Have you ever looked at people who exercise regularly and thought to yourself … “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get myself to exercise? Am I just lazy? Am I lacking willpower?”
Well, the answer to that is a resounding “NO”!
If you don’t exercise regularly, it’s not because you’re lazy or lack willpower. The only difference between people who exercise and those who don’t is simply this: exercisers have managed to make exercise a habit. That’s it!
So, if you don’t exercise regularly, consider yourself perfectly normal because exercise … as we’re going to define it … is unnatural – it goes against the very instincts of evolutionary survival.
Here’s the thing: when it comes to physical movement, we can define it in one of two ways; it’s either “activity” or “exercise.”
So, let’s begin with the question: what’s the difference between activity and exercise?
For most of evolutionary history, we were physically active – we had to be just to survive. So basically, we didn’t exercise … life was exercise.
In fact, except for us modern humans living in industrialized societies, there’s not a species on this planet that exercises, nor have there ever been a species that has exercised. Still, every species on this planet is physically active whether they choose to be or not because there’s no survival without physical activity.
To perfectly juxtapose our evolutionary development with modern humans, we must turn to the numerous studies of “modern” hunter-gatherers.
For example, the Hadza hunter-gatherers from Tanzania – who are probably the best-studied – walk between five and nine miles a day. They engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for about two hours each day! That’s it! They do whatever’s necessary to survive and no more. They sit and leisure about nine to ten hours a day. The only difference between “them” and “us” is the environment; they sit around their campfire, and we sit around our computers.
But here’s the thing: hunter-gatherers like the Hadza – well, all species for that matter – are simply being active; they are NOT, I repeat NOT, exercising, and this is a critical distinction we need to grasp.
Physical activity is movement borne out of necessity for survival. Exercise, on the other hand, is voluntary and discretionary physical activity. In other words, exercise results from conscious choice, and therein lies the problem. Our bodies cannot function efficiently without regular physical activity. Still, conversely, our minds never evolved to push us to move unless it was necessary for our survival or it was in some way enjoyable.
We often hear the phrase that “exercise is medicine,” but the word medicine implies that it’s something we take to cure an illness. Now, there’s no doubt that regular exercise can cure a long list of illnesses, but I think a better way to look at it is this: if we engage in regular physical activity, we won’t have to deal with most of our modern illnesses in the first place.
So, instead, let’s look at exercise from the lens of what happens if we live sedentary lives.
- How much vitality do we have if we’re not physically active?
- Are we enjoying the full capability of our bodies?
- Are we regularly investing in the most valuable thing we own?
Let’s remember exercise is a choice. Thanks to modern medicine, some of us may manage to avoid all exercise and still live into our 80s and 90s, so exercise is by no means a panacea to living a long life; however, the data overwhelming confirms that exercise is the closest thing to a magic bullet when it comes to preventing disease and disability not to mention its unequivocal ability to maximize the quality of our lives.
And that, of course, raises the big question: How can we exercise regularly when most of us find exercise highly time-consuming and, even worse, a painful and unsavoury experience?
Well, that’s the purpose of this post. I’m going to show you how you can not only embrace a lifetime of regular exercise, but I’m going to show you how it can become an addiction!
Ultimately, regular exercise is the result of acquiring the habit of exercise. We have to initiate behavioural changes and perspectives to acquire the exercise habit.
In the next video, we’ll look at the five stages of behavioural change. We’ll determine which of those stages you are in right now. Then, from there, we’ll see how you can move along the path to acquiring the habit and, ultimately, the addition of regular exercise into your life.
When it comes to exercise, none of us has to, but every one of us needs to!!!!!
Exercise is one of the joys of my life; I hope you can make it one of the joys in your life.
So far, we’ve seen that exercise (which we described as a deliberate expenditure of energy) is utterly unnatural behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. In fact, to exercise regularly, we have to override the very instincts of human survival … and that in itself is no small feat.
However, millions of people have managed to acquire the habit of exercise. If they can do it, then there’s absolutely no reason you can’t as well – provided you genuinely wish to make that behavioural change – but here’s the thing: it can only happen if you’re actually ready to make that change, which raises the question …
How Do I Know If I’m Ready for Change?
