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Living Without Exercise Is Like Smoking a Pack of Cigarettes a Day

By Patty Kovacs

Over the years I've focused on various ways to improve my facial and body appearance. God knows I could use weekly spa facials to erase these signs of aging, but can't afford it in time or money.  

Having been a yoga instructor for many years, I switched careers a while back so to write and promote for a living. As part of that career change, I sit in a chair with radio headphones on my head every Monday and tap away at my computer all week for too many hours. Waking and working at my computer has become a way of life.

Then I found a new habit: don't exercise. Veg out. Stay informed by television, internet, and print. Drink up information, not an energy smoothie. It became my habit of choice to stay in my head as exercise became a pest. You know, no time for it, too busy. What an absurdly unbalanced life I developed.  

Was I depressed like Oprah is now confessing? I would never had declared it. Not me. Divorced with no support from a multi-millionaire husband of 20 years, I had a family to raise (Ann Coulter would say I was a disgraceful single mother) and I had beautiful mouths to fee and big bills to pay. So I worked and ‘chose’ – note my choice, ‘chose’ – not to exercise.

The habit became my pattern. Yep, exercise became a dusty memory. Oh, I'd walk occasionally. A good walker I was, but I had no regular pattern to it. I’d call my walking more a hobby. My golf clubs had intricate spiderwebs on them and my tennis racket was now a decorative fixture hanging on my garage walls. A National Tennis Champion, over-35, 1998, I knew the discipline of exercise and focused athletics, but my racket now served as a symbol of a time called ‘then’ when I exercised. I got a harsh reminder each time I drove my car into the garage from a long day of working.

Along came October, 2008: the financial downturn of America. The world as we knew it would forever change in America.  Heading up my own business, I had let my own body crush with stress. After all, I assumed exercise, a treat, not a necessity.

I take no drugs whatsoever. I eat nutritionally sound food, often organic. I pray. I love. But in this frightening economic downward spiral came other surprises and I was forced to stop long enough to take a hard look at my life and my body. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the liar of us all?

In yoga, the body is the temple of the soul. My temple looked more like a tent. I'd wear carefully chosen clothes to hide it but even the attire couldn’t fix the problem. And my face, well, the prize of stress and no exercise reared its ugly face on my face. A roadmap of wrinkles and dark under eye circles were my un-athletic trophies. Evidence of no exercising was now so apparent not even La Mer moisturizers could make it all disappear. The more makeup I'd apply, the more my secret of not exercising showed.

There's a cool saying, " Living Without Exercise is Like Smoking a Pack of Cigarettes a Day."  Nails it. Particularly if you're over 40. Over 50 and it’s a mantra.

So I started moving my body. Daily I'd do a little stretching and yoga. Free weights while I watched the news. Bands while I watched the ladies of The View on my self-imposed break. I picked up golf again. Exercise, though somewhat an annoyance from my workaholic addiction, became my newest friend. Not one I totally trusted. After all, I was really a workaholic. Fear based but also dedicated to doing the right thing for my family. No matter what the cost to me.

But slowly I noticed, the more I exercised, the better I felt. What was happening? The body fluff was melting. Slowly, but ever so surely. I was beginning to feel I deserved this time. I started to hear my mother's favorite reminder, "Nobody is gonna love you more than you love yourself." I started to love loving myself again. My body, my mind, my soul, my spirit, my all of me.

Mornings now consist of a cup of coffee (yes, the docs I've interviewed and respect say a cup ‘o jo is ok so that habit still stays in a singular form), and the computer slowly has become something I’ve had to 'Just Say No'  to until I've honored my body with focused movement and stretches.

I can't overstate the importance of exercise now. Maintaining a fit body after 40 is a necessity. After 50, it's life or death. During this period of life, peri-menopause and menopause come to nest and soon try to take ownership of our bodies. I perfer to own my body.

What happens when we exercise? Exercise relieves stress and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which sends blood flow to the genitals (translation: better sex). The sympathetic system, which gets our body ready for flight or fight, directs the blood flow to our legs, allowing us to walk or run faster, more assuredly. When we're in flight or fight mode, we're thinking of survival, not sex. Cortisol overflows like a broken pipe inside us if we don't exercise. When we move about and push the body, healthy endorphins come out to party in our brain. We start to feel g-o-o-d. Endorphins are feel-good brain hormones that contribute to an overall feeling of well-being. So we need to get this party started and exercise!

Did I mention that my waistline is a bit trimmer? Yep. Hips are wide but not wider. Love handles are no longer looking like handles. Buttock muscles are screaming that they don't want to lift up but I'm gonna win. The pear-shaped body nature gave me to birth children is getting a boot camp makeover.  

I'm feeling so incredibly much happier, better, 'gooder.'

So if you have the habit like I did of over-working, over-worrying, visualize that image of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. It's ugly. So is a body that’s not exercising. Join me to make our lives healthy, wealthy, wise, and pretty, inside and out. Eat, pray, love and exercise. Every. Single. Beautiful. Day.


Patty Kovacs
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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lois Stern & Patty Kovacs wrote Jan 18, 2009
    • Great reminder to help us all start out the new year with some physical fitness goals. We might not be able to fix the economy, but we can fix our inner spirit while working to tone our slightly out-of-shape bodies.

      Nice work, Patty,

      Your East Coast Eye on Beauty partner,

      Lois W. Stern

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