my body's been telling me lately, and I remember when running and bike riding were the greatest time I could spend with myself outdoors. I thought exercise tools that would dictate what to eat and what routine to follow were a joke. I knew what to do, I just wasn't doing it. SparkPeople provides me with flexibility and I feel so much confidence with who I want to be from all the support offered on this site. Exercise makes me feel great, and I feel great today :) Report
    I use to think excercise was a punishment, but thanks to Sparkpeople, I definitely see it as a health benefit. Thanks Sparkpeople. Report
    Most definitely a benefit not really a joy but something must be done to achieve weight loss or maintence Report
    Yes, there are numerous health benefits to exercising, but its still a chore to me! It amazes me that some people love it. To me, exercising is like changing the bed sheets. I love the feeling of having done it, but hate doing it !!! . Report
    I love to run, especially outdoors. It makes me feel alive, free and happy. I want to be able to do it when I'm in my sixties, seventies and beyond... I love lifting weights It makes me feel strong, shapes my body and energizes me. Am I always raring to hit the gym? No, not always. But I don't look at exercise as a punishment. Along with proper nutrition, it is a valuable and effective tool that helped me to lose the weight and that helps me to keep it off. Report
    Definitely a little of both. It's one of those things I dread doing, feel guilty when I don't do, but feel so much better once I start and after I'm done! I hate it but I love it! Report
    I would have to say its a Chore.. I too find myself thinking gee i just worked 8hrs why dont i sit and relax first and then i will walk later.. LOL later never comes cuz buy then i am tired and dont want to get up and move. much less exercise. Report
    When I started out seriously exercising last year I did view it as a chore. But when I started seeing real noticeable results, I changed my mind. Now if for some reason I can't run or swim for a few days I really miss it. Report
    While strength training can feel like torture, only because I push myself, the benefits are well worth it. My physical check up recently has proved that to me. I don't view it as punishment. My chances of getting diabetes are very slim. I know that I have to be diligent about my diet as well. Not just today but everyday, but with knowledge is power. The power to know and do something about it! So for me as long as I breath I will exercise in some form or another. :) Report
    I have exercised most of my life and enjoy being active. I look and feel better, have more energy and feel good about myself. Through the years I continue finding different forms of exercise I can enjoy. My favorites at this time are kayaking and walking. I force myself to do strength training at the gym but feel pretty bored with it. I keep a note on my refrigerator that says "Exercise is insurance for my old age. I want to keep a strong body" Report
    Exercise is a health benefit!! I didn't start really moving until 11 years ago when my kids were 1. I started walking, jogging...more recently I've toned down the jogging added the elliptical and do yoga weekly. I love the strength that I've added and knowing how much healthier and physically fit I am. It scares me to think of getting injured and not being able to keep going!! It has to be a way of life. I think those that view it as a punishment might need to find something they enjoy doing or increase endurance-- it does become less painful! Report
    I have never been an active person. I did PE in high school only because it was required. Although, I didn't mind playing softball once in a while with friends that was as far as I would go.

