Physical Morality: Our Obligation To Strengthen Our Bodies

“Maintaining and preserving wellness is a duty, a privilege. Few are conscious of this piece of the wellness puzzle called physical morality” Dr. Trent McKittrick, DC

Modern Western culture has witnessed the slow erosion of many values it once held dear. Driven by endless opportunity for mindless consumption, most have stopped contemplating how to best live their lives and find purpose. Narcissism, consumerism, and moral relativism have combined to create a convenience-oriented culture that is typically far more concerned about rights (what I get) than responsibilities (what I do).

The human inclination to justify our own actions has magnified to epic heights only to leave our people alienated and emotionally fractured. The result is a growing mental health crisis. While I’ve often advocated an earnest quest for truth and intentional values as the path to fulfillment, I’ve recently been surprised to read more and more classical texts that profess the value of “physical morality”. Sure, we’ve known that respect for our human biological needs to move and exercise improves both health and happiness. Yet, I’d never made the jump from human need to ethical requirement. Could it really be a moral obligation to respect and train our physical bodies?

A superficial scan of the environment might seem to contradict any concept of physical morality? For many, religion is the primary source of what is right and wrong. The most popular religion of the West is Christianity, where my experience shows very little example of physical duty. Priests and pastors seem to look and eat like the average American. I’ve never heard of a sermon promoting physical morality and I’m fairly certain that most services end with the consumption of donuts, cookies, and sugar-infused drinks.

For the more intellectually inclined, their individual moral concepts might be created with the direction of philosophy, ethics, sociology, and psychology courses. Yet, again, my considerable time sitting in these classes and reading these texts never prompted contemplation about physical morality. Still, others are only socialized through public schools that continue to de-emphasize health and physical education while promoting a daily bouquet of sweets and sitting. One is left to conclude that clearly fitness and ethical responsibility have little to do with each other.

Yet, I believe these are all just symptoms of our time- an era that is more concerned about feelings and safe dogmas than nuanced truth and dialogue. We have forgotten the truth of physical morality and find ourselves in a human spiritual crisis, at least somewhat caused by our neglect of this notion. A scan of most religious and cultural traditions indicates a long history of respect for the principles of physical morality. In all 5 of the world’s dominant religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – there is an extensive history of fasting. The mastery of consumption has always been a prerequisite to human spirituality.

Christianity features verses prompting adherents to “Honor God with your bodies” because they are “temples of the holy spirit.” Sloth and gluttony, 2 out of 7 deadly sins, refer to neglecting responsibilities for physical morality. Likewise, ethical philosophies, like Stoicism, have always promoted periods of voluntary discomfort and physical refinement as necessities to personal growth and actionable moral constitution. And most great cultures, from the Athenians to the 19th century Germans to the early 20th century United States, believed physical fitness and health should be a full third of the educational formula.

Still, the best argument I know of for physical morality comes from British Philosopher Herbert Spencer who wrote:

“We do not yet realize the truth that as … the physical underlies the mental, the mental must not be developed at the expense of the physical…. Perhaps nothing will so much hasten the time when body and mind will both be adequately cared for, as a diffusion of the belief that the preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality. Men’s habitual words and acts imply the idea that they are at liberty to treat their bodies as they please. Disorders entailed by disobedience to Nature’s dictates, they regard simply as grievances: not as the effects of a conduct more or less flagitious. Though the evil consequences inflicted on their dependents, and on future generations, are often as great as those caused by crime; yet they do not think themselves in any degree criminal.”

What is morality if not adherence to Nature’s dictates- to our best conceptions of truth? How is it okay to consistently abuse and neglect the vessel from which we experience and operate in the world? Physical morality is a justifiable element of every ethical code because the maintenance of physical health and vigor amplifies the individual’s ability to behave morally and contribute positively in every other realm. Physical morality does not argue that we must attain a certain level of physical ability. It is not an excuse for the strong to humiliate the weak, but rather for all to bond over mutual self-development- that we should respect our individual physical bodies and seek a balanced approach to its nourishment and vitality.

The best defense for physical morality is modern life. The absence of models or socially prioritized development promoting healthy living indoctrinates generations with habits that ensure the pains and limitations of malaise. Society’s lack of intentionality is exploited masterfully by saboteurs of health happy to sell addiction.

When looking at the state of physical and emotional health and the tremendous financial and experiential tolls our future generations face as a consequence of our physical decay, it is hard to argue that the way we are raising kids is unacceptable. A Harvard study on child obesity indicates that of today’s youth, over 57% will be obese by the time they are 35. Actions mean more than words, particularly in the realm of physical morality. Our example shapes the next generation more than any other factor, and right now that is the problem.

Define Values

As I’ve explained in my article on how to define and act on your values, values are concepts of truth we aspire towards and constantly grow towards understanding better. While we may never have a perfect understanding of these targets, by aiming at them we are far better off than just pretending there is no right or wrong.

