"The human body is the best picture of the human soul."—Ludwig Wittgenstein
Here’s an instant Rorschach-type test:
How did you interpret the title of this post when you first read it?
Did you think about what your sagging middle or six-pack abs might say to other people? “He’s a couch potato” or “She’s a fitness fanatic.”
Were you thinking about what you “hear” from your reflection in the mirror? “I’m getting old” or “You look hot today!”
Did you think about the signals your body tries to give you? A stomachache to let you know your Large Everything-On-It-Pizza with Extra Cheese may not have been the best choice for last night’s dinner? Burning eyes to tell you to get off the computer and into bed? A rush of adrenalin to warn you to avoid that dark alleyway?
Were you thinking of your body type and what that announces about you? Tiny says delicate, big says powerful. Shapely says sexy, skinny says nerdy. Slumped shoulders means weak. Broad shoulders means confident.
How about what your body says to your physician or healer? “Ridges across the fingernails, maybe diabetes” or “Puffy legs, looks like water retention” or “Too much weight around the middle, might be heart risk.”
Do you look at your body and think it says something about your character? “If I had any willpower, I’d lose that 20 pounds” or “I’ve built the physique I want and clearly have my life under control!”
Whatever your answer was, it indicates something about your relationship to your body. Several years ago, here’s what my body said to me: “Matt, you aren’t really walking your talk. Based on how you treat your physical body, you aren’t really living the totally empowered life you’re telling others is possible.”
I had dedicated my life to training myself and others to expand and grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But as far as my physical body? I pretty much dragged it around with me, not giving it enough sleep, nutrition, and certainly not enough exercise. And I did that for years, knowing full well about all of the research proving that exercise and physical health are crucial to your mental/emotional well-being.
My body tried to warn me that I was off-base and unaligned. It would allow me to run intensive weekend trainings on little sleep and junk food, then it would crash and burn for literally a week afterward. It let me consistently burn the midnight oil to complete my Ph.D. but signaled its protest by having my brain run at slug-speed as I tried to write or study, making everything harder than I knew it could be. I was overweight and out of shape. Still, I ignored it.
Until one day, my body said very clearly (through the voice of my dear wife), “Matt, you aren’t really walking your talk in terms of total empowerment.”
I finally got the message. So for several years now, I’ve been consistent with a workout routine and nutrition program that has served me well. I call it Empowerment Fit and it’s become integrated into my daily life. I can now run a week-long intensive training and feel energetic and relaxed afterward. When I sit down to write or create new programs for my students, I’m much more productive and creative than I was years ago. Decisions come more easily and upsets are less upsetting.
Being aligned with my own physical health has allowed me to be more fully aligned in all of the other areas of my life.
How? We all know (or should know by now!) the physical health benefits of physical exercise. But what about its other effects?
- Physical exercise improves your mood. Research has proven what Dr. Paul Dudley White said many years ago, “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” Studies on depression and anxiety all indicate that a regular exercise program is as effective in avoiding and relieving symptoms of depression or stress as popular drug interventions.
- A good workout can sharpen your mind. Studies have shown how exercise can improve everything from academic performance to problem-solving skills to memory. As fitness trainer Chalene Johnson says, “The American College of Sports Medicine found that the productivity of people after exercise was an average of 65 percent higher than those who did not exercise. If I have something that's really bothering me, so much that it almost hurts my head to try to sort it out, I always find the solution in a puddle of sweat! Intense exercise is like taking a magic pill that gives you the ability to solve problems like a superhero.”
- A fitness regimen will improve your sex life. A Harvard University study looked at 160 male and female swimmers in their 40s and 60s and determined that “regular physical activity was associated with more frequency and enjoyment of sex.” In fact, the “swimmers in their 60s actually reported sex lives comparable to those in their 40s.”
Various studies from places like the New England Research Institute, University of California at San Diego, and Harvard School of Public Health have studied the issue of impotence. They found that a) men who already exercised regularly were less likely to experience problems with impotence and b) sedentary men who began exercise programs reported “more reliable sexual functioning, more frequent sexual activity and orgasms, and greater satisfaction.”
- Exercise can help you sleep better. It seems like I’m running into more and more people who complain that they have insomnia! Apparently, about 35-40% of all US adults have problems falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness. The journal Mental Health and Physical Activity reported a national study of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85. The study concluded that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week translated into a 65% improvement in sleep quality. The active group also reported feeling less sleepy during the day, than those who were less physical activity.
I’m sure there are many other benefits I haven’t covered. But if a good exercise routine only makes you happier, sharper mentally, more productive and creative, gives you better sleep, and improves your sex life, maybe it’s time to listen to what your body is saying about you and get active!
A last thought:
“Believe it or not, your body has nothing but unconditional love for you. The proof? Without any effort on your part, your heart is beating, your lungs are breathing, and the rhythm of life is graciously flowing through you every second of every day—unconditionally.”
― Elaine Moran
To your total empowerment!