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Why do I train?

I was recently asked during a workout (I work out in my driveway on a semi-busy street) by a passerby, “why are you doing that?”

As you can imagine, this particular passerby was a young, curious child with walking somewhere with one of their parents.  I didn’t have a lot of time to answer, as they were continuing their walk by, and while dripping sweat on the ground, chest heaving, I dropped my weight and said, “because it’s fun!”

Maybe the kid thought I was lying, and I’m fairly certain that the parent did, as they smiled and walked away.  After I finished my workout I got to thinking, why DO I train?  This blog post will look to answer this question.

I want to remain extremely functional as I grow old. I think if I can work hard to max out with a 500 pound deadlift now (or hopefully within the next couple years), than lifting my grocery bags off the ground when I’m 90 years young will be a breeze.  While I can appreciate the reduced work capacity associated with aging, it just gives me more reason to work hard now.  Studies have shown exercises can increase functionality in the elderly, the young, and those with disease (1, 2, 3).

I want to avoid disease and give my MD no reason to doubt my health. As we all know, obesity rates are through the roof, heart disease is killing about half of all North Americans, and diabetes rates are increasing at an alarming rate (I’ve seen they’re changing the name from “adult onset” to “age onset”, I assume this is because too many young people are suffering from this condition).  My genetics aren’t exactly stellar in the cholesterol department, the heart disease department, and to a small degree the diabetes department.  If I can optimize my blood markers and provide my body with a calm, balanced environment, I’m going to do what it takes to create that environment.  Many sources have found that insulin sensitivity is increased with exercise.  Body weight, body mass index, body fat, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and hsCRP (an inflammation marker) all respond favourably to regular exercise (1, 2, 4, 5).

I want to stay sane. Exercise is known to help reduce the occurrence of depression and lead to better well-being (6).  I know that when I exercise I feel better for that day and in the long run.  I don’t usually feel fantastic DURING the workout (sometimes I do), but shortly afterward I feel great.  I think it is due, psychologically, to a sense of accomplishment, as well as the endorphin release and further cascade of hormones released by the body in response to the stimulus of the exercise.  In my, n=1 case, I know it makes me more productive, happier, and more relaxed, consistently.

I want to look good naked. Don’t we all?  I don’t think I need to argue the fact that exercise is an important factor in body composition.  Diet is also hugely implicated, but we’ll talk about that in another post.  Exercise provides the stimulus your body requires to release hormones that will increase your insulin sensitivity, and cause you to synthesize protein to fix the damage you did to your muscles while exercising.  This protein synthesis is a metabolically expensive process, and you do it while at rest.  This means you’re burning mostly fat for the fuel used to assemble the amino acids provided by the protein in your diet (you’re eating high quality protein, right?) to restore your muscle tissue.  There is a lot more involved but that’s part of what is going on.

I like the challenge. Originally with exercise, I never stayed with my program which was usually because I didn’t HAVE a program.  I just figured going to the gym and doing some stuff was enough.  Occasionally I would follow the mens health monthly workout poster thingy.  I employ Crossfit for my training, which constantly challenges me to get better at everything as well as trying new movements or weights on a frequent basis.  It keeps me interested, and I ALWAYS feel like I have a lot of room to improve.  As long as you don’t let it get you down, it’s a great motivator to keep at it to get better.

Anyway, that’s what I can think at the moment as to why I train.  Why do YOU train?

References:

  1. Martins, R., Verissimo, M., Coehlho e Silva, M., Cumming, S. & Teixeira, A. (2010)  Effects of aerobic and strength-based training on metabolic health indicators in older adults.  Lipids in Health and Disease. 9:76.  Accessed online on 28/08/2010 from: http://www.lipidworld.com/content/9/1/76
  2. Ansari, W., Ashker, S. & Moseley, L. (2010)  Associations between Physical Activity and Health Parameters in Adolescent Pupils in Egypt.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  7: 1649-1669.  Accessed online on 28/08/2010 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872361/?tool=pubmed
  3. Subin, Vaishali Rao, V. Prem & Sahoo (2010)  Effect of upper limb, lower limb and combined training on health-related quality of life in COPD.  Lung India. 27(1): 4-7.  Accessed online on 28/08/2010 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2878713/?tool=pubmed
  4. Bradley, R., Jeon, J., Liu, F. & Maratos-Flier, E. (2007)  Voluntary exercise improves sensitivity and adipose tissue inflammation in diet-induced obese mice. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. (295) E586-E594
  5. Kirwan, J., Soloman, T., Wojta, D., Staten, M. & Holloszy, J. (2009)  Effects of 7 days of exercise training on insulin sensitivity and responsiveness in type 2 diabetes mellitus.  American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.  (297) E151-E156
  6. Babyak et al (2000)  Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months.  Psychosomatic Medicine. (62) 633-638
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