In my previous blog, I talked about the costs of getting in shape. In counterpoint to that, let me know talk about the benefits.
The most obvious benefit of getting in shape is improvements in your overall health. But, what does this mean? The phrase "improved health" is very vague. Let's go into some specifics. All of these items I mention here have been concrete improvements in my health that I've noticed over time.
Lower Blood Pressure
When I was overweight, my blood pressure averaged around 140/90. Now it's around 115/70. This is a very good blood pressure! Many grocery stores provide free blood pressure screening devices that you can use to periodically check your blood pressure. Keep in mind that blood pressure varies based upon factors such as your physical activity, what food you eat (caffeine will increase your blood pressure somewhat), so measure your blood pressure over time to get a better feel for how it is improving.
Lower Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate is an indication of how how hard your heart has to work to keep you going, when you are not exerting yourself. In other words, if you are just sitting in a chair watching TV, that's your resting heart rate. Your heart rate will obviously be much higher if you are running on a treadmill because running requires a lot more effort by your heart to keep you going. When I was overweight, my resting heart rate was in the 90-100 BPM (beats per minute) range. Now it's 60 BPM. That's a 33% drop! A very good improvement.
Many overweight people find that their cholesterol has gotten so high, that their doctor's have put them on cholesterol lowering medications. I firmly believe that losing fat can reduce or even eliminate the need for these drugs. My cholesterol was not really something I tracked very closely when I was overweight, but I suspect it was pretty high. I'm guessing it was in the 200 range. The last time I donated blood, since I got in shape, my cholesterol reading was about 130. A much lower number.
People that are overweight tend to develop bad posture. This is often due to all that dead weight you are carrying around placing a strain on your spine, causing it to be pulled out of alignment. This causes you to slouch and can likely cause such problems as back-aches. Imagine if you had to walk around every day with 50 pounds of dead weight strapped to your belly. You can see how this could cause back-aches and spinal problems. Get rid of that dead weight and you will find that your spine will straighten itself out and you will suddenly start walking more upright. I've noticed this improvement in posture myself. I always used to walk around slouched over when I was overweight. Now that I"ve gotten in shape, it almost seems like I'm intentionally walking around with my head held high. The odd thing is, that I'm not doing this conciously. I just walk that way now that my posture has improved.
When I was overweight, I often had trouble sleeping. I also found that I could NOT sleep on my back, because I could never seem to get comfortable that way. I never could figure out why. I always ended up sleeping on my side. Now I know why I could never sleep on my back. Imagine if you were lying on your back with 50 pounds of dead weight on your stomach. You can imagine how that would get very uncomfortable. Now that I've taken that 50 pounds of dead weight off my stomach, it feels lighter and I now often sleep on my back. Another way that your sleep will improve is simply the fact that you've gotten more exercise, so by the end of the day you are tired! Imagine going to the gym every night and running hard on the treadmill for 30 minutes. That will wear you out, especially if you are out of shape! After a workout like that, go home, hit the bed, and you'll be out like a light! For some people with sleep problems who often need sleep medications, this can eliminate the need for those drugs as well.
Less mysterious aches and pains
When I was overweight, I always had little aches and pains. Sometimes it was a back-ache, sometimes it was a stomach-ache, sometimes it was a head-ache. Once I got in shape, all these things disappeared. Once again, I think this goes back to the removing of that 50 pounds of dead weight on your stomach. Remove that weight and the strain on your body goes down, and hence all the aches and pains are reduced.
A more attractive appearance
Let's face it. People get in shape because they want to look good. It's vanity. Noone wants to admit it. They say that they want to get in shape in order to improve their health, and while I'm sure that's part of the reason, the real reason is, they don't like the way they look and they want to look better. If you have a tight belly and bulging muscles, you are going to look much better than with a big 'spare tire' on your gut.
People who are overweight often lack self-confidence. This stems from the fact that they don't like their appearance and as a result feel very self-conscious about it. Once you get in shape and you know your appearance is much better, your self-confidence will improve. It certainly did with me.
If you weight train properly, your muscles will get bigger. At the same time, the fat on your body is reduced. This means you are stronger because you have less muscle, and less of your effort has to go to lugging around that dead weight.
Again, with less dead weight to carry around, you will find that you have more energy to spare. Your body exerts a lot of effort lugging around that dead weight, with no benefit. Without that dead weight, all the energy your body previously exterted to lug around that weight is now available for other things. You'll find that your endurance on cardio exercises will increase rapidly as you lose fat. When you first start out with cardio, it will be hard and you won't be able to do much. Stick with it. As your fat is eliminated, your energy levels will increase, and your ability to do more on the cardio exercises and in general will improve.