Post No.: 0924
Healthy living is beneficial for the well-being of both mind and body. It’s not just about disease prevention but also the way it makes us feel great! Being fit does help us to resist illnesses like cold viruses better and to recover faster if we do become ill, but exercise produces natural highs and other natural benefits too like giving us the feeling of having more energy, which improves our cognitive capacities, concentration levels and productivity. Smart people therefore care about the effect of their physical fitness levels on their cognitive performances.
Try exercising inbetween study sessions. Aerobic exercise helps boost our neuro-cognitive performance. It’s not only about getting a good flow of oxygenated blood around your brain – attributes that help us to succeed in physical exercise, like hard work, persistence and discipline, help us to succeed in intellectual activities too.
We get an improved quality of sleep. Exercise helps to better regulate our cortisol levels and increases our endorphin levels, which both improve our ability to cope with stress. Exercise is probably the best antidepressant there is. There are environmental benefits if we walk or cycle more. And there are social benefits to being active together or for feeling more physically attractive. For kids, most children naturally find physical play fun.
We also gain confidence from succeeding – and the best wins are those where you really personally risked losing i.e. where you had to overcome a tough challenge. Exercise goals can offer us such challenges. We gain a far greater sense of satisfaction, achievement and self-esteem from earning something than having it handed to us. Even if we fail, we have the opportunity to learn to pick ourselves back up again, and again.
Unfit people very often simply don’t know what they’re missing – that feeling that one can go on and on without tiring; the way life just seems easier. Even if you have clever ideas, you mightn’t be able to execute them because you lack the stamina. It’s like living to a fraction of one’s potential. We feel less need to compensate for our low self-esteem via superficial vanity and material possessions too – looking great on the surface doesn’t always translate to being healthy within anyway, and an external possession doesn’t make you because only you makes you. Feeling fit is fundamental to a high quality of life that no money can buy.
‘Buying our way to good health’ will never beat earning it through sweat because of the mental benefits of challenging exercise and practising self-discipline and dedication. Medications or surgery that tackle weight issues won’t yield us these mental benefits. We don’t just want to be disease-free – we want to be durable and fit! And if we become reliant on drugs for preventable diseases, we’ll always live in fear of them suddenly becoming unavailable to us.
Feeling fit adds to your present happiness levels. Physical achievements (personal bests) add to your life satisfaction. You learn more about yourself – that you can do things you thought you couldn’t do before, like perhaps run a marathon distance every day for a month. If your personal bests double, you’ll feel twice the person you were before! You’ll feel more capable of anything. Yes we must keep it up or lose it, but that’s the same with brushing our gnashers or keeping a job, for example.
So it’s not about not being obese – it’s about being as fit and strong as one can be. That’s what truly determines our health and longevity.
Our mental health and physical health affect each other bi-directionally. Keeping physically fit will improve our mental confidence. But if we lack confidence, we mightn’t wish to go to the gym and instead enter a cycle of comfort eating.
We need to understand delayed gratification. A bit of temporary pleasure now can result in greater lasting pain later, and a bit of temporary pain now can result in greater lasting pleasure later.
Life should really always be about caring about the long-term. Obviously if you die in the short-term, it’s not good for your long-term, yet that’s still about your long-term. If you survive for the long-term, you’ve logically survived for the short-term. But if you survive for the short-term, it won’t necessarily mean you’ll survive for the long-term. Life is too short – so don’t keep doing unhealthy things that make it shorter(!) The goal is to die young… as late as possible!
In space, or where the effect of gravity is low, your muscles find it easy and so they grow weaker. And if you get used to this and don’t do regular resistance-bearing exercises – once you return back to Earth, living on Earth will start to feel really hard. But it’s just living on Earth! This example demonstrates how easy it can be to get used to an easy life until what’s considered normal for most in other parts of the world today or in the past can suddenly start to feel ‘hard’. Some people will call you a ‘health freak’ for walking 2km instead of taking a ride, or think that cooking is too arduous because they’re now used to convenient takeaways, etc.. We lose touch of what’s truly tough. The perception of ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ speaks about our own comparative experiences. Ease is what we desire in our lifestyles, but constant ease reduces our comfort zones. It mightn’t matter if this state of ease lasts but life usually has a way of throwing challenges our way, and that’s when our weaknesses become exposed.
