As a teenager and college student, I was not much into sports or athletics. Occasionally, I would play something for the fun of it, but physical fitness was not much of a priority. Since food for me is nothing more than fuel for the body, I never really ate too much or consumed high calorie foods, so my weight was still way below the average. It was only when I started to work on desk jobs and was putting in long hours commuting and working, that I started to gain some weight, mostly around my waist, but thankfully, my BMI never went over 22.
Benefits of exercise experienced by me: It was actually the politics at work and the BS that we all have to deal with in corporate America (and Japan, where I worked for a few years) that motivated me to exercise regularly to get rid of my stress and improve my mental well being. I liked the feeling so much that in my early 40s, I started to workout almost regularly. In no time, I started to see changes in my body (without that being the goal, I lost almost all my excess weight and it actually dropped to the undernourished category that I had to add more calories to my diet) and mind. The runners’ high and overall mental well being got me addicted to working out and now I run five days a week, about three miles, in about 40 minutes, while I catch up on the events from last night on NPR’s Morning Edition. I have found that including exercise in your routine is the best way to make sure it happens — for me, after a cup of coffee in bed after waking up, brushing my teeth, and shaving, it is time for me to work out every day I am working. A shower afterwards and breakfast right after fit very nicely in my routine that does not change much except for the weekends and vacations (I try to stick to a workout even during a vacation unless it involves lots of walking and standing).
The fit too will eventually get sick before dying but it will be brief: Now comes a remarkable study highlighting the power of a fitness regimen at any age. As Gretchen Reynolds reports in the Times, “Typically, the most aerobically fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the final five years of their lives, instead of the final 10, 15 or even 20 years.” Since I never had any sickness all my life, it is impossible to say if last ten years of working out and eating healthy has anything to do with it, but can attest to this finding by citing the example of my mother in her 70s. After being diagnosed with diabetes in her 70s, she has started to engage in more physical exercise on a daily basis and has found that her fitness level has improved and she can now lead a normal, healthy life without medication. The conclusion is that it is never too late to be fit and one can see results almost right away.
I have no intention of being a bodybuilder; all I want to have is a life without illnesses. Ideally, I would like to die (I have no illusions about that and as brilliantly explained in the film White Ribbon, one must die either from an illness or an accident) as soon as I get sick with an illness that will lower my quality of life, but as long as I live, I would like to live healthy. I am sincerely hoping that a combination of healthy eating, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and living stress free will help me get there. The study confirms that it is not that the super-fit will live significantly longer or not fall sick; it just that before they eventually die of an illness, the actual duration of the illness will be brief.