The Secret to Life Is Simpler Than You Think…

Do you want to know the key to life? More specifically, do you want the secret to living a happier, longer life? Do you want to have a balanced mental state? Do you want to have more energy and feel good throughout the day so that you can perform better at work, better at home, better at saving the world…better at whatever you were destined to do? Do you want to have a clear mind, clear arteries, clear lungs, and a clear vision of who you want to be? Looking ahead, do you want to wake up every morning at the age of 85 and not only be able to dress and feed yourself, but also be able to catch a plane to travel the world? Clearly, the answer to all of these questions is yes! Here’s how you achieve that and it is very simple to do.

Most people either don’t want to believe this, or they don’t want to do the work, or they are intimidated — I am still trying to figure it out — but the key to life is simple. There’s no pill, no book, no machine, no cleanse, no TV show or podcast that will do the trick. The key to life is good old fashioned exercise. You knew I was going to say that, right? But it’s true. We have to exercise consistently in order not to die. Sorry, but I feel like I have to practice some tough love here, so hear me out.

Let’s listen to science. A 2018 study from JAMA found that “Cardiorespiratory fitness is inversely associated with long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit.” Translation? We humans have to practice sustained exercise habits in order not to die earlier than we should. TIME magazine reported on this study with a more blunt title: “Not Exercising May Be Worse for Your Health Than Smoking, Study Says.” See what I mean?

Okay, so now that I have your attention, I’m not going to leave you alone on this. If I taught a course, I’d call it Living to Live 101.


Work out every day.

Yes, I’ve said this before, and I’m going to keep saying it until I see it happening. Does this seem impossible? If it does, that’s only a mindset. You already brush your teeth, shower, shop online, read Stylebook, etc., etc., etc. Why is exercise not on that list?

Do the style of workout you enjoy. Sara loves yoga!

Carve out time in your day. At first, this will seem frustrating, you will feel annoyed to have to stop the normal flow of your day to exercise. But, if you stick with the mindset that exercise is your daily routine, pretty soon you’ll find yourself planning your day around your workout instead of planning your workout around your day. You will actually start to look forward to it. I promise. What’s the duration? It can range from 20 minutes to an hour. Try to dedicate three to four hours a week to moderate to vigorous exercise. What does that mean? Moderate: you can talk but not sing. Vigorous: you’re working hard enough that you can still talk but only a few words at a time. If you consider yourself to be out of shape, work your way up to this.


Stop worrying about what to do and just do.

There’s so much information out there and so many opinions, and I definitely have my own. However, keeping it simple is the best means to get into a routine. Pick two to three exercise activities that you enjoy. If you hate rowing machines, don’t do a rowing machine; if you hate running, please don’t run. If you like to cycle, practice yoga, and lift weights…focus on those styles of exercise and mix it up. For example, I love Pilates (duh), dancing, and running. I mix up those three things and add in one cycle class a week.

I don’t always get to exercise while teaching.

I know what you’re thinking: “But you own a fitness studio, it’s easy for you.” No, for years I never participated in my own classes or Mind the Mat’s. I was in the same boat as you — I still had to carve out time to workout every day. Keeping it simple like this and sticking to what I love to do helped shape my love for working out.


Plan ahead with friends.

This is also not a new concept but it works. My entire life and career have been focused on exercise and I still need this accountability. Every Thursday I schedule a class with friends. We text each other when we’ve registered and we double confirm that each is going. Nowadays, if one of us misses class, we are devastated…it’s that important to us. With so many boutique fitness options out there now, you can definitely find something for you and your like-minded buddies.

Workout with your bud. It’s more fun.

Okay, how does all that sound? Is it easier to digest? If you want suggestions of where to start, of course I am going to recommend our studios at Mind the Mat. We have carefully curated our schedule so that we have a program for everyone. Here are some examples of classes and their general focus:

Power Yoga: Cardio, Strength & Stretch

Pilates Boot Camp: Cardio & Strength

Slow Flow Yoga: Flexibility & Toning

Barre: Low Impact Strength

Deep Stretch: Flexibility & Mobility

Restorative & Gentle: Stress Relief & Flexibility

HAWT Pilates: Strength & Low Impact Cardio

See our whole schedule here


If you are terrified, please reach out to me. I feel like it’s my destiny to spread the “exercise saves lives” gospel — I can help steer you in the right direction, even if it’s away from Mind the Mat. Email me.

Before you start any exercise program, please make sure you get the okay from your physician.

This post first appeared in Alexandria Stylebook January 2019.


  • The latest from Megan
Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.     

3300 Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA 22201


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