The ease is more secure if it comes from our own strength rather than from external things. Everybody is entitled to the comfort of survival and education (i.e. water, shelter, food, warmth, air, school, safety) but being able to do things the hard way will mean you’ll be able to do things the easy way. Meanwhile, being able to do things the easy way won’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to do things the hard way. If you’re content with less, you’ll be content with more; but not necessarily vice-versa. The conditions for happiness if we’re fit and strong are broader than if we’re not fit. Fewer things will faze us. When we’re weak in mind, body and spirit, more situations will cause us to feel grumpy, miserable, anxious, fearful or in pain. Pampered people make simple things sound strenuous to themselves – the alternative to eating chips isn’t starvation(!) This is why it’s detrimental to spoil one’s children. It’s not to say that all creature comforts should be ditched – just don’t take them for granted.
Being fit boosts both our physical and mental resilience. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; unless you get injured. If you’re stronger then you’ll feel less pain – so how can anything that makes you stronger be considered masochistic?! It’s not so much that your pain threshold increases but things will cause you less pain (e.g. pressing twice your bodyweight will feel less crushing). You’ll learn that you’ve coped with something grrruelling, which gives you confidence if you’re to face something just as gruelling again.
Life would be bland without a touch of pain (e.g. eating chillies). And the pain of exercise is massively different to that of genuine torture – with exercise, you know when the pain will end, while with torture you won’t. Not knowing when something will end, if it ever will, is the real torture because what’s happening doesn’t have to be that painful at all (e.g. water dripping on your forehead doesn’t ‘hurt’ at all). It’s about voluntary moments of stress. It’s counterintuitive but if you hate involuntary pain – train with voluntary pain.
Train tough to get stronger. Live easy to get weaker. If you can, it helps to make your training conditions harder than the competition conditions. When young, Cristiano Ronaldo attached weights to his ankles so that his training was harder. Whenever he removed them, it felt easier for him to do tricks in a proper game of football. High-altitude training employs the same principle. That’s like exercise generally – it should feel tough in those moments, but once it’s over, and you’re released from the strain and you’ve recovered, proper life feels a little more effortless. You want to be like Superman coming from Krypton to Earth, instead of like a real-life astronaut coming from space to Earth! One should at least try to simulate competition conditions as closely as possible.
It’s beneficial to train with variety. The pain of weight training is different to that of cardio in the sense that weight training is usually done in sets. While performing these sets, it’s acutely painful (your jaw aches at the end of all that teeth-gritting!), at least for the last reps per set, but then you get a moment of rest between each set. Meanwhile with cardio, the pain is lower but utterly incessant during the session and your mind will perpetually try to tell you to slow down or even stop (even before halftime) – but you’ll need to combat that urge, and carry on at a high pace or even raise it. It’s precisely because proper exercise is tough that it strengthens you – it’s a challenge that physically, as well as mentally, pushes you to do what you thought you couldn’t do.
Everyone who has pushed to their genuine physical limits has experienced self-doubt about reaching their targets – this is what it feels like so get used to expecting it, then pushing on and overcoming it. You’ll learn that these self-doubts aren’t always accurate regarding your actual ability to succeed. You’ll learn that this sort of pain is precisely on the path to glory hence it’s not a time to give up.
The experiences of sustaining minor injuries, healing from them, returning to become just as fit as before, or even fitter, and understanding the patience that this process may require to rebuild one’s fitness levels safely and sensibly, are useful experiences that teach us that we can personally rebound from minor setbacks in any area of our life again, and again.
We typically like doing things we’re good at doing. But if we avoid the things we’re not okay at then we’ll never become good at doing them. We earn confidence by doing things that are out of our comfort zones. The start is usually the worst part in terms of motivation or uncertainty so we just need to get through that. But the encouraging thing is that performance gains or weight-loss results are also greatest at the beginning. (The problem may then come when one experiences a gradual plateauing of progress, but we just need to expect this. Fitness is indeed hard to gain yet easy to lose if you stop for a while too, but building yourself up again can be the fun part because you feel the incentivising rate of progress again. Plus there’s always something new you could try if you’re bored or have personally peaked at a particular activity, thus there’ll always be personal bests to set whatever age you reach.) You’ll find time for exercise if you just simply schedule it in. Then the more you do something (with adequate nutrition and rest), the better you’ll become at it and the more you’ll enjoy it!
We only need to be as tough as our environment requires us to be to survive, and modern environments are easier in many ways compared to how previous generations had it. But we want to thrive and not merely survive.
Fitter people will find it easier to cope in a sweltering warming world. Regular challenging exercise is a perfect way to build and maintain one’s mental and physical toughness for any foreseeable and unforeseeable challenge ahead.
Woof! Now if you’ve missed the gym for a while, don’t beat yourself up. That doesn’t help. Start small, ask for support, and feel good with every bit of fluffy progress you make.