There’s a “model template” of behavioural change called The Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change (yikes!) I know, if you’re anything like me, just the sound of that probably makes you cringe … but it’s not nearly as complex as it sounds.
This behavioural change model is just a simple way to determine where someone might be in their readiness for change concerning a particular behaviour. For example, it wouldn’t be even remotely possible to change something you’re unaware of, which is precisely where this specific behavioural change model begins.
Now, since we’re talking about exercise in this post, I’m going to refer to behavioural change regarding going from a non-exercising behaviour to becoming a regular exerciser.
The first stage of this “model of behavioural change” is pre-contemplation.
People in the “pre-contemplation” stage are wholly sedentary, and they’re not even remotely considering … or should I say, “contemplating” any form of regular exercise. Exercising is nowhere on their radar because they probably believe it’s a complete waste of time and energy.
The second stage of our model is called contemplation.
In this stage, people are still sedentary, but they’re beginning to consider the benefits of exercise versus the risks of living a sedentary lifestyle.
The biggest problem of getting out of this stage is usually fear, a fear of change, a lack of confidence, or just uncertainty about how to adopt an effective strategy for an exercise routine.
The third stage is what’s called preparation.
People in this stage are beginning to prepare themselves mentally and physically to adopt some form of regular exercise. Activity in the “preparation stage” may involve a sporadic walk or an occasional visit to the gym, but behaviour in this stage is still primarily characterized by inconsistency.
The fourth stage is the action stage, which is marked by a clear change in attitudes and beliefs.
In the “action stage,” people engage in regular physical exercise. Still, the critical distinction between this stage and the next is that they’ve been exercising regularly for less than six months.
The fifth stage is called the maintenance stage.
People in the maintenance stage have been doing regular physical activity for more than six months. They show a strong desire to maintain exercising as an integral part of their lives.
Unfortunately, there is a sixth stage, which I call regression.
For many reasons, people may encounter lapses where they stop exercising altogether. A common cause can be an injury or perhaps a dramatic life-altering event, but whatever the reason, when people fall into “regression,” they may be unable to recover and return to regular exercise for long periods. For example, I can only imagine how many people have fallen into regression because of COVID and the endless confusion and frustration with the closing and opening and closing of gym facilities.
So, the fundamental idea of this “model of behavioural change” is to identify which stage you are in at present and eventually get into (and stay in) that coveted “maintenance stage,” where regular exercise is a natural part of your life.
At this point, I want to stress that whatever stage you’re in has nothing to do with your grit, willpower, determination or the perceived lack of those things. People who exercise regularly have simply managed to develop the habit of exercise. People who don’t exercise regularly haven’t yet acquired the exercise habit or – for whatever reason – they’ve fallen out of the practice.
And that’s the singular distinction between those who exercise regularly and those who don’t.
Now, here’s the thing: each of us has only one chance at this life, and enjoying a healthy body to live that life is pretty important. Suppose we choose “not” to exercise. In that case, we’re automatically far more vulnerable to disease and chronic, disabling illnesses. We’re really missing out on the daily joy and vigour (both physically and mentally) that comes from being fit.
This seven-part article will show you exactly how to get yourself into that coveted “maintenance stage,” where regular exercise can go from being an everyday habit to a full-blown addiction!
In the next section, we will see the extraordinary story of how one woman overcame incredible odds and completely turned her life around when she discovered how to make regular exercise an “effortless habit” and a natural part of her life.
As you’ll see, the way she went about it is the key to making any difficult behavioural change … in fact, it may very well be the only way to achieve lasting behavioural change of any kind.
I will title this part “One Small Step Can Change Your Life!” – you’ll see why in just a moment!
As we noted in the previous section, physical movement is a natural part of survival, but willfully exercising goes against the very hardwired programming of survival. Like all species, we evolved to move, but our minds never evolved to push us to move involuntarily. So, the only way to get ourselves to exercise regularly is to override our deep-seated instincts to conserve energy at all costs.
So we need to answer the question;
“How can WE acquire the exercise habit?”
