By Sari Huhtala
Exercise – simply moving the body – has far-reaching benefits beyond merely building muscle mass, strength and flexibility. Some psychologists have even embraced the idea of exercise as a behaviour intervention to ease depression. For everyday living exercise is the single one best thing you can do for your health – it has implications for everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s to anxiety.
One might say that exercise is more about the mind than the body – at least that’s been the experience of Canadian fitness guru Tony Greco, founder of Greco Fitness Studios, which span across the Ottawa region into Quebec and Toronto, with future plans to expand across Canada and into the U.S.
No one can argue that a body that functions well uplifts the spirit. Suddenly, the once-overweight, unfit mom now has the stamina and strength to carry her children up the stairs. The obese woman who once sat with a personal trainer, wiping tears from her eyes as she expressed her deepest desire was to just to be able to climb up onto a chair and reach into the top shelf of her pantry to retrieve a simple food item, suddenly is able to do just that. The grandmother who once struggled to pull herself off the couch to come to the aid of her grandson is now able to. These are the things of substance, all the little things that spark a sense of happiness for people, Greco says.
The inability to do the simple physical tasks for every day life – these are the challenges that hinder people’s growth, Greco says. Functional fitness is about being strong enough to do the things one needs to do in everyday life – like keeping up with the grandkids.
“Physical fitness is the platform to getting every human being to find out who they are and what they want,” Greco says.
No other modality can provide the vast number of benefits that exercise does. Battling depression? Exercise is an antidote. Tired of popping pills to normalize blood pressure or lower cholesterol levels? Exercise is the answer, Greco says.
Exercise simply is the prescription as medicine for everyday life, Greco says.
“The front part of the brain is so activated when you are moving,” Greco says. “If you could ignite that all the time – to have more energy, more motivation, more power and more strength, imagine what that would be like for you? Do what it takes to activate it. Just move.
“You have neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel good when you exercise– and sometimes it may only last an hour – but as you continue to make exercise a habit it’s like taking a magic pill every day. Every time you’re igniting these good feelings, you are uplifting your attitude. The best fuel you can give your brain is exercise.”
No stranger to the fitness scene, Greco, Canada’s leading fitness specialist, is frequently sought out by some of the biggest names in NHL for his training expertise. But the whole idea of exercise is not just about sweating it out in a gym, he says. It’s all about uplifting the attitude. And when it comes to life, attitude is everything.
“Everything begins with a thought form. The first step is simply deciding what you want.”
There’s something incredibly transformative that unfolds in the gym. The gym is where one would find a collective consciousness of individuals who have gathered to fuel their spirit by moving their bodies, he says.
“The gym is where you get rid of toxins, stress, anger; at the gym you become your best self. You may have had a bad day, but when you’re in the gym you’re feeling better. It’s about being able to let your negative thoughts go into a place where fitness will take you to a different thought process.
“The energy in a physical fitness place is positive. It’s an uplifting place to be. It’s about how you feel, not how you look.”
But a fitness club isn’t the only solution, he adds.
“That first step doesn’t have to be in a gym,” Greco says. “Maybe that first step is starting a walking group in a park with friends, or maybe just joining a swimming class.
“There’s always a way to get there,” Greco says. “There is no giant step. If you take your first step then you are going to get there.”
A lot of people are lazy, and laziness leads to complacency, he says.
“You wake up one morning and realize you are not your normal you – you’re just not the person you were years ago,” Greco says. “And sometimes that feeling goes well beyond that and it goes into depression, and then suddenly you find yourself on medications to manage that depression.”
Putting movement into the body is a prescription for uplifting one’s spirits, he says.