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Gray: The secret to happiness exposed

September 18, 2012
Trina Gray , The Alpena News

Of all the reasons to get fit, have you considered this one?

Happiness. Yes real, belly laughing, let's tackle the day, life is sunny happiness.

You thought I was going to say: "weight loss." I know. That is what people think of first, or what they want most. But wouldn't you say that happiness carries even greater weight than the scale?

Did you know that just 45 minutes of physical activity a few days per week could change your life? Wait, first I said you could find happiness, now I'm talking about changing your life? Yes, fitness is that transforming. I've seen it hundreds of times over and there is even scientific research to prove it.

A recent study published in "The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want" shares an eye-opening finding. People who exercised for 45 minutes, just three times per week at moderate to high intensity (more than a leisurely walk) had greater success treating their clinical depression than those who used the anti-depressant Zoloft, or even a combination of Zoloft and exercise. Even six months later, participants in the exercise group were less likely to relapse into depression. I'm certainly not suggesting that you cancel your prescriptions, if you have them. That's between you and your medical practitioner. However, I am stating quite loudly that fitness is a powerful medicine, a mood booster that is untouchable. With a good mood, comes a good life.

What an amazing return on investment. Three exercise sessions of 45 minutes is just one percent of the time in your entire week. That is just two hours and 15 minutes out of 168 hours in your week. Can you please invest that time into fitness? If you do, the rest of your day and life will go better. Is that television show, phone conversation, Facebook session, or errand that you're running producing that kind of result? No.

It's never too late to choose happiness.

I received a gut-wrenching email this week from a 49-year-old woman in Texas. She's a single mom of two daughters and also a grandmother. I'm a health and fitness coach nationally, so we connected. She told me her story. She was a basketball player and track star in high school and over the last three decades, she let herself go. She took care of others, never herself. She became a heavy smoker and gained a lot of weight that causes her severe back pain today. She ate mostly fried food and processed carbs and was not active. Her habits were rubbing off on her youngest daughter, who is overweight and unhappy in her body at the age of 13. This mom wants to rediscover the fit woman she used to be and hope that her daughter follows her lead.

What has she done so far? She quit smoking (what an accomplishment). With that savings, she bought an at-home fitness program to do alongside her daughter. She also invested in membership at a local gym to attend cycling classes and meet others who want to get fit. She needed to set up the right support system. As for her food, she just stopped frying her foods, cut out soda and is drinking lots of water. She is on the right track, although the battle is tough. I am honored to support her on this journey.

At the end of her email, she shared one other bit of personal information that made my heart sink. She wrote: "I know that I need to get healthy, to get new energy. I'm crying as I type this email. My marriage of 20 years recently ended in divorce. I need this."

I'm not diagnosing her and I'm not a licensed therapist. I'm simply sharing my insights from years of experience working in health and fitness and with thousands of people.

Do you think her poor health (and likely his) affected the downfall of their marriage? Do you think that caring for others and never herself hurt their marriage? Do you think that even living with daily back pain and having low-energy put a strain on their marriage? My guess is yes.

Can I say this woman could have saved her marriage with fitness? Does that sound crazy to you? The answer is maybe. Maybe their issues were unrelated, but don't you think that all relationships in life connect back to how you feel about YOU?

When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to care for others. When we love ourselves, we are better able to love others. Choose to live fit because your mood, your day, your life and your relationships depend on it.

Trina Gray is the owner of Bay Athletic Club, a mother of two, a national presenter on fitness and wellness and a change agent in the community. Her wellness column appears monthly.



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