The answer may surprise you, but it’s to take steps toward that behavioural change that are so tiny they may seem laughable. To show you what I mean, I will share a story as told by Dr. Robert Maurer in his excellent book called “One Small Step Can Change Your Life … the Kaizen Way”…
Dr. Maurer – a practicing psychologist – begins his book with a story about a patient named Julie who was woefully close to the end of her rope, both physically and mentally. As Dr. Maurer tells it, Julie was at UCLA’s medical center for help with high blood pressure and fatigue. Still, both Dr. Maurer and the resident family physician interviewing her could see much more in Julie’s world.
Julie was a recently divorced mother of two who desperately tried to hold down a job and raise her children. She was more than thirty pounds overweight. Her stress levels were soaring, her job was insecure, and she had no outside support. Not surprisingly, she was battling the onset of diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
Julie’s life was one of relentless pressure. After a long day at work, she would pick up her kids, care for them, put them to bed, and then attempt to straighten up the house. Her only break at the end of her day was when she flopped on the couch, in utter exhaustion, to watch a half-hour of television before going to bed.
It was apparent to both doctors that Julie had to make some drastic changes, or she was headed for a physical and mental breakdown. The resident doctor was about to advise Julie to make healthy changes to her lifestyle and to begin exercising at least a half-hour a day, but as Dr. Maurer had witnessed on too many occasions when a physician typically prescribes an exercise program to someone facing an avalanche of life-challenges like Julie, the patient thinks;
“Exercise?!! You have got to be kidding! Do you have any idea what my life is like?!!!”
Meanwhile, the physician thinks, ‘Look, what’s the problem here? Don’t you care about your health? You’re heading for serious trouble if you don’t do what I prescribe.’
According to Dr. Maurer, the biggest problem in these all-too-common doctor/patient scenarios is a lack of understanding and empathy. Julie was “correct” in her thinking because she was convinced she hadn’t the time, energy, or inclination to add a half-hour of exercise to her already overloaded day. The resident doctor was “correct” in her assessment and prescribed a solution; after all, if Julie refuses to take charge of her health and lifestyle, there’s nothing anyone else can do.
But Dr. Maurer knew from years of observation that suggesting Julie take up an exercise routine, change her diet, and develop a healthy lifestyle would compound her problems. All it would do is add guilt to her already fragile disposition.
The thing is, Dr. Maurer was all too aware that even when we’re living a life of despair and struggle, familiarity with “the life we know” offers greater comfort than change. Modifying any life alteration can cause our most formidable enemy, fear, to make us paralyzed to change.
Intuitively, Dr. Maurer suddenly had one of those beautiful “aha” moments. He knew that he had to try something different to break this endless cycle of bogus prescriptions, failure and misery on the part of the physician and the patient. So just before the inevitable … “take time for yourself, clean up your diet and start exercising prescription” was uttered by the resident physician, Dr. Maurer jumped in and asked Julie if she thought that it might be possible for her to march in front of her television for just one minute each day?
Julie’s face brightened as the resident physician looked at Dr. Maurer in disbelief. Julie replied that she could definitely give that a try.
When Julie returned for her follow-up visit a week later, she proudly announced that she had faithfully marched in front of her TV every day for the prescribed sixty seconds. Now, that one minute of exercise would have absolutely no effect on Julie’s physical health wasn’t even remotely crucial at this stage. What was important … at least to Dr. Maurer, was that Julie actually did it and was eager for a slightly more significant challenge.
In the short time between her first and second visits, her attitude had noticeably changed, and Julie wanted to know what else she could do for sixty seconds a day.
Note from the last part that although Julie hasn’t “really” done anything meaningful in a physical sense, according to our model of behavioural change, she’s just gone from the pre-contemplation stage to the contemplation stage and maybe even so far as the preparation stage, and that’s huge!
Anyway, back to our story.
Although it was still early in the program, Dr. Maurer was thrilled with the initial results because Julie had gone from complete hopelessness and despair to opening her mind to new possibilities.
So, in response to Julie’s request for an additional challenge, Dr. Maurer upped Julie’s goal to go from marching for sixty seconds to marching for an entire commercial break.
Shortly after that, Julie was marching for two commercial breaks, and before long, she forgot to stop. Almost without realizing it, Julie had gotten herself to the point of exercising thirty minutes a day, and most important of all, she was enjoying it!