    I have to admit that weight loss is the only reason I started working out, but have no complaints about the other added benefits. Report
    I go both ways. Some mornings I just don't want to get out of bed, others I have no problem. However, by the second mile, I start remembering why I do this. Exercising has lifted my mood and for a while I was beginning to think I was depression. Once I started walking daily, all that changed. Report
    I'm really trying to change my attitude, but I still struggle at seeing exercise as a punishment. Even after I do it, and feel better and know that I'm getting benefit from doing it! It still feels like work, and after working all day, I don't want to do more work... Just need to keep persevering! Report
    If I were asked this question 6 months ago, I would definitely say that it was punishment. Now, I wake up each morning looking forward to cardio & strength training. I never thought that learning new exercises & moves would be fun and exciting! I now know that this lifestyle change is more of a mental adjustment than it is physical. Report
    Thank you for writing this. I don't think of exercise as a punishment but it is definately something I don't like to do. A copy of this article listing the benefits of exercise is going to get posted on my wall as a reminder of all the good things exercise CAN and WILL DO for me if I let it. Thanks again...I needed to read this. Report
    I used to think of it as a torture. But... I lately, I have really changed my attitude. I workout 6-7 days a week... with weekends being shorter and lighter... but still being intentionally active. This last weekend, life interfered and I didn't get to exercise on Fri or Sat. By Sunday, I was in a foul mood. I was tired and just plain grouchy. Just ask my husband! Sunday afternoon, I knew I needed to exercise. I knew that was why I was in a bad mood. I just couldn't find the motivation. I talked myself in to taking a 30 min walk. Just 30 min... come on Mel... you can do it... and 90 min later, I came back ready to chat with my hubby about all kinds of things. My outlook was positive and I wasn't sluggish or exhausted anymore. YEAH!!!! Exercise=increased blood flow=increased brain activity=one Happy Melanie! Report
    I think my training as a JOY and PRIVILEDGE! I don't "have to do" that, if I don't want to, but then it's me and only me to blame for the poor result. Period. I think I am blessed that I have time and supporting husband and my opinion is I AM NOT WASTING MY TIME, when training - I can see & feel the results...GREAT! :D Report
    I enjoy walking and jogging with my husband Monday to Friday, 10 minutes from my house to the hospital golf course, two rounds for 40 minutes then another ten minutes to get back, that's from 5am to 6am. While walking/jogging, I try to breathe in the energy from the trees, from the sun, while I do my affirmations. Then, I feel refreshed and ready to face the day. It's a part of my everyday weekday routine. Report
    I was looking and feeling so much better when I was exercising. Then I lost momentum. I need to get back with it. Report
    I feel it is part of living healthy. I quit working out for a few months after being at it for over a year. Now I can tell my body is flabby and not as healthy n firm as when i am working out. It may be hard but worth it to be healthy and live for a long long time. Its part of body maitinance like taking a shower or brusing your teeth. Report
    I have never viewed exercise as a form of punishment. Sometimes I can see it being annoying, such as waking up at 5 am to go for a run before work, but if I manage to drag myself out of bed and run I feel much better. The boost I get from it is very rewarding and fulfilling, even though it can be a pain getting up that early. Report
    Exercise is really one key to feeling better, better great. I have had times in my life, due to health issues, that exercise was detrimental. Thank goodness for now exercise is beneficial. Report
    The obesity rate in our country is sky high and unless people take control of their lives it is predicted to go higher. Healthy diet and regular exercise is an absolute must.
    On very hot days I use my treadmill & watch TV while walking. On nice days I walk outside.
    I recently fell off the wagon (so to speak) and felt lousy now I am walking again. Can't begin to tell you all how much better I feel.

