What’s so great about exercise anyway?

As far as I’m aware, there are three types of people when it comes to exercise: Those that are crazy about it, those in the middle ground (me!), and those that could not be more indifferent. Now of course there is a spectrum and everyone can’t be lumped into particular categories, but please do bear with me for simplicity’s sake. The first group require no external motivation as they already have their own systems in place, but the next two do; believe me when I say that motivation is the absolute key to beginning and maintaining exercise regimens. Without motivation, there’s no point in even beginning to exercise, as you’ll never maintain it.

Before we discuss motivation, time for a little lecture (I promise it really will be little). The levels of obesity, heart disease and conditions such as diabetes worldwide are rising, as countries undergo a phenomenon called the ‘epidemiological transition’, where the number of people dying due to infectious diseases decreases (e.g. due to better healthcare and emergency services, hand hygiene, antibiotics, vaccinations), whereas the number of people with long-term diseases increases, e.g. heart and lung conditions (as the longer a person lives, the more external factors they’re exposed to). These diseases, most importantly heart disease, are hugely influenced by lifestyle factors, such as weight, diet, exercise and smoking. Thus it seems to be a sensible option to target exercise to help address this particular issue.

Now, how to motivate yourself to exercise regularly? It’s not easy, and I know this as I lapse all the time, especially when it comes to exam time. But in the back of my mind, there’s always a desire to stay healthy, and that’s key. So why should you want to stay healthy? You’re probably thinking “What is Captain Obvious going on about?” at this point, but you’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to translate those answers you have right now in your head into solid actions. Islam teaches us to convert our intentions into actions, but just like in other areas of life, we’re sometimes unable to do that here. We have to find our own reasons to stay healthy, and I will mention some reasons that you can perhaps adopt as your own. This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are an endless number of reasons, but perhaps these will help to get your thought process started:

Lose weight

This could easily be the most common reason people start exercising. Perhaps it’s just a few pounds they want to drop to achieve an ‘ideal’ weight or body shape, or they would like to drastically reduce their size. Regardless of your motivation, weight loss can be beneficial for your health,

Avoid disease

It is well-documented that increased physical activity has health benefits, including reduction of diabetes and heart disease, so much so that doctors routinely recommend exercise regimens to those at risk of or already suffering from certain medical conditions, alongside dietary advice. Being of a particular ethnicity already puts many within the Muslim community and otherwise at risk of these problems (I’m looking at you, South-East Asians!), and so it becomes even more important to include exercise in our daily lives.

Live longer

Life and death are in the hands of no one except Allah SWT, but that does not mean that we are not expected to take care of our own health and hence prolong our time on this earth to do good work. Just like sustenance comes to those who work for it, good health comes to those who look after themselves. The knock-on effect of reduced disease is of course a longer life expectancy, as you avoid the complications that come with these conditions.

Honour the bounties of Allah SWT

In this world, we often look at the superficial and temporary things first, and reflect on the deeper meanings behind them later. Our bodies are not just vessels which enshroud our souls, but are also a gift to us from Allah (SWT). It is hence incumbent upon us to respect our bodies and take care of ourselves, so that we can ultimately honour this gift of life that we have been given. Not everyone is given good health, and for those of us who are blessed enough to possess this gift, this becomes even more important.

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We all want to be able to live long and see our families flourish, our children grow, and go on to have their own children. These wishes can only be fulfilled if we do enough to maintain our health long enough to see these things happen. Family is an extremely powerful motivator, as within Islam we are taught to look after the needs of our families even more than our own. This probably applies more to the older generation, but it is worth reflecting hard on what that half an hour of exercise every day can achieve for us in terms of our family lives.

I could probably continue to build a longer list, but you’ll get bored, and my fingers will probably fall off. The point of this article is not to force you to think of every single reason regarding why you should exercise, but to find just one reason which will ensure that you become and stay motivated, and to use this reason to push yourself forward.

At the end of the day, people such as myself can give all the advice and lectures they want, but ultimately it’s down to YOU to develop that motivation and maintain it.

So get motivated and stay motivated!

by Syed Taha

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