Within a few weeks, Julie was not only embracing the concept of exercise but also eager to take on a half-hour aerobic workout. Within just a few months, Julie had wholly restored her physical, mental, and self-esteem.
That’s the power of Kaizen, which is a term for slow, simple steps. By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, we can calmly sail past the all-powerful mental obstacles, like fear, that typically hold us hostage, to change.
In the next part, we’ll look at why most people fail when it comes to changing unwanted behaviours and how we can learn to use the powerful techniques of Kaizen to achieve any behavioural change we desire.
In the previous part, we looked at one of my favourite books of all time … One Small Step Can Change Your Life… the Kaizen Way, by Dr. Robert Maurer.
Dr. Maurer began his book by noting that “most” of psychology and medicine is devoted to studying why people get sick or don’t function well in life, whereas he’s been far more intrigued by the opposite of failure; he wanted to know “how” and “why” we successfully manage behavioural change such as a dieter who loses ten pounds and then keeps it off for good, or someone who manages to begin an exercise routine and then embraces it for life.
While Dr. Maurer acknowledges that there are many ways to achieve success, he couldn’t help but notice that time and time again, the effortless practice of kaizen – small, simple steps – was the most effective way to acquire a new behaviour or accomplish a difficult task.
He witnessed his patients lose weight and keep it off for good, begin an exercise program and stick with it, kick undesirable addictions for good, create strong relationships that lasted, become organized or improve their careers, and so on.
Dr. Maurer describes the technique of kaizen as a natural, graceful technique for lasting behavioural change.
As we saw in the last section, most people fail at behavioural change because they usually turn to the strategy of innovation, which by definition, is a drastic process of change. Ideally, innovation occurs in a brief period and results in a dramatic turnaround. Innovation is big, fast, and flashy; it reaches for the most significant result in the shortest amount of time.
For example, suppose Julie (the woman from the last part) wanted to apply “innovation” to her weight and sedentary problem. In that case, she might have taken on a rigorous exercise program, rearranged her schedule, coped with some severe muscle soreness, budgeted for some workout clothes and shoes, and totally committed to her new program for those tough first weeks or months.
Innovation is, of course, extraordinary… when it works, but unfortunately, it seldom does. Most people are crippled by the belief that innovation is the only path to change. We ignore a problem or challenge for as long as possible. Then, when we are forced by circumstances or duress, we attempt to make dramatic changes. But, as is often the case, we’ve tried far too much too quickly, and the inevitable failure and resulting pain and embarrassment can be devastating.
And that’s the problem with “innovation”; we’ll often enjoy short-term success only to fall back into our old ways when our initial enthusiasm fades away.
Kaizen, by contrast, is another path altogether. It winds and meanders so gently up the hill that we hardly notice the climb. It’s pleasant to negotiate and soft to tread. It requires that we place one foot in front of the other. To quote Lao Tzu,
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”
Kaizen and innovation are the two major strategies people use to create change. Where “innovation” demands shocking and radical reform, “kaizen” asks that you take small, comfortable steps toward improvement.
As Dr. Maurer noted, low-key change helps the human mind circumnavigate the fear that blocks success and creativity; in fact, people find that when they take slow, easy steps, their minds will develop a desire for their new behaviour, whether it’s regular exercise, a weight-loss program or cleaning off their desks.
People who use kaizen to change behaviour are invariably startled to discover that they have reached their goals with almost no conscious effort. Because the steps were so small, it was practically impossible to fail.
Here’s the thing: the steps may be small, but what we’re reaching for is anything but. To commit our lives to honour and maintain our physical health is an important goal. If we attempt that goal through “innovation,” we can trigger some powerful neurological resistance. Any attempt to make behavioural change through radical or revolutionary means (like innovation) will almost always fail because it heightens the evolutionary survival mechanisms of our natural fear of change.
Our fear of the unknown is why we “irrationally” put up with destructive relationships, jobs we hate and poor health. We non-consciously prefer to put up with the devil we know than venture into the unknown.
The fear of change is rooted in the brain’s physiology. It can trigger skyrocketing levels of stress hormones that leave us emotionally and mentally paralyzed when it takes hold.
