Exercise and the Spirit

Exercise and conditioning have a profound effect on the mind and spirit as well as on the body. Modern life puts all of us under a tremendous amount of stress. This engages our “fight or flee” emergency nervous system and floods our bodies with adrenaline but gives us no outlet for all that pent-up energy.

A caveman faced with a saber-tooth tiger or a woolly mammoth would hardly be expected to smile politely and swallow his anger, but that is what most of us have to do when aroused by stressful situations in our business and social lives. We have no physical outlet for emotional stress.

Nature simply won’t allow us to suffer that kind of abuse without paying some kind of penalty. Nature just hasn’t gotten around to recognizing the internal combustion engine or the desk job; biologically, we are still cavemen, equipped to survive by using both body and mind. We need to engage in a full range of physical activities as well as supplying our bodies with a full range of foods for adequate nutrition; we must take the initiative in maintaining our physical fitness with a full range of exercise.

Training gives us an outlet for the suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body. We all know how stress can contribute to such physical ailments as ulcers, high blood pressure and hypertension; but it is also becoming clear that a lot of human problems from auto accidents to divorces, and many common emotional problems like depression, are made much worse by the build-up of stress accompanied by too little physical activity.

Actuarial figures gathered by insurance companies bear out the benefits of physical conditioning to health, mood and lifespan. Large corporations are beginning to catch on too, and are opening up sophisticated gyms and training facilities for their employees. A business often spends as much on training good executives and other personnel as it does on building factories and office buildings. This kind of investment is designed for protection from the awful and embarrassing times when an employee breaks down or gets sick; it can hurt the business financially just as badly as a breakdown in the factory or on the assembly line. It has been shown that an employee who is fit and healthy works better, more efficiently, with less time off the job due to sickness and less chance that his employer will terminate his services prematurely.

Physical fitness is a form of preventive maintenance. Almost all the really effective executives and successful businessmen we hear about have also come to this realization. No longer is it solely the province of the young and the professional to have superb bodies and be physically fit. Just look around and you will realize the importance of being physically fit.

Physical fitness is not a panacea; it won’t, by itself, do away with anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual dysfuction and all the rest of the common physical and emotional problems of modern society. But an ill-used body will ultimately result in the failure of both body and spirit, and, in this sense, physical fitness is the mental health of the body. Since we live in a culture that has taken away the need to use physical strength for day-to-day survival, it is up to us to create new systems of living that provide the level of fitness that the body requires. What a difference between being able to play a sport, go sailing or skiing and really have a good time versus the people with soft flabby bodies sitting around the pool or on the beach who feel out of place and are ill at ease simply because they have let their bodies and physical capabilities degenerate. I know how unhappy I would be if this happened to me, and I can’t believe that other people are all that different.

This is where a program of physical training such as bodybuilding comes into play. Weight training, aerobic conditioning and flexibility are the bottom-line demands of any fitness system. Try it and I am confident that you will get the results that you really want and need to be successful in modern society. Just keep on a proven track to fitness and you will thank yourself for the rest of your life.

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