Exercise doesn’t make up for Krispy Kremes and cigarettes

I used to have a client who was strong and trained hard but had a few really concerning health habits. He would puff a cigarette a few minutes before his four-mile run and load up on Krispy Kremes when he finished. He justified his actions by working out regularly, but unfortunately our bodies don’t work that way.

My client was in his 40s, and I trained him for eight months. Although his body fat percentage wasn’t necessarily unhealthy when we started, and he would push himself during workouts, it was hard to progress them. The most basic exercises kept getting more difficult.

Before he would leave his training sessions, I would warn him about the dangers associated with his habits and urge him to get his blood pressure tested. I was afraid if he didn’t change, he would eventually be one of the millions of Americans diagnosed with coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease.

He had a difficult time understanding how the disease could ever affect him. After all, he exercised regularly and wasn’t obese, right? So I explained what was actually going on inside his body.

Consuming too many toxins (in this case sugar and nicotine) eventually hardens and narrows the walls of our arteries. This is due to a build up of cholesterol and other matter, which most people know as plaque. As this builds up, blood flow is restricted, which means less oxygen is getting to our hearts. This can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, other coronary diseases, and ultimately, a heart attack.

One day after a training session, my client surprised me saying he wanted to see his physician about the issue. Although the results didn’t surprise me, he was in shock. His blood pressure was at a dangerously high level, way above the healthy 120/80. But the results pumped some healthy fear into his mind, causing him to nix his bad habits, one step at a time.

It was like night and day how his attitude, fitness level and physical appearance improved. Although he’s no longer a current client, I still keep tabs on him, and every conversation starts with him saying how that day he got his blood pressure checked changed his perspective on life. It took a doctor actually showing him where his health was headed to scare him straight.

While important, it’s dangerous to assume that exercise alone will keep you safe from a particular medical condition. Keep the rest of your lifestyle habits in check and be sure to get an annual health screening. It’s important to stay healthy both outside and in!