The small steps of kaizen, on the other hand, disarm the brain’s fear response while stimulating rational thought and creative play. Change is frightening, and this human fact is unavoidable whether the change is seemingly insignificant or life-altering.
Small actions, however, trick the brain into thinking: “Hey, this change is so tiny that it’s no big deal. There is no need to get worked up, and there is no risk of failure or unhappiness here.”
By outfoxing the fear response, small actions allow the brain to build up new, permanent habits at a pace that … in retrospect, is surprisingly quick.
The small, simple steps of kaizen work; if done correctly, we cannot fail. All that kaizen requires is patience and trust. If applied correctly, our minds will obey our heart’s desires. Speaking from personal experience – and from many years of observation in others – trust me, kaizen works; it really works!
Change Your Perspective and You Change Your World
Most of us instinctively know what it takes to be healthy: Eat a well-balanced diet of “real” food, get sufficient sleep, and stay physically active … all in all, it’s a pretty simple recipe for success.
Unfortunately, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. It’s simple to drink a glass of water instead of a sugary soft drink. It’s simple to turn the TV off and go to bed an hour earlier. It’s simple to get off the couch and go for a walk … but it’s even simpler not to. And that’s the challenge!
Fortunately, we humans can willfully change our thinking and override (at least temporarily) some of our natural, hardwired programming. To do that successfully, we need to alter our perspective … especially regarding fitness and exercise.
Regular exercisers have acquired two things:
- A different perspective on exercise and
- A natural addition to the mood-altering pharmaceuticals created in the brains of habitual exercisers.
We will look at the first one today and the second one in the following section.
The easiest way to live a healthy lifestyle is to create healthy habits because “habits” automatically bypass all the obstacles that invariably trip us up, such as excuses, exceptions, and the big kahuna … procrastination.
In his book Creating Health, Deepak Chopra writes:
If we want to create health, starting this moment, we have to start channelling the unconscious mind through habit. Making a habit is the surest route to a lifetime of predictable behaviour. It may be a little tricky initially, but once we’re conditioned, it becomes both simple and easy.
Well, that’s pretty good advice. See, here’s the thing: our lives are more or less the sum total of our habits, behaviours and beliefs. What we believe becomes our reality. For example, we won’t exercise if we think we’ve got more important things to do with our time than “waste” it on a walk or run.
Remember, the cognitive dissonance between our need for “physical activity” and our natural inclination to “conserve energy” is a modern paradox of our creation. We humans, like all animals, are naturally hardwired to conserve energy, which means voluntary exercise, from an evolutionary point of view – on which we still operate – is unnatural. But with that being said, we also never evolved to be sedentary, inactive, and out of shape.
Fortunately, we humans can willfully change our thinking and override (at least temporarily) some of our natural, hardwired programming. To do that successfully, we need to alter our perspective … especially regarding fitness and exercise.
I can think of no better example of seeing physical fitness from a slightly different perspective than the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar’s personal story in his best-selling book See You at the Top.
Ziglar begins his story by admitting he was seriously overweight. So, he vows to start a diet and exercise program. Like all beginning exercisers, Ziglar found it highly challenging.
On the first morning of his “prescribed” exercise routine, he woke up to his ringing alarm, got himself ready, laced up his shoes and went for his first run. As he recalled, he managed to go for an entire half-block!
But he was determined, and so on the very next day, he managed to go the distance of a half-block plus a mailbox. The following day, a half-block and two mailboxes, and before long, he was running a full mile, then two, then three, then five.
In recounting the “gruesome” tale, Ziglar says he never missed an opportunity to tell his audiences about all the pain and sacrifice he went through when he committed to getting in shape. He talked about the enormous price he had to pay every morning by getting out of a warm bed to subject himself to the cold and discomfort of an early morning run.
As someone who travels a great deal, he would talk about the trials and challenges of running in the heat of California or the cold of Winnipeg, Canada. Everywhere he went, and to all who would listen, he wailed about the sacrifice he was making to stay fit and how it is that if you want to accomplish anything worthwhile in this world, you have to “Pay the Price!”
