Sometimes I will wake up at 3 to 4 in the morning and can’t fall back to sleep. About half the time that I do this I get up for a bite to eat and find I have nothing in the refrigerator. Maybe some half-rotting lettuce and a few thimblefuls of milk that I refuse to finish off because that would mean I have to put in the single minute of effort it takes to rinse out the carton and throw it in the recycle.
So, stricken with milk insomnia and severe pangs of hunger, I’ll venture out on the empty early morning highway for some bagels, eggs, sausage, bacon, pomegranate, strawberries, orange juice, coffee, more milk… cannoli for dessert.. all the supplies I need for a ridiculous, excellent breakfast, which has become a proud tradition of my days that start off sleep deprived. The grocery store I frequent is in a complex with a few other businesses, among them a gym, one of those well lit 24-hour places with floor to ceiling windows as all the exterior walls.
What I am saying is that my bleary, half-asleep eyes can see inside the gym every time I pass by on my way to the grocery store. And invariably, at that hour when even reasonable 9 to 5ers are still tucked up in bed dreaming, there are a dozen or more people in there working out. I’m always perplexed: how do these people decide to spend the first hours of the day panting and sweating instead of curled up in a warm and cozy bed? I don’t, but not by choice. Why don’t they just relax?
Now, don’t think I am some obese basement dwelling freak. I never go to the gym, but I have a couple dumbbells and keep my biceps and triceps fashionably thick with curls and raises, several sets of both exercises every other day, and also jog a few miles a day for cardio.
What is this sick obsession that all these people drag themselves out of bed and deprive themselves of even-valuable sleep to struggle up some weights? To find out what might be behind this apparent lack of rationality, let’s review all the possible benefits of exercise.
This is the most obvious benefit of exercise. Working out (specifically cardio more than resistance training), combined with a low-card and fat diet, will help you lose weight. We are not trying to fat shame here. There are a lot of overweight people who are comfortable with their appearance, and to match there are a lot of people who find someone with a few pounds to spare much more desirable than some stick thin model type.
But most people are little self-conscious when they are overweight, and this majority also gains a lot of confidence when shed those pounds. It’s easy to be romantic on valentine’s day, but what about all the other days of the year? If you are with the right person, your weight can fluctuate pretty dramatically and your partner will still love you and find you attractive. The losing weight is more for you, as self-confidence is all important for both gender when it comes to, to use a clunky euphemism, “physical intimacy”.
In addition to physical attractiveness, another reason for working out/weight loss is the significant health benefits. Your heart, arteries, and veins are put under a lot of stress when you’re overweight, and when you lose that weight it will relax your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure, resulting in a lower risk of serious, even deadly, complications like strokes and heart attacks.
Here is another result of exercise that provides both vain and health-centric benefits. Many girls want to look toned; many guys want to look ripped. If you want to add muscle (specifically resistance training more than cardio), then you are going to have to work out.
Now let’s get to the health benefits. Strength training not only improves the health of your muscles but also your bones. If you keep up with your muscles, you will also lower your risk of osteoporosis later on in life.
Also, strength-training, like cardio, has some fat burning benefits. Let’s dive into some physiology, shall we? People get fat because their body is generating more energy than it’s burning off. This is how eating too much and not exercising enough results in getting fat: eating food, especially fat and carbs, gets broken down into glucose, which is converted into adenosine di-phosphate stored in the body until you need to break it down further into pure energy. If you don’t use that energy, your body has to put it somewhere, like a mess in your room that you have to clean up, but you don’t have any time, so you end up shoving it all out of sight under the bed. In your body’s case, that “under the bed” is your fat cells: unused energy becomes more fat.
If you just build your muscles, even when you are not using them, they’ll be busy burning fat. Muscles are very dense structures, and they require a lot of energy. When you’re sleeping, your muscles will be burning off 25% of your calories. Then there is the act of building that muscle that will burn off many more calories. If you are serious about losing weight, make sure that you spend as much time on strength exercises as you do on cardio.
Another benefit of building muscle: It will make you better protected from injury. Fat is more associated with being a “cushion” against falls and other accidents but’s actually thick and fibrous muscle that acts as a more efficient shock absorber. Don’t skip leg day, as having muscular legs will help you stave off ankle injuries with the constant impact that comes with jogging for cardio.
Fight off Disease
Chapter 2 of today’s physiology lesson: Immunoglobulins. Working out, whether it’s strength training or cardio, will stimulate the production of immunoglobulins (also known as antibodies). These Y-shaped proteins are born in the blood and are ruthlessly efficient at their job, which is fighting viruses and bacteria.
Immunoglobulins can destroy disease in a few different ways. They can “tag” a foreign object that doesn’t belong in your body (antigen), which will alert another part of your immune system to the threat and help them locate the antigen so they can deal with it, or they can cut out the middleman and just destroy the antigen on-site.
People with more immunoglobulins patrolling their insides are less likely to suffer from the common cold, the flu, and serious infections.
Well, that settles it. After researching and writing this article, there are just too many benefits to ignore. Working out regularly will make my body more attractive, my muscles and bones stronger, and my immune system more effective at fighting off an infection.
I just can’t justify it to myself anymore… next time I wake up at some ungodly hour in the early morning, I won’t waste time fixing up another Breakfast of Kings. As satisfying as that decadent meal always is, I’ll now skip the grocery store and spend my mornings instead at that gym next door, displayed under those bright fluorescent lights and exposed behind that glass for the entire world to see and think, “By God, it’s four in the morning! what the hell is wrong with those people?”