If anything has hurt humanity on a collective and individual level it is the belief that morals are all relative and it’s just as well to live in an impulsive pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Hello, depression. Whether intentional or not, we all adopt values and their proximity to truth along with how we live up to them is the best determinant of our fulfillment. For most a set of values has been adopted that is creating the expectations, attitudes, and likelihood of mindless manipulation that are starving the human spirit.

Concepts of morality are not important so that people can feel morally superior, they are essential because they promote the common good. The point of my argument is not for fitness enthusiasts to pat themselves on the back while condemning those less active. The purpose is to acknowledge that our society conditions sedentary, junk food infused lifestyles and that we have a duty to address this.

By fighting to recapture an ethos of physical morality, we can create more successful, fulfilled generations. A society that does not share central values will grow increasingly alienated and hostile. We must share more than space and legal codes. We must define the pursued truths that bind us and collectively work to instill these in future generations. As it stands now, the only major influencers fighting to create values in society are the marketing gurus of our Saboteurs of Health in America. Schools must begin to combat them.

Define Physical Morality

Of all moral concepts, perhaps none is more overlooked and more essential than physical morality. Certainly, all values should be balanced to create a nuanced view of morality that avoids extremes. Physical Morality is only one element of ethical development and I am certainly not claiming to have authority in the realm of ethics.

There are certainly far more moral people than I, many of which don’t necessarily prioritize their health. Furthermore, a capable body cultivated without other ethical domains is susceptible to fascism, religious fundamentalism, or any other tyrannical ethic. Whatsmore, any virtue in the extreme can be a vice. My argument is not that people are immoral if they don’t value health, but simply that physical morality belongs in the pantheon of moral qualities and it is a vital part of the discussion, that most have forgotten.

At the root of human existence is the physical body from which we interpret the world. Just as baby’s minds are developed through physical experience and based upon the physical vehicle, so do the ethics of a strong society. How can we create the highest contribution to those around us, if we do not respect our physical bodies and their needs? At the very least, we have a lower ethical ceiling when we don’t honor physical morality.

Traditional concepts of physical morality are probably not what you’d imagine. Physical morality is not characterized by the locked up meathead who can’t reach back to pull off his shirt, or the narcissistic toned gal snapping gym selfies in her bra each day.

While the 1980’s brought us the bizarre conception of “manliness” as steroid infused hyper-masculinity, physical morality has traditionally abhorred the idea of any fitness extreme. It has always been a balanced image of healthy physical vigor- far more Audi Murphy and John F. Kennedy (two actual American Heroes) than John Cena or Schwarzenegger’s Commando.

In the 1980’s Clint Eastwood and the Marlboro man, with their quiet confidence, were replaced by less adaptable extreme images of what a man should look like. But what about ladies? If classical concepts of physical morality focused on men, perhaps that is where we can take the old and improve.

The pre 5th century BCE Athenian moral code “sought organic harmony and stressed an elementary curriculum in which grace and poise were not subordinate to stamina and physical endurance”. Similarly, notions such as Georges Hebert’s Natural Method had a very strong vision of physical morality’s goals being to “make strong beings, not specialists…, but beings developed physically in a complete and useful manner”.

Physical morality has always harmonized both feminine and masculine qualities. This paradox marks the nuanced balance where truth typically lies. Best expressed in the Daoist Yin-Yang, Eastern philosophies have long understood the harmony of feminine and masculine. We are individuals, and while women may gravitate towards feminine expression more than men, both must honor their authentic selves with complete, complex development.

“Womanhood” and “manliness” both require strong physical vitality and the authentic expression of the individual’s true masculine and feminine nature. Raw power and intensity are useless and damaging without balance, mobility, and restraint, just as patience and compassion without discipline or firm boundaries lead to docile victimhood. Woman and man, alike, thrive when respecting a sense of physical morality.

Spirit and Energy

Physical morality is not only physical training and ability but an ethos that directs this path towards useful inclinations. Hebert’s Natural Method was responding to the decreased physical wellbeing and capability that followed industrialization. He believed, “only the strong will become useful in the difficult circumstances of life…”. Strength, as Hebert uses it, is better conceived as fitness.

We must be fit to be useful- a notion that holds just as much significance today, despite our increased mechanization. In fact, this essential element of human thriving must become even more of a point of emphasis as our world demands less moving. Without it, we are simply less capable, and less human.

Training the body teaches what Hebert would call “moral energy”. Theodore Roosevelt considered a “strenuous life” the only path to moral living. In their minds, physical laziness begets mental laziness. Physical training requires one to explore their own limitations, strategize, adapt, and overcome adversity. It requires one to master their impulses to become the guide of their own lives.

