It Isn’t Exercise Just Because You Sweat
By Ellington Darden, Ph.D.
If every time you break a sweat you chalk it up to exercise, get ready for a more precise definition. Proper exercise is a logical strategy to momentarily fatigue the major muscles of the body. Momentary fatigue seems to be the major factor required to stimulate muscular growth.
The key component to exercise is that it be demanding. These demands are manifested in labored breathing, increased pulse, elevated blood pressure, increased metabolic rate, and pronounced muscle burn.
The work is so demanding that the body’s physical and metabolic status quo is threatened, though not harmed. Through exercise we are sending an ultimatum to the system: “Body, your protective margins are inadequate. Adapt, enhance, improve, increase, grow . . . or you may not survive.”
Recreation should be fun. Offering vast psychological benefits, recreation is important. Play tennis, golf, softball, racquetball, basketball, and ski – they are all recreational pursuits. They should be enjoyable, while mere exercise is definitely not fun.
But recreation isn’t exercise. Confusing the two can cause problems. A lot of this confusion starts at the doctor’s office.
Your physician recommends that you select a leisure activity to relieve mounting stress. Exercise is also suggested but is not distinguished from recreation.
Let’s say you choose to play tennis. Since tennis is rarely intense, the exercise effect is compromised.
Get into shape and then play. You should not play tennis to get into shape. You should get into shape to play tennis or any other recreational endeavor.
The reason for this is that all sports take a toll on your body. You are in danger of injury at any moment. A proper exercise program should strengthen your muscle through a full range of motion. Muscular strength provides integrity to the joints and connective tissues. It will also pack more wallop into your serve.
You need to answer three questions before undertaking a chosen form of recreation.
- Are you aware of the dangers involved?
- Are you willing to accept the dangers?
- Are you willing to prepare to protect yourself from these dangers?
Your choice of recreational activities is personal, but the fact that it provides pleasure and amusement is the important factor in making that choice. But please, answer the three questions posed earlier.
Exercise is demanding – and rewarding. Accept exercise for what it is – unpleasant, hard work. Do not try to enjoy it. Simply learn to endure it.
The rewards of quality exercise are increased strength, enhanced flexibility, greater endurance, better protection against injury, and improved muscle-to-fat ratio.
Some sports impart marginal exercise effect. Most of us go to a lot of trouble to have fun. Many of our chosen pastimes involve aspects of toil. But these endeavors are not exercise per se.
Physical labor such as raking leaves or painting the garage also provides some exercise benefit but should not be misconstrued.
Remember, exercise is a logical strategy to bring about positive physiological changes. Some changes are cosmetic, things that will be evident in your appearance. Many more relate to better health.
Too many people try to make exercise fun and, in doing so, lessen the physiological effect of the activity. Perform you exercise seriously and intensely and the quality of your life will greatly improve.