It’s Time to Rewrite the Definition of ‘Exercise’
The body, mind, and spirit are undeniably linked. This is why I race, whether it’s Spartan races, ultra-running, or whatever else I hear about.
I’m not just keeping myself in great physical shape; I’m honing my brain and nurturing my soul. Sure, I feel better physically when I’ve been training, but ultimately that’s not what drives me. When I push myself to the limit with strenuous physical exercise, I think more clearly and I’m more at peace with myself and the world.
Most people who decide to exercise don’t really think about this. Usually their goal is to lose 10 or 20 pounds and to stop huffing and puffing every time they climb a flight of stairs. But maybe that’s not the right goal. Maybe it’s time to redefine the word “exercise.” Instead of thinking about it as a horrible half-hour on the Stairmaster, we should view it as any form of movement that unites our body with our mind and spirit.
Consider a group of kids on the schoolyard. Sure, they’re playing, but they’re also competing and challenging themselves to see what their bodies (and therefore their minds and spirits) can accomplish. With kids, physical fitness is visibly connected to mental fitness and spiritual wellbeing. If you take away physical activity, a child suffers on every level.
Research suggests that it’s the same for adults. Consider:
- A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that regular exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that controls verbal memory and learning.
- A study by University of California reveals that regular exercise stimulates the development and health of new brain cells.
- Harvard Medical School researchers found that the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal cortex—the regions of the brain that control thinking and memory—are larger in people who exercise regularly.
- A study in the journal Preventive Medicine revealed that regular exercise reduces our susceptibility to stress, anxiety, and depression.
The list goes on and on. When we take care of our body, we simultaneously develop our mind and nurture our spirit. When we neglect our bodies, we also neglect our mind and spirit. It’s a shame that it’s taken Western culture so long to catch on, but it’s great that we finally are.
When you think about exercise in this new way, it’s no longer simply about looking better in a swimsuit. Instead, it’s about living a better life. It gives you the freedom to find activities that you enjoy and challenge you. It’s this enjoyment, coupled with a sense of accomplishment, that helps you to stick with your program.
Basically, you can tailor your fitness goals and regimen to what makes you tick. In so doing, you’re able to unite your body with your mind and spirit, strengthening yourself on every possible level.
Ready to give Spartan a try? Here’s everything you need to know to find your race.