The Science Behind How Physical Activity Impacts Your Body and Life

Mar 26 2019 by Fred Bartlit

Fred Bartlit Explains the Science Behind Physical Activity

So much for the gentle approach. Since too many people have refused to listen to this advice in the past, today I’m standing on my chair and shouting this through a megaphone.

I’m about to share, once again, the most important health fact in the world. It is perhaps the most useful knowledge you’ll receive in your entire life, I guarantee you.

You’re probably sitting at your desk or on your couch, reading this on a computer or phone. The waking hours of modern life are almost fully designed around sitting and physical inactivity, which is a proven cause of early mortality.

Today’s world is a primarily sedentary environment, and our lives tend to get even more sedentary as we age. We do not get a healthy daily dose of activity unless we consciously decide to physically engage more than modern life requires us to. And that’s a problem. Simply put: we need to exercise more.

Sure, I’ve discussed this a lot, but many still do not get it, so am spotlighting this critically important information one more time: Whether we want to win in the competitive struggle of life, resist or recover from disease, or simply enjoy every single day as we age, the absolute key is for every molecule and cell in our bodies to be operating at its peak best.

So how can we assure this? The answer goes back to the very core of human existence.

Here is the process: Our genome (the genetic material of an organism, which consists of DNA) is almost exactly the same as it was 50,000 years ago. Over time, natural selection—the process whereby organisms that are better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring—resulted in some slight variations.

When a human being is born, the organism has some mutations. Some are good, some are bad, and some are neutral. The bad mutations do not get into the general gene pool because the organism that has harmful mutations does not live as long as one that does not, and generally does not produce as many progeny.

On the flip side, good mutations make their way into our genome because they do allow the organism to live longer and have more progeny. The mutations are “good” or “bad” based on their ability to make the organism more competitive in the environment in which it lives.

When we study our ancestors from 50,000 years ago, we see that they existed in an environment of intense physical activity. Every cell in the body was selected for success in a world of that required humans to be in frequent motion and exertion.

You don’t need me to tell you things have changed since then. Organisms designed for intense physical activity—you and me—are completely mismatched for today’s sedentary world. Too many bodies are operating on a level far lower than the peak evolutionary bodies from which human beings have evolved. And when we don’t rise to the challenge and push our bodies with adequate exercise, chronic diseases are often the result.

The human genome has a memory. On a core level it expects and demands bodies to be physically active for normal function and maintenance of health. The sad reality, however, is that we have an unhealthy sedentary population that is genetically programmed to expect physical activity but which doesn’t deliver on that biological demand.

Scientists are just beginning to do the necessary research that proves exercise is by far the best medicine for all of our ills. Soon exercise will be formally prescribed by doctors. And according to Harvard Medical School, it’s never too late to start, even if you haven’t exercised in decades.

In the next four to six years, I’m certain that we’ll learn incredible new things about what focused, dynamic exercise can do to ensure that our bodies are operating at their optimum levels, mentally and physically. Everyone reading this can gain an overwhelming competitive advantage in every aspect of human life by engaging in intense physical activity.

People who want to be at their best in every way will take this advice and engage in regular bouts of intense physical activity; those who stay lazy may come to learn the truth the hard way.

I’m not alone in this thinking—a crucial voice in the field is Daniel Lieberman, professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard. His book The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease is a marvel. (Naturally your doctor will not have read this book. Sigh.)

I’m putting down the megaphone now and going for a workout. Hopefully I’ll see you there.

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