The Benefits of Regular Exercise*
[*This sample essay was written for the use of our students by Bette Latta, a professor in the English Department at the former State Technical Institute at Memphis, and is reproduced here with her permission. The added notes are mine.]
A. An overaccumulation of adrenaline produces tension.
B. Exercise or active participation in sports releases tension.
II. Another benefit is an improved appearance.
A. The figure becomes more firm and trim.
B. Clothes look better.
C. Skin may become clearer.
III. Still another benefit is increased stamina.
A. Better muscle tone and strength improve performance.
B. One may be better able to ward off illness.
Please note: This outline omits the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. Since the outline's primary purpose is to identify main ideas and support, omitting the introduction and conclusion makes sense. The main idea of the introduction is already expressed in the thesis statement, and its support emerges from all of the body paragraphs. Similarly, the main idea of the conclusion is a reinforcement of the thesis, and its real support also lies in the body paragraphs. Nevertheless, you should not approach the writing of your introduction and conclusion paragraphs casually. You need to recognize their special purposes, and choose the methods that will best suit your purposes in a particular essay.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
In recent years many people have become increasingly aware of the need for physical fitness .* Almost everywhere people turn, whether it is to a newsstand, television or billboard , * advice for guarding and improving health bombards them. Although much of this advice is commercially motivated by those eager to sell vitamins, natural foods and reducing gimmicks ,* some of it, especially that advocating a regular exercise program, merits serious attention. Such a program, if it consists of at least thirty minutes three times a week and if a person's physician approves it,* provides numerous benefits. Regular exercise releases tension, improves appearance, and increases stamina .*
*The introduction begins with a broad view of physical fitness generally, but also engages the reader by connecting with general experience
*Notice that the writer reaches past the general "anywhere one looks" to the more specific and concrete "newsstand, television or billboard."
*Again notice the specifics—not just "to sell products" or "to sell stuff." The specifics make the idea more convincing, and create more associations for the reader.
*Notice how the introduction is a good place to present background, definitions and limitations that affect the thesis and topic generally.
*By placing the thesis at the end of the introduction, the writer not only makes the main point clear and emphatic, but also makes sure that the essay’s main point is uppermost in the reader’s mind as the reader begins the body of the essay.
The first of these benefits, the release of tension, is immediate .* Tension builds in the body because of an overaccumulation of adrenaline produced by stress, anxiety, or fear. * Doctors agree that performing calisthenics or participating in an active sport such as tennis or volleyball for thirty minutes releases tension. If a person swims, jogs or rides a bicycle for half that time, he or she should sleep better at night and have a better temperament the next day. In addition, after the release of tension, petty irritations and frustrations should be less troubling. * For example, an employee upset by the day's work and by traffic congestion may rush home, argue with the family, and eat excessively. Taking about thirty minutes to release frustrations through physical exercise could help him or her to avoid this behavior. Planned physical exercise, therefore, can eliminate, or at least control, tension.*
*This sentence offers the ¶ idea (release of tension), renews the essay idea (these benefits), and also alerts the reader to the underlying logic of the arrangement of main ideas ("is immediate" suggests to the reader that the essay will follow a chronological order, the order in which the benefits become available).
*Again, notice the specifics in the next two sentences—specific activities and specific benefits.
*Note again how the general term, "petty irritations and frustrations," is followed by specific examples. Whether you use the exact words or not, "for example" is a helpful concept to employ.
*This closing sentence reinforces both the ¶ idea and the essay idea.
An improved appearance, which is a second benefit of regular exercise, * is not as immediately apparent *as a better disposition .* Exercise takes perhaps a month or longer to show its results in a trimmer, firmer figure. Improvement, however, will come. A person who is ten pounds overweight, for instance, may be able during this time to burn away most excess fat and to tighten muscles, thereby reshaping the physique. Having improved muscle tone and even posture, he or she will wear clothes more attractively and comfortably. Combined with a sensible diet, an exercise program will also improve a person's skin tone. This improved appearance will provide confidence and favorably impress others.
*See how the ¶ opens with both the new ¶ idea and a renewal of the essay idea. There’s no way the reader can get lost here.
*"Not as immediate" reinforces the underlying chronological order of the main ideas.
*"Better disposition" points back at the preceding ¶.
In addition to the self-confidence engendered by an improved appearance, increased physical strength produces stamina.* A stronger, healthier body is obviously more capable of working harder and , in fact, of withstanding normal fatigue then a tense, weak one. A worker who exercises should be able to complete a forty-hour week and still retain enough energy for mowing the grass, painting the garage, or cleaning windows .* Similarly, the student who goes to school, keeps house and perhaps works part time should accomplish tasks efficiently. Equally important, this stamina helps to ward off illnesses such as colds and influenza. Altogether, improved endurance is one of the most important benefits of a regular exercise program.
*Note the transition, pointing back to the preceding ¶ and ahead to the new ¶ idea.
*I know this is frivolous of me, but I would rather have the extra energy for enjoying a hike or bicycle ride. I’m not sure I perceive more energy for yard work as a real plus!
Although easy solutions to the goals of losing weight and achieving an attractive, energetic body saturate the media ,* actually acquiring these benefits is not easy. The rewards, however, are fully worth the effort of an established exercise program that makes a person feel relaxed, look healthy, and have adequate strength for strenuous as well as routine activities . *
*This is an example of the "circle close." The conclusion returns to the opening, repeating the initial example, question, problem or statement that opens the essay. This provides a satisfying sense of overall design and completeness, and strengthens unity. This is not the only approach to an effective conclusion, and sometimes it seems artificial or forced, but it’s often smooth, effective, and easy. Be sure to note how it works here by rereading the introduction to see how it is repeated here.
*Note how clearly the essay idea and the main supporting points are reinforced through their restatement here. The overall pattern of the essay follows old advice for effective public speaking: "Tell 'em what you’re gonna tell 'em; tell 'em; then tell 'em what you told 'em." In a short essay, this approach can sometimes seem like overkill—but there’s little risk of your readers being confused..
go back to the description of five-paragraph themes in "Thesis Statements, Outlines, and Five-Paragraph Themes"