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How to Save Your Life with Exercise

Save Your Life with Exercise

Have you ever thought about why people spend so much time working out? Gym commercials will tell it's about looking good. Sweat for awhile so you can be one of the pretty people. It's a great sales pitch, but it's not the reason that really matters. This is.

Exercise gives you the ability to live a life with fewer restrictions.

I have a friend that was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1993. Doctors gave him six months to live. They told him if he was lucky, he might make it two years, but that would be the best he could expect. They advised him to make out a will and say his goodbyes. Then they closed his file and sent him home. They told him there was nothing more they could do.

My friend hadn't even celebrated his 30th birthday, and now doctors were telling him that living that long was probably an unrealistic goal.

My friend decided he wasn't going to go as quietly or quickly as everyone expected. He was going to be the exception. He made appointments with medical specialists. He read every clinical study he could get his hands on. He explored every option, hair-brained theory and crack-pot treatment anybody told him about. Somewhere out there was the answer, he just had to find it.

As the weeks and months went by, things were going downhill. My friend started dropping weight as he went from 165 pounds, to 145 and finally 130. He was nauseous all the time from his medications. Something as simple as climbing out of bed became a struggle.

In 1994 if you wanted the most up-to-date information about an illness, you had to attend medical conferences. But they were expensive, open almost exclusively to doctors and held in places that were far away from where my friend lived. That's when he had a stroke of luck. A big medical conference on his illness was being held in a town just a few hours away.

My friend talked a neighbor into helping him get there. He couldn't afford the $50 fee per meeting, so he waited outside the doors of each presentation. When people came out, he asked each of them if he could borrow their handouts.

That's when my friend met the person that would save his life. One of the presenters overheard him asking for the literature and asked why he needed it. My friend told the presenter he believed there must be a way to beat his illness, he just needed to discover the secret.

The presenter looked at my friend and started to laugh. "The secret?" he said. "You think there's some secret you'll learn behind these closed doors? There's no magic pill. If there was it would be in a jar and we'd be getting rich selling it to you!"

The presenter went on to tell him what he had seen in his 40 years of practice.

"The secret is what you do every day. We've only got one body and it's the choices we make that determine how long that body will last. If you want to have the strength to get out and do things, you have to build muscle. If you want stamina, you have to do some kind of cardio. If you want to feel good, you have to provide your body with proper fuel."

My friend interrupted the presenter and said, "But I only have a few months to live. What will diet and exercise do for me?"

The presenter said, "Each day you work on your body you buy a little more time. Don't sit on the couch moping about your life, try some cardio to lift your spirits. Workout and build muscle, because the stronger you are, the more your body can fight. Every day you exercise you're pushing death a little further away."

It was crazy, but my friend was desperate enough to try.

The diet and exercise took him back from the brink. He still had a terminal illness, but whenever the illness would strike, my friend had the tools to fight back.

It's now been over 17 years since that original, terminal diagnosis. My friend still has the disease, but he's alive. For him, exercise isn't a luxury that he can start and stop. He must keep his body in fighting condition. If he lets up, he'll die.

Exercise does so much. It lifts our mood and makes us feel better about ourselves. It strengthens our bodies so we can fend off illness. It gives us more energy to get through a day.

Unlike my friend, for most of us exercise isn't mandatory to stay alive. But it helps in so many ways, why wouldn't you want those benefits? Exercise is a gift we give to ourselves. Aren't you worth it?

UPDATE: It's now been over 20 years since my friend's "terminal" diagnosis. He's still alive and doing well!

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 5/5/2014