Obvious Lessons in Exercise: We’re All Stuck Embodied
I don't fsck with not getting exercise anymore.
I do at least the basics (pushups/situps/squats/triceps/or something), stretching, and some weightlifting, at least a few times a week, no matter what. I also make sure to get a workout from walking — I walk fast, concentrate on my form, and always take the stairs. And this is not difficult — know why? Because there's been SO much positive reinforcement from doing it, that I'd sooner not eat food at this point, than not exercise.
Exercise means I stay warm, feel alert, don't feel sore, am not anywhere near as stressed, and go through my days feeling strong and solid and reassuringly capable. Many other people either limp along, due to age or weakness, or they're fine but only by luck; if they fell or suddenly had to catch something or move something or burst into action, they'd be at risk — but I get to feel all the time like I'm in nearly top condition for my size, age and build. (Some lucky suckers get to feel like this anyway, but I never did; even when I was young, I was pretty weak from…oh right…lack of exercise.)
Oh, and I get to look nice. I'm not a model-type and I'm not a bodybuilder; I'm not "cut" and I don't really care — I don't do the kinds of working out that burn of all one's fat, really — but having well-exercised muscles means a) a pleasing overall shape and b) effortless control of excess body-fat. You can pinch an inch on me (which, no matter what anyone says, plenty of people consider attractive anyway) — but I went and bought some pants that fit the other day, and after a massive trying-on-of-things, guess what I learned? That since I started working out, I've gone from a solid size US 10, cresting into 12, down to a 6. Without trying to lose weight at all. That's the size I wore in high-school, by the way, and it isn't tight on me today. I wouldn't wear a bikini — as if I ever have, or want to — but I feel good and I know I look pretty damn good.
To that last phrase: Knowing you look good is one of those things that I, at least, wish didn't matter; but we're social creatures, and it just does. It doesn't require being the prettiest person anywhere to reap the benefits — knowing that you look good for you is enough. Knowing that you're strong and healthy for you is good enough too. The mental change is quite profound — it gives you the confidence to act like yourself around people that you otherwise might have backed down to for stupid reasons…because they're younger, or thinner, for example. You see that all the time in a social work-environment, and it often leads to incompetent people getting a big raise or promotion simply because the more competent person didn't like holding themselves up for comparison against the young/skinny person, simply because they aren't confident about the shape they're in — not compared to others, but relative to how they themselves could be. An older person or heavier person who exercises and is in good shape is a truly formidable opponent in the workplace; their decades of experience is a powerful asset, but only if they're not afraid to use it. (Some people — especially autism-spectrum people, in my experience — can actually just ignore the whole physical side of those equations. But most people can't, or don't.)
We're all stuck being embodied, dammit.
For the price of a few minutes every other day, it's possible to make that an asset, even if it's usually a detriment to you. Even if you're in a wheelchair, working out the muscles you can will make you feel and look better. Exercise is just a no-lose proposition, and I'm rather irked that I didn't know this, or know how to take advantage of it, until I was thirty. But it's made being thirty far more awesome than it could have been!