"If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all."
- Joey Adams
I’m starting this year with an emphasis on fitness. Why? Well, having gone through a personal fitness transformation in the last several years myself, I’ve come to understand that being in great condition physically supports everything else in my life.
It gives me the stamina I need to teach all the trainings I do across the country. It gives me the mental clarity I need to write all the articles, books, and blogs I write. It gives me the energy and emotional balance I need to be really present with my family and friends. It even helps me be patient with delayed flights, lost baggage, and computers that occasionally crash!
And if my mission is to empower my students so they can transform the world, they need the support of a healthy, fit body as well.
It’s funny, but when I was not in good shape physically, I didn’t realize all I was missing. And if you now find yourself in poor shape like I was years ago, you probably don’t realize what you’re missing either.
Here’s the deal: Few of us will stick to a program of getting physically fit without strong personal motivation.
Why? Because moving from out of shape to back in shape (or being in shape for the first time ever) requires effort, commitment, persistence, and the willingness to change. So we won’t stick with it just because our doctor or spouse tells us “it’s good” for us. We won’t stick to it to impress the neighbors or because our buddies have decided to slim down and shape up. To stay the course, we need stronger inspiration than that.
Medical researchers have given us all kinds of reasons to exercise and be active. They’ve proven that staying in shape not only decreases the risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and certain cancers (colon, breast, uterine, lung, and prostate), but being physically fit also strengthens our immune systems to fight off simple viral and bacterial infections.
Researchers in psychology have shown that physical exercise has a great impact on our emotional health as well. As Dr. James Blumenthal of Duke University put it, "There's good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program." After one of Dr. Blumenthal’s studies of patients with major depressive disorder, he concluded that exercise was as effective as antidepressants in relieving patients’ symptoms.
When it comes to longevity, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says, “Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.” In fact, one study concluded that by remaining physically active, the average 65-year-old can expect to gain an additional 12.7 years of healthy life–-meaning he or she will live disability-free until age 77.7. And highly active 65-years-olds can gain an additional 5.7 years of healthy life expectancy.
Add to that, now that researchers can peer into the brain to see individual neurons at work, we’re beginning to see how physical exercise appears to prevent physical shrinkage of the brain and enhance cognitive flexibility. Dr. Justin S. Rhodes of Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois recently conducted an experiment with mice and concluded that the only variable that made the mice “smarter” was exercise.
As Indian chess Grandmaster and former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand said recently, “I attend to my fitness. I go the gym every day and try to maintain my physical fitness; without that, it is tough to take challenges on the chess board.”
So getting physically fit and staying active can make you smarter, enhance your emotional well-being, help you resist disease, give you a longer and healthier life, and maybe even improve your chess game!
Yet most people still won’t do it without a strong personal motivation.
A strong personal motivation might sound like: “I want to live long enough and stay healthy to see my daughter graduate from college.” It could be “I want to have the strength and stamina to go camping in Tanzania next year.” Your strong personal motivation might be to overcome depression or prove to yourself that you can run a marathon—or even apparently become a chess Grandmaster!
It’s that strong personal motivation that will get you to tie your running shoes at 6 a.m., go to the gym during your lunch hour, or get off the couch to do some Zumba. Without it, you’re not likely to win the uphill battle. With it, your fitness goal is in the (gym) bag!
Until next time. . .
About the author: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where students learn Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna and Hypnosis(link is external). To learn more about NLP and MER check out our new Integrative NLP Practitioner Certification® Training