Today, most exercises and sports, even those in the Olympic Games, are focused mainly on developing muscular strength and cardiovascular stamina. However, the human body is not just composed of the muscular and cardiovascular systems. It also includes the immune, endocrine, and lymphatic systems, among others. However, these systems are not addressed by most approaches to exercise and fitness. As a result, the current fitness industry appears to fall far short of serving the true health needs of people today.
Furthermore, although regular exercise is thought to be highly effective for the prevention and treatment of many common chronic diseases, and improves cardiovascular health there is increasing evidence suggesting that excessive exercise can have a negative impact on the body and on longevity. Studies have shown that acute, high-intensity exercise causes short-term damage to the cell’s mitochondria and short term muscle damage in the body (Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 1998)*
Additionally, according to a review of the literature published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings**, long-term excessive endurance exercise may induce pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries. Emerging data suggest that chronic training for and competing in extreme endurance events such as marathons, ultra-marathons, ironman distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races, may cause structural changes to the heart and large arteries, leading to myocardial injury.
The regular exercises in the gym do not seem to meet the challenges of the major health problems people have today. The world is changing. Cancer, heart disease, strokes, and respiratory problems are among the leading causes of death in the U.S. and in most of the industrialized world. Our health today has been greatly affected by the chemicals, hormones, and pesticides in our food and environment, resulting in often high levels of toxicity within the body. This, together with the fact more people work behind a desk or computer under more stress and with less and less access to fresh air and exercise, has resulted in an increased incidence in modern diseases. Where do we go from here? Fitness needs a revolution!
The Mind Is Key to the Fitness Revolution
The mind is a powerful tool for health. If we know how to use the mind properly, and combine it with effective exercises, I believe we can bring about significant, long-term changes in our health.
We can understand more about harnessing the potential of the mind, and our potential to create the health we desire, through the theory of “Intended Evolution.” This is a new theory that I have been developing for some years now. According to this theory, the evolution of life is driven by two main factors: firstly, natural selection and outside pressures and secondly, "Intention” and internal drive.
To use a very simple example: two children are brought to a swimming coach for lessons. One of the children (John) loves to swim and wants to be a swimming champion later on in life. The other child (Ben) dislikes swimming and is only there because his parents brought him. Both John and Ben are exposed to the external influences that will make them good swimmers, but John is much more likely to succeed because of his internal drive. He really wants to become a swimming champion. Only when the external and internal factors are working together can change truly happen.
In a similar manner, the mind can play a key role in changing our health. Most of us know that our mind can affect our hormone levels, causing physical and biological changes in the body. For instance, negative thinking can increase stress, e.g. we can "worry ourselves sick,” while positive thinking can improve our functioning, e.g., we can strengthen our immune system. When we improve our functioning, we increase our chances for survival and longevity. By using our mind in focused, positive ways, we are, in fact, following the principle of natural selection, which is “the survival of organisms best adapted to their environment.”
We can apply the theory of Intended Evolution to improve our health and fitness. For example, if every day we focus on the idea that the natural human lifespan is 150 years, or even 120 years, we can help ourselves immediately feel younger. When we create this feeling, I believe our hormones respond accordingly, allowing us to become happier and healthier. If we believe we can live only 80 years or so, then, when we are 50 or 60 years old, we begin to feel our life is close to its end. However, if we focus on the belief that the natural life span extends to 150 or even 120 years, then by the time we reach age 50, we’ll think of ourselves as still young.
The more clear, focused, and powerful our intention, the more our mind can help us balance the endocrine system and our metabolism . . . it may even allow us to affect our DNA. This revolution in fitness can result in a long and vital life far beyond what we once thought possible!
*Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine Jan 1998, Vol 8. Issue 1. Pg 52-55
**James H. O’Keefe et al. Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 87, Issue 6 (June 2012)
Published with permission of the Austin MD Magazine, March/April, 2014.