    Thanks SPARKS people for the wake up call. Keep up the good work! Report
    Both, LOL.
    Back in the days of old when I was cranky DH would make me go work out, because I was always in a much better mood when I was finished.
    On the days I have to get up extra-early to exercise it almost does feel like a punishment when I begin, but when I'm finished I always feel better.
    If I am keeping up a good routine of exercise I really enjoy it and feel so much better for it. If I slack off for a while or get out of my routine, I feel guilty and then it becomes a drudgery. Report
    It is hard to want to work out but i feel better after a work out!! Swimming helps a lot i love to swim and it do not feel like a work out so it is fun and a work out Report
    Somedays it's punishment, somedays it's fun. On the days that I really have to make time to exercise it seems more of a chore. On the days that the time is available I enjoy it more. I'm not mentally reviewing the things that I "should" be doing, or how far behind I'll be on my other tasks. Report
    I love to exercise and always have. The only form of exercise I don't like is running. I don't know if it's something about the monotony or what, but when running I can not breathe properly. But I do step aerobics, figure skating, biking and even sports that involve running while doing something else with no problem. I started working out at 13 with my mom and I have always enjoyed exercise and never view it as a chore. I also don't just see it as a health benefit, but rather something I enjoy doing. Report
    For me - a benefit. I truly enjoy how I feel when I'm done. Report
    For me it is both! I feel blessed to be able to exercise,& most days I like doing
    so...but then there are days where it feels like a punishment,& something I just
    need to get through! Report
    I can't imagine living my life without exercise. I recently left a job where I was working 70+ hours/week. During that time exercise helped with the enormous stress. Now that I've "retired" (temporarily or permanent - remains to be seen), I can enjoy bicycling or hiking for longer periods of time. I look forward to exercise, in its many forms. It makes me strong, improves my mood, allows me to do things I didn't know I could do (like bicycling a century) and, yes, allows me to indulge from time-to-time. Report
    Definitely good for my health!!!! Report
    i used to huff & puff going using stairs, now i run up stairs & down with no problem, sp has helped me do that. i don,t think of it as a chore anymore. Report
    I enjoy working out, but I have to admit that it feels like a chore sometimes. I've become so driven that I have trouble with the "active recovery" aspect. If I'm not burning mega calories I just don't see the point. This is something that I have to work on, but hopefully I can with the help of my family. Report
    Health reasons of course. Why would you want exercise to be a punishment? I can think of better ways to punish myself if necessary. Report
    Since my husband got me (us) a WII we have so much fun exercising, and challenge each other, and after our sessions we have fun playing the games, tennis, golf, bowling etc., a fantastic health benefit, fun without the gym. Report
    I dont necessarily enjoy exercising, but I sure feel healthier after it! But there are days that I want to walk again.
    I am not doing anything that I ever thought I wouldnt do - but I am trying to become more consistent with strength training exercises, because I know the benefits. Report
    I LOVE to exercise. It makes me happy and makes me feel strong. I am not a good runner, though, and wish I was better at it. Report
    I started exercising with avengence late 2005 after 'my body let me down'. Up until late 2004 I thought that I had looked after myself. Eaten a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and veg. Taken regular exercise. I had a great job, working outdoors, very physical. Yes I had put on weight, built up some muscle. I swam, I cycled, I took long Sunday walks. My body had other ideas. @136lbs I decided that something had to be done. So I was dieting, trying to loose weight but it wasn't shifting. Despite everyone telling me I looked thin, the scales said otherwise. So after accepting that things weren't as they should be with my body - surgery - I got better but started to exercise as a way to punish my body. I started to enjoy myself though.

    Now however I'm back to enjoying my swims and runs and walks. I'm taking swimming lessons to learn how to swim properly. I'm training for my 2nd marathon and I like the shape of my body. Report
    Exercise would be much more a joy if there ws less pain involved in my joints. Report
    when I first started out 3 1/2 years ago, I thought of exercise as only a means to an end. But gradually, I began to love exercise and how I feel while I'm doing it. It's the only time I can look at and appreciate my body. Watching muscles work and seeing the sweat glistening on my skin, it's the highlight of my day now! Report
    I LOVE sport, dance,cycling, martial arts and aerobics.
    I exercise doing things I enjoy and this really helps. If you can find something that you enjoy - do that sort of exercise.

    Exercising with other people helps too. They provide motivation, competition and social contact. I find that my sister in law is great on those days that I can't be bothered getting out, because she will just phone and say she will be round soon for a run.

    I also find that using an ipod when cycling is motivating and my average speed goes up. I load up my favourite songs and boogy away while riding.

    If you like pilates, yoga, dance etc, there are lots of videos on you tube that you can watch to get you started.

    So, to conclude:
    1. Find what you like to do and do it
    2. Use other people to motivate you and provide a social context for exercise
    3. Use music etc
    4. Look at what others are doing eg on Youtube. :)
    If you try these things you may love exercise too. Report
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