Fit

Letter 15. Fit Brain First, Body Second

In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 15, he discussed the importance of keeping a fit body, and mind.

Having a philosophy of life allows you to train your mind as though you would train your body. If you don’t have one then it’s a little like doing no exercise, or eating poorly; you’ll soon become unwell.
Exercising the mind is more important than exercising the body. As I said in my last letter, you don’t need to become a body-builder. You just need to be fit enough to maintain good health. If you exercise too much then you’ll have less time to devote to what’s important, challenging unhelpful thoughts. Also, if you spend ages in the gym trying to get fit then you’ll also have to worry about getting your nutrition and fluid intake correct. Again, a wasteful activity.
If you must exercise then try HIIT or some other short intensive workout. These concentrated bursts will achieve 80% of the benefits of longer exercise sessions, you’ll get fit in almost no time at all. But as I’ve said, make sure that you devote enough time to ongoing brain training. If you do this then you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.

You might say you’re too busy, but if you spend any time on social media like Facebook, news sites, blogs, Netflix or Youtube … you have the time. You’re just choosing to do other things instead of getting fit.

You might say you’re too tired, and that might be true … but actually, exercise results in having more energy over time, so the truth is that we’re prioritizing the short term over the long term when we skip exercise.

And this is the crux of the problem: we are making a choice to do other things over exercise.

It’s a choice, not a problem of time or energy.

Why are we making this choice to not exercise? If we dig down a bit deeper, it comes down to a belief that underlies the choice.

So in summary, just to clarify my message on getting fit: balance exercise between body and brain, with an emphasis on the brain.
I’ll leave you with this thought. Reflect on past accomplishments, as opposed to some future goal. What you’ll find is that the thought of the future goal preoccupies your mind if you let it. Once this happens then you’ll end-up procrastinating over the things you should be doing today. You can’t perfectly plan for the future by thinking about them for hours but this isn’t to say you can’t prepare for them.
So, embrace uncertainty and remember that sometimes the anticipation of achieving a goal is better than actually achieving it.
Take care.

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