I wish I had knew how important exercise was earlier in my life. Since I found a love for tennis, my whole life has improved. I play several times a week, travel to watch matches, have a whole host of tennis friends, am fitter and stronger than I have been in twenty years and I am much happier.
As a psychiatrist practicing for 20 years, the single best advice I can give is to find a sport you love and make it a regular part of your life. As a brain scientist, I know that not only am I secreting endorphins to lift my mood, I am also secreting BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates new brain cell connections so I am actually getting smarter. It makes sense when you think about our ancestors and how our brains are wired. When we were running to catch dinner, we had to remember how to get home so our brains released special chemicals to ensure we would remember our way!
If you think you don’t have time to work out, think again. You don’t have time not to work out. Gravity and the aging process are fighting you every day. Make sure you fight back as often and as hard as you can. Believe me it’s worth it!
In addition to all the benefits already mentioned, studies have shown that regular exercisers handle stress better. We know we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, so how wonderful that we can inoculate ourselves from its deleterious effects by exercising daily.
My younger daughter Gigi began rowing at age 14. The transformation in her body was amazing but what surprised me most was the change in her personality. She became calmer, happier, more confident and able to handle frustrations more maturely. (Let’s not forget that kids who work out regularly don’t have time to get into trouble!)
Find something you love and make it part of your life. Some love running, swimming, martial arts, dance, pilots, yoga, biking or hiking. If you aren’t in shape, start with walking and build up from there. Most of us are not in shape unless we have a passion. Find a passion. I go to the gym just to make sure I can continue to play tennis for years to come.
Most very successful people exercise regularly. Every recent US president has been an avid athlete making time to work out while running our country. If they aren’t too busy to make exercise a priority, how can we be?
Exercise lifts your libido, helps you make good food choices, and is the number one beauty secret to maintain your best appearance as you age. If you work out regularly, I applaud you. If you don’t, go buy a great pair of walking shoes and get out there. At first you might notice that you are tired but try to give yourself the rest you need.
Try different activities until you find something you love and can continue doing. Mix it up. And most importantly – have fun!