The Medicine That Makes Itself
If you've ever felt that you don't have time to exercise, this might help
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot” - Michael Altshuler
Let me admit it right now – I appreciate birthday greeting cards very much, but they take up a lot of space as they pile up over the years, so I’ve learned to accept them graciously, read them, take a picture of them and then throw them directly into the garbage.
However, a select few have such deep or humorous meaning that they are kept in their physical forms. One of these ‘survivors’ is definitely one of the best birthday cards I have ever seen. It was given to me by a close friend and it shows a car’s rear-view mirror with the grim reaper in view. The words “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” are on the mirror.
Come on, that is hilarious!
It also acts as a gentle segue into a pretty deep and maybe even unsettling topic, but one that I feel has a place in any of our endeavors.
In our day-to-day lives, we pretend to have infinite amounts of time. Barring serious psychological or physical health factors, most people simply aren't programmed to have death on their minds constantly, so an 'end point' to our time allowance in life is rarely considered; especially when we have a million items to check off on our ever-growing to-do lists.
Which leads us to this evergreen quote:
“I just don’t have time to exercise”
If these words sound familiar to you, you're actually part of a very large majority of people.
It's the 21st century. We are all busy. It is a legitimate and very real problem. Our careers, families and social lives all demand that most precious of our belongings: our limited time.
It takes a while and sometimes even a health scare for us to stop and think about how we can be wiser with this finite resource. This is usually where out of sheer sense of survival, we begin to prioritize in order of importance who and what gets the lion's share of the clock followed by lesser and lesser items of importance.
It’s probably not the best idea to let it get to a health scare to make some changes that enable the space for taking care of yourself, so before it gets to that, a few things might help.
To most of us, 'making time' is a matter of priorities and how they rank in our lives.
Easier said than done? Probably. But the unflinching reality remains that if we don't prioritize, we will only ever come up with excuses and stagnate or even regress. And it is an excuse when something is possible but factors that require some effort stand in the way.
So we know about our time not being forever, prioritizing and trying to mitigate excuses, and sometimes – let’s face it – even that isn’t enough. What can be done then?
I’ve found myself in this scenario many times before. Something I learned along the way is to re-jig my perspective a little bit. Instead of pushing the idea of ‘making time’ (a statement that by itself can send anxiety about not having enough time into the stratosphere), it can help to look at the whole mess in a cyclical manner.
In order to “make time” for exercise, my other priorities in life have to run efficiently enough for this time to be created.
How do I become more efficient?
Everyone has 15 minutes
Even as little as 15 minutes of exercise can start a process of becoming much more fluent and focused in the tasks that take away your time to do more for your health. If you don’t have 15 minutes to spare on something that will make you feel better in a 24-hour day, you may wish to consider a lifestyle change that is far out of the qualifications of this article.
If you are in the vast, vast majority that can spare 15 minutes at some point in their day, here are 4 points about how exercise creates more time for itself:
1. Exercise lowers stress
Our ability to think, let alone solve complex issues, is deeply affected by stress. The prefrontal cortex in our brain that is in charge of anticipating events, predicting consequence, and impulse control - to name just a few gems - slows down when we are under the pressure of stress.
As a result of this slowdown, our ability to make effective prioritizations or to estimate how long a task will take is affected negatively. Ever felt like you seem to get less done the longer you stay at work? There’s a very good chance that this is your prefrontal cortex groaning under the weight of stress.
When we exercise – whether it be a gentle yoga session or crushing barbells at the gym, we are stimulating the release of endorphins. These are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that make us feel alert, happy and ready to face challenges.
And the best part about this is that even 15 minutes of literally any type of exercise that will get your heart rate going will do this trick.
Even a short walk during your lunch hour would help here. The release of endorphins during that walk will make a noticeable difference when you go back to work.
2. That energy boost
Exercise (especially cardio) has been shown to trigger angiogenesis. This mouthful is the creation of new blood vessels which means more oxygen to the cells, which means more energy for your whole body.
This action also contributes to the growth of mitochondria. They are known as the powerhouse of the cell because one of the main functions of these organelles is to produce cellular energy. Exercise is proven to actually create more mitochondria and increase their overall density (a very good thing) which further boosts energy levels and brain power.
The dreaded ‘D’ word. Discipline is a crucial part of managing tasks and deadlines, but it has a somewhat negative connotation for many.
Let’s dispel that.
Studies show that people with self-discipline are happier. Discipline and its close relative self-control allow us to accomplish more of the goals we truly care about. It is the bridge between 'just talking about it' and accomplishment. No wonder people in this category are happier.
It is also the gift you give yourself that keeps on giving. Discipline and self-control have a way of spilling over into all areas of life once they are established in just one of them. When I began to take exercise and nutrition more seriously and developed discipline around this, I became far more effective at my job and was able to manage my schedule better because I didn't fall for any distraction traps. Due to this I had improved my ability to plan out my day and therefore could fit more exercise into my day.
Developing discipline takes a lot less time than you might think. One way to do it is to start exercising (even the 15 aforementioned minutes). Maybe set the alarm clock a bit earlier to fit this in. Starting the day with getting the circulation going is an amazing brain boost. Plus, you will notice a major shift in self-control within just a couple of weeks.
4. Overall health
Overwhelming evidence points to exercise being one of the best things you can do for your health. When you are healthy, you are more productive, get sick less often and can get the things that are making you busy now out of the way faster.
A paradox? Not really
It can seem counterintuitive that exercise should create more time for exercise, but it works. It works in an almost organic way once you try the pretty simple steps of starting with a small, strategic block of even just 15 minutes of your day. Before long, you may shave enough hours off your tasks to have the time to do more exercise and create a truly positive cycle for yourself. One whose benefits lead you to better and better states of mind and body as time itself moves forward.
Thank you for taking the time (see what I did there?) to read this.
To your good health my friend!
Got a question or comment? Drop me a line in the comments section below or feel free to contact me on any of my socials. I always love to hear from you.
Also, why not share this post with someone you think may find it interesting? And if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to sign up to receive these articles for free by email.