Then, one day, Ziglar recalled, that he was running on the grounds of Oregon State University. It was a beautiful, warm spring day. As he described it, the ground flowed effortlessly beneath his feet; he enjoyed the fresh air and felt wonderfully alive. Suddenly, he knew he was having the time of his life. At fifty, he was in better shape than at twenty-five. He could run miles and miles without pain and exertion. At that point, he suddenly saw things from a completely different perspective. What he finally realized was this;
You don’t pay the price for good health … you enjoy the benefits of good health.
I cannot think of a more truthful or elegant statement.
You don’t pay the price for good health … you enjoy the benefits of good health.
We have been so conditioned by our parents, teachers, media, and “how-to” gurus that everything in life has a proportional cost/benefit ratio; the better the result, the greater the cost. But that’s not necessarily so.
More than anything else, Ziglar had an “aha” experience. An epiphany, if you will. While running, he suddenly saw his daily physical activity for what it was … the sheer joy of experiencing vitality and health.
Ziglar so wonderfully summarized the essence of positive behavioural change when he said this;
You don’t pay the price for good health … you enjoy the benefits of good health. You don’t pay the price for success; you enjoy the benefits of success.
When it comes to our health, we (well, at least most of us) can choose to enjoy those benefits right now and every day of our lives. I’ve never yet met a habitual jogger (regular exerciser) who doesn’t crave the daily experience of running.
Sure, there are many days when they don’t feel like lacing up the shoes. Still, they do it anyway, probably because – whether they realize it or not – they’re addicted to the all-natural, mood-altering pharmaceuticals created in the brains of habitual exercisers.
That’s the secret sauce that drives people to override their evolutionary instincts to conserve energy.
In the next section, we’ll see how that happens and how you can go about experiencing this natural “high” as well.
So far, we’ve seen how our bodies cannot function efficiently without regular physical activity. Still, conversely, our minds never evolved to get us moving unless it was either part of our daily survival or we found it to be somewhat enjoyable.
So how is it that millions of people have not only conquered this catch-22 by exercising regularly, but they seem to enjoy it!
The short answer is this: regular exercise is an acquired taste, and fortunately, it’s a taste everyone can acquire.
When a non-exerciser begins an exercise program, invariably, they will rely almost entirely on willpower. But as we know, willpower has a short shelf life. So, as the initial days and weeks of exercising pass by … if we’re going to be successful … our waning resolve will be gradually replaced by the power of habit.
Habits are far stronger and more durable than willpower because habits automatically bypass all the obstacles that generally trip us up, such as procrastination, excuses and exceptions.
But habit alone isn’t the whole answer. I mean, seriously, nobody wakes up from a warm bed and eagerly looks forward to experiencing a stressful bout of exercise … even if it is a firmly entrenched habit … but they’ll usually do it anyway.
So how? How do they “acquire the taste” for exercise that defies a warm bed and a comfortable couch?
The answer may surprise you, but this “acquired taste” is fueled by “addiction.”… it’s an all-natural addiction, mind you, but an addiction, nonetheless.
During and after a vigorous workout, most exercisers feel a sense of euphoria, almost like taking an opioid. In fact, evolution has wired our brains to produce several mood-altering pharmaceuticals in response to physical activity.
The three most critical endogenous drugs are dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
The king neurotransmitter is dopamine. It’s the thing that gives us the initial motivation to lace up the shoes to satisfy the anticipation and the expectation of the so-called runner’s high.
Another neurotransmitter that responds to regular exercise is serotonin, which produces feelings of pleasure and well-being.
Endorphins are yet another natural opioid. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters that help us tolerate the “discomfort” of strenuous exercise by blunting pain and producing feelings of euphoria similar to morphine.
Now, here’s the thing: non-exercisers have fewer active dopamine, serotonin and endorphin receptors. Non-exercisers have to struggle harder and often longer – in some cases months – to get their receptors as fully functional as those of habitual exercisers … but don’t lose heart; if you get into the exercise habit, you too will eventually acquire the exercise addiction that comes from the coveted “runner’s high.”
