The benefits of activity and physical movement are well known, but it’s also well-known that most people in the western world don’t get enough exercise.
For many, the spirit is (sometimes) taken care of, the mind is definitely challenged in our fast-paced, mental-activity-based pursuits, but the needs of the body seem to come at the bottom of the list. That is, if there’s time left over, or when people feel like exercising.
In my practice as an OPEX fitness trainer, I have seen a pattern among people who don’t prioritize exercise and looking after their bodies. These people have not placed value on or committed to their fitness, to the point where it has been taken away from them by serious illness or atrophy. Or in cases where, say, a fall could have been prevented, or a nutritional deficiency picked up on and treated before it became an illness. When these people find that there are things they can simply no longer do, because they don’t have the basic fitness, they then find the motivation to change. In other words, they have to hit rock bottom fitness-wise. Then, and this is the satisfying part of my job as a trainer, when they work at their fitness and restore or gain the ability to do the things they want to (and the option to do many more new things too) they find this return to fitness completely transformational.
Observing this time and time again, and seeing for myself the benefit people find in being fit and, therefore, having a greater capacity for wellness in the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of their lives too, I find myself asking why more emphasis isn’t placed on the body part of mind, body, spirit?
I’ve had to ask myself some difficult questions. Over time, since we have become more sedentary, more mentally-focused beings, has less value been placed on the body? What practices have been lost in looking after and honoring the body? Has modern medicine and cheap, poor quality food made us lazy about our bodies – thinking that we can make a mess of them, and someone else will step in and clean it up? Is this about lack of education, poverty (including time poverty), class, cultural and personal expectations, self-empowerment or socially acceptable ‘norms’ which are anything but?
I don’t know. It’s probably due to all of those factors, and many more. But I have observed that schools have removed more physical education classes from their curriculums. And I can see that accessibility to adults looking to learn about fitness and health is limited based on cost, as health care (what I think of as ‘sick care’) is run by government agencies and pharmaceutical companies now, not by people looking to improve the health of others.
Even in the arena of fitness itself, there is the worrying trend of fitness marketed as “fast”, “quick and easy”, and, for example, “only 4 weeks to achieve peak fitness.” As a trainer, I know these are not realistic promises, and it breaks my heart to think that people finally find their way to fitness, only to be put off, possibly for ever, by being unable to achieve the promised miracles of programs they have bought into. With this form of fitness marketing around, it feels as if, when people finally make the commitment to fitness, the facilitators of it are not just not serving them, but worse, are setting them up to fail.
Obtaining fitness will always be incremental, slow and steady, and you will only ever get back what you put in. It’s that simple. The key to lifelong fitness isn’t a magic pill or a miracle training program. To me, this key is actually a simple concept: getting people to align their desire for fitness and to look after their bodies with their core values. By core values, I mean, the things that make them feel alive, purposeful and happy. An example of fulfillment and happiness maybe hiking trails at 75, or playing safely with their kids at 35.
I’m sure that as a reader of Happy Living, you are looking after your body, mind and spirit really well. But I think it’s good for us all (myself included) to take stock from time to time and ask ourselves how our fitness is supporting and even facilitating our core values, and where we could improve on that relationship. That way, we really are bringing mind, body and spirit together to give us the fullest, most satisfying life experience.
Protect This House!
Heard that phrase before? It will remind you to honor your body, build your fitness and, in doing so, help to access and enjoy experiences that are aligned with your core values. This, in turn, leads to realizing your true happiness. And compared to that, what’s a little work out, really?
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