The Importance of Exercise: More than Just Weight Loss

With spring in full swing, I wanted to write about exercise, since April is a great time to begin an exercise regimen with such nice mild weather outside.  First, I wanted to say that I think it’s a good idea to start thinking of exercise in a different way.  We usually think of exercise as connected with weight loss, and while exercise and weight loss do go hand and hand, it seems to me that connecting exercising with trying to lose weight can put exercise in a negative light, as something that can almost be a discouragement and easily set aside as “too hard” or too large of a problem to overcome.

If we begin to shift our thinking from the idea of exercising to lose weight to instead, deciding to make a change to a healthier, more active lifestyle, I think it can make a real difference.  “Dieting” can feel like such a negative thing, and can be something that’s difficult to maintain.  For example, my dad (I hope he doesn’t mind me writing about him) was overweight for years, and would joke every week about how he was, “restarting his diet” each Monday- something which never stuck.  Then, a couple years ago, he and his wife decided to make a change, and they took up biking.  At 73, he has gone from being overweight and unhealthy to biking huge distances, sometimes up to 50 miles at a time!  I am amazed by him, and really proud.  I wanted to tell his story as an example that anyone can make a change, today, and turn their life around to a healthy, active life, no matter how sedentary you may be.   It doesn’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen if you don’t start.

Being active is about much more than weight loss- exercise is one of the top ways to prevent heart disease.  Exercise improves blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the heart, all of which lead to a longer life!  The official recommendations for exercise are 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise a week.  That number seems like a lot, but is completely doable when broken up into small minutes each day.

Many people say that they don’t have enough energy to exercise.  If that’s the case, supplements like ginseng can really help.  Ginseng is a herb used for thousands of years for vitality and stamina and is something that can help you to get going in the morning.  In fact the German science commission has approved ginseng’s use in reducing fatigue.  Studies have shown that ginseng helps with increasing stamina during exercise, allowing a person to sustain aerobic activity for a longer period of time with less fatigue.  A typical dose is two five hundred milligram capsules first thing in the morning.  Ginseng is slightly more effective on an empty stomach, though it can be taken with food.

Another supplement that can be helpful for people starting an exercise regimen is CoQ10.  CoQ10 is most well known for its benefits to heart health, though it is also useful for improving stamina and energy during exercise and even helping with improving recovery after exercise.  CoQ10 has so many proven benefits and is a supplement everyone would benefit from.  If you’re interested, you can search “CoQ10” on our website for many, many articles on the benefits of CoQ10. 

The standard dosage is 100mg per day.  CoQ10 is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it should be taken with food for the best absorption.  We currently have a buy one, get one free two pack of CoQ10 by Natural Factors at Pass Health Foods which is a really great deal.

The last recommendation I would make would have to do with protein.  After exercising, particularly strenuous exercise or exercise where you’ve worked your body hard, it’s a good idea to use a protein shake.  There is a “magic window” of 45 minutes after exercise where ingested protein can make a real difference for muscle repair and synthesis.  That protein does not need to be in the form of a protein shake, though I have found protein shakes to be the most convenient after exercise, since they’re simple and fast. 

If you consume dairy products, whey protein is a fantastic, easily absorbed protein source, and the company Jarrow has a line of whey protein powders which are very high quality as well as a good value.  If you’re dairy-free, as I am, I’d very much recommend Garden of Life’s Organic Plant Protein.  It’s the one I use, and I really love it.  Also, while supplies last we have a number of really nice shaker cups that are free with any full size Garden of Life protein powder.  I use a shaker cup all the time; you can put a serving of protein powder in a shaker cup to take along with you when exercising at the gym and then add water and drink immediately after exercising, since protein shakes are best when drunk right after mixing.  Protein shakes taste best when mixed with milk or in a smoothie, but they are perfectly acceptable when mixed with water- plus it’s easier and has less calories.

Finally, I want to say two more things- the first is that exercise can be enjoyable, and not everyone likes the same things.  We live in an area with a huge amount of paved forest preserve trails, and Lake Katherine and Swallow Cliff are nearby as well.  If you don’t like biking, try walking, or running, or hiking.  Numerous studies have shown the benefits to stress relief simply by being outdoors, and even more have shown exercise’s ability reduce stress and improve mood.

In closing, I again want to encourage you to start being more active and to begin to add exercise as a regular component to your day!  Nothing happens overnight, but it all starts with a choice, and taking that first step.   Good luck!


If you’re interested in further information, here are two of our past articles that go into more detail about protein shakes:

Exercise and Protein Shakes

Protein Shakes for Weight Loss