As we’ve noted, there are definitely days when even exercise addicts won’t feel like lacing up their shoes, but watch what happens if they experience an injury and can’t work out for a few days. They become as anxious as a caged animal … because like any addict … they crave the jolt of the feel-good neurotransmitters that they get from vigorous physical activity.
So that’s the key to acquiring a lifelong habit of regular exercise … developing an exercise addiction.
Remember the path of behavioural change from the earlier in this article? We go from non-contemplation to contemplation, preparation to action, and finally to maintenance, where exercise becomes a natural part of our lives. Initially, it takes willpower and desire to take that first step. After that, it requires a solid plan followed by confidence and patience.
There’s no pain if you adopt kaizen’s simple, effortless steps. All that’s required is just a little patience until you “acquire the taste” of regular exercise and, ultimately, a lifetime of “exercise addiction” and enjoyment.
We saw both the challenges and the solutions to adopting a lifetime of regular exercise in the previous chapters.
What’s the Challenge?
As far as the challenges go, we saw that “deliberate exercise” is not only unnatural, it’s without precedent in all of nature because every living creature, including us, has evolved to conserve energy as the number-one insurance of survival.
So, we modern humans have created quite a paradox for ourselves; we know that physical movement is critical to our health, but our minds never evolved to push us to move involuntarily. Since most of us can get all the sustenance we want without the slightest physical exertion, we find ourselves in a rather precarious predicament; our hormones, neurotransmitters and survival instincts drive us toward a sedentary lifestyle … only we don’t realize it!
We know that regular exercise is critical to our health. Still, we can’t seem to get ourselves motivated, and as a result, we feel guilt and shame. We blame ourselves for being lazy and lacking willpower, but nothing could be further from the truth.
What’s the Solution?
Despite our natural inclination to avoid exercise, millions of people live healthy lives and exercise regularly. What’s more, they seem actually to enjoy it! So, if they can do it, then so can you!
The only thing you need to begin is desire. Just desire because, with desire, the seeds of success will automatically grow from within. If you have the desire, you’re already in the contemplation stage, or perhaps you’re even in the preparation stage … and if you recall from the 4th post, that’s the stage where you’re getting mentally and physically prepared to take some form of action.
The key to beginning an exercise program is to make small changes in your life toward regular physical activity … and I mean changes that are so small that exercise will very gently slide into your life without pain, fear or disruption.
Remember (Chapter 3) how easily Julie got started and how she embraced full aerobics classes in just a couple of months? You can do the very same thing. Like Julie, you have to apply the tiniest bit of willpower, just enough to get started. It doesn’t matter whether you want to begin walking, running, cycling, swimming, or something else; whatever you do, just start by following the principles of kaizen (slow, simple steps). You will avoid the normal setbacks that derail most people when they try to take on too much all at once.
Remember earlier how Zig Ziglar got started? He ran just a half block the first day, then a half block and a mailbox the next day and so on, and before long, he ran an entire five miles without effort.
From personal experience, I used to think of physical activity and exercise as a major inconvenience at best and as a mild form of torture at worst! But that all changed when I began a simple walking program more than thirty-five years ago. When I first started to exercise regularly, I found it rather inconvenient for the first few weeks because there were just too many other things that I’d rather be doing. But it wasn’t long before exercise became a natural part of my life.
Today, I cannot imagine living without some form of daily physical activity. I may feel stiff or tired when I start, but I’m in the flow before long, and my exercise time often becomes my meditation time. In fact, my exercise time is quite often the most enjoyable part of my day.
Here’s the thing: exercise and the resulting health and vitality you’ll get isn’t for some far-off time in our later years. It’s the one investment that pays enormous dividends through health, mental acuity, and physical vitality. It will keep paying out every day of your life.
Your body is your only tether to this world. I want you to love living in it and enjoy using it by embracing exercise as a regular part of your life, not because you feel like you have to, but because you genuinely want to. That’s mastery.
The key to a long, happy life isn’t lifespan; it’s health span. There’s no glory in being the oldest person in a long-term care facility.
When it comes to our health … IT’S ON US!
So, if you can make exercise a regular part of your day, in just one year from right now, you could be living in your best health with more energy and vitality than you ever thought possible. All you have to do is start, and the rest is not only easy but thoroughly enjoyable.
Thanks for reading.