My husband has never been much into working out. He’s generally an active guy who was into skateboarding as a kid, and now as an adult prefers to get his exercise by chasing around the kids or snowboarding each winter. I, on the other hand, regularly exercise each week, whether it be early-morning runs, bootcamp, or weekend yoga classes. For a brief two-year period somewhere in our 20s, we made it to the gym on a regular basis together, but since having kids almost nine years ago, he hasn’t consistently worked out at all. In just a few short months, he’ll turn 40, and today, I bought him an early birthday present: a one-month membership to a local CrossFit gym. I’m hoping he doesn’t resent me for it. After all, buying your spouse a gym membership is tantamount to saying, “Honey, you need to work out.” Sorry honey, but you do.
Without getting into the specifics of body type, muscle mass, and bicep size, my husband has always been on the slender side, and, most important, he’s had the energy level to remain active and, overall, be healthy. He can jump in the pool and swim with the kids for hours. He has no problem cruising around the block on his skateboard, and he devotes time and energy to coaching our son’s baseball team each season. So why take the initiative to buy him a gym membership and give him a not-so-subtle message that it’s time to hit the weights? Several factors motivated my decision, including my admission of selfishness when it came to his fitness routine.
Here are 3 reasons I’m getting my husband a gym membership for his birthday:
1. Working out regularly will help him feel less stressed.
As a small business owner for the last eight years, a lot of time, energy, and tears have gone into building a successful business. But the stress of running your own business never seems to go away and often just grows as the business grows. Between late nights at the office or sleepless nights thinking about unfinished work and the day ahead, my husband carries a great deal of stress, which can keep him up at night and turn his stomachs into knots. The experts agree, from the Harvard Medical School to the MayoClinic, regular exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety and even fight off bouts of depression, which can in turn improve sleep and lift your spirits.
2. Exercise fights aging!
Even though he can kick a ball around on the soccer field or pull off a mean cannonball, my husband will often walk away from physical activity feeling bruised and a bit worn-down. His knees give him trouble, his back feels stiff, and his neck is often tight. He doesn’t undergo anything debilitating or life-threatening, but as his body ages, his body reacts in protest when it experiences a jolt in activity. He does a good job of convincing himself that he’s still in fairly decent shape, especially because the number on the scale has barely fluctuated. His body knows what his mind and attitude are reluctant to admit. While our bodies will inevitably succumb to the effects of aging whether we exercise or not, several studies suggest that regular exercise can actually slow the aging process on a molecular level, and with that, stave off general aches and pains for a few years at least.
3. Men’s bodies change anatomically and biologically as they age
The list of benefits of regular exercise for adults is extensive, and it is especially advantageous for men, who start to lose muscle mass in their 40s, and also gain, on average, 3-4 pounds of fat a year beginning at midlife. Not only does the average man start to gain weight and lose muscle midlife, but more men die each year from heart attacks than women, and a man’s blood itself changes, becoming thicker, stickier, and harder to pump through the body. Some of the top ten benefits of regular exercise for the aging man include the lowering of cholesterol levels, lower triglycerides, a lower risk of diabetes, and a reduction in colon cancer risk. All these add up to a shot at a longer, healthier, and happier life.
So, with all of these obvious reasons for my husband to make regular exercise a priority, why the heck hasn’t he?
Last night I admitted to myself that beyond the excuses of a demanding job and family life filled with packed schedules and obligations, a lot of it comes down to myself and the role I play in helping him get to the gym. While I had worked hard to lose the baby weight and stay active and healthy, I often felt a tinge of resentment that he wasn’t doing more to keep himself fit.
But through all my finger pointing and eye rolling at his list of excuses, I finally realized that I haven’t made it all that easy for him either. First, my work-from-home schedule allows me more flexibility than his demanding job. Plus, I’m naturally a morning person, whereas he’s a night owl who would never dream of getting up for a 6 a.m .run.
In addition, as his workday draws to a close, I often start calling to ask when he’ll be home. We want him home so we can spend time together as a family, but I also express my desire for him to help out with the kids and the nightly responsibilities of homework and bath time. If he said he wanted to hit the gym after work, I’d of course oblige, but I can’t say I’d “happily oblige.” With my track record of nagging texts to hurry home, in all honestly, I probably wouldn’t come off as all that supportive.
So it turns out I probably play a bigger role in my husband’s exercise routine than I’ve ever realized. Most of us need a support system to push us past our comfort zone — and that all too comfortable couch. Whether it be a motivating trainer, a fun group exercise class, a health scare, or even a supportive partner, those who encourage us on our fitness journey play a bigger role in our health than they’ll ever know and we’ll even admit. I only wish it hadn’t taken me this long to recognize that.
Self-care isn’t just about exercising to get a specific physique, but exercising to be healthy, increase longevity, and improve your overall quality of life. In our early years of dating, I may have wanted my guy to workout to look great, but now I want him to workout to feel great. I’m ready and willing to parent solo a few nights a week if it will help him get there. I’m hoping this one-month gym pass will kick-start many more happy, consistent months and years of exercise for my husband. After all, I’m removing some of the previous roadblocks and excuses he may have had before. He’s a pretty great guy, and an even greater husband and father, and we’d like to keep him around for as long as possible. Wish me luck in sharing the news with him this evening.