The practice of exercise over time is the discipline of willingly entering discomfort in the short term for a long-term good. Physical morality respects the body and promotes energy over malaise through consistent practice. Coach’s have long preached to teams about “heart”, which seems to be best encapsulated by teammates grinding through physical adversity to find inner strength. While moral strength is possible without physical training, I doubt it is as common in a physically deprived society.

“A soft, easy life is not worth living if it impairs the fiber of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great, and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

A shared value system must be instilled that clarifies heroism and pushes us towards our heroic capabilities. What is the hero? She is physically capable, mentally resilient, morally inclined, and purposefully brave. Is citizenship at all a goal for our children, today? How can we preach rights without responsibilities?

Bravery, selflessness, and integrity are virtues predicated on activities and experiences. Like cognitive and physical skills, these virtues must be refined through practice and the best practice is rooted in shared physical development- in physical Rites of Passage. The fragility of young-adults’ characteristic of growing up in a world devoid of honesty, constructive criticism, expectations, and consequences do not serve them, long-term.

As Ben Sasse asserts in his book, The Vanishing American Adult, “We should be figuring out how to help build them a menu of really hard tasks to tackle.”

Physical rites of passage are the most powerful way to develop self-actualized, united people with shared values. To teach morality without ever physically demonstrating virtues is like learning to cook from reading a book while never touching food. The idea of a rite of passage itself is rooted in a physical experience that creates understanding.

We live in the physical world and are most inspired by the physical act- the epic heroic story. Nothing unites us like the physical challenge- the proximity and raw vulnerability of shared physical challenge. Picture the team cheering on a teammate as she embarks on arduous training or the chills you feel while watching movie scenes displaying physical heroism.

Let’s shift the conversation from what we want, to what we want to be capable of – what do we want to become. Healthy dialogue is the backbone of strong communities and there has been too little promoting the duties and values that develop great people.

Today’s article was written by Shane Trotter and is shared from the following website” https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/physical-morality-our-obligation-to-strengthen-our-bodies

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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 1

Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness Edward Stanley

Everyone is looking to get an edge in their personal and professional lives. And while most people know that exercise can make you feel good and help keep you sharp, few people realize how deep the benefits really go, especially for the brain.

Not only is exercise the most scientifically proven cognitive enhancer, the brain benefits of exercise can touch almost every aspect of your life. So if you take anything away from this article, it should be this:

Exercise is one of the most important ways to get the most out of your brain. Physically and mentally.

It’s a pillar of great brain health and an important theme you’ll see at The Brain Flux. If you ever needed another reason to start exercising, look no further. The benefits have been broken down into four major categories below. They also include links for more detailed information.

Hopefully, it inspires and serves as a resource for anyone that wants to know how great exercise can be for the mind.

SECTIONS

Since there’s a lot of information here, I thought it was easier to search around and navigate by breaking it into four sections.

Many of these studies and the benefits listed below are interrelated. But that doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same.

For example, improving your memory can help you learn and improve academic performance. However, just because you have improved memory, doesn’t mean you’ll apply yourself in the classroom or be more motivated to study.

(Note to my readers: I will share this article, section by section, in my next four posts. There is lots of great information but I think it can be better digested in daily chunks!)


SECTION 1: Cognitive Benefits – Exercise can boost the base level brain functions which lay the foundations of our cognitive abilities.

SECTION 2: Psychological Benefits – Our moods and emotions can be affected through exercise, as well as how we think and behave.

SECTION 3: Neurobiological Benefits – The physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain.

SECTION 4: Lifestyle Benefits – Many other life activities and situations that are affected by exercise.

Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

These are the core brain abilities that people always wish they could enhance. You don’t have to wish anymore, it’s entirely possible with exercise!

Not that it’s easy. There’s no pill that replaces actual effort, so, for now, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way.

These benefits are backed by study after study. You can think faster, concentrate longer, and remember more simply by exercising. And, generally speaking, people of any age can have these cognitive enhancing benefits. The only question is, how much are you willing to work for it?


1. Exercise Improves Your Executive Functions

Executive functions are your higher level thinking skills. This includes inhibitory control, task switching, attention, and goal management to name a few. These skills are important for problem-solving, planning, organizing, and behavior. It’s how you function as a normal person in society.

A review of exercise in multiple studies found positive effects for all ages in normal healthy participants. Overall, researchers found that exercise is a simple way for healthy people to optimize their higher order brain functions. However, the specific effects for younger populations still need to be clarified.

Even if you’re a little bit older, exercise can improve these important cognitive skills. One meta-analysis – which is a scientific review of multiple studies – reviewed the results of 18 different papers on the subject. All participants in the studies were considered healthy but led sedentary lifestyles. While several cognitive benefits were observed, the strongest benefits for this particular population group was for their executive functions.

2. Exercise Can Increase Your IQ

Most people will tell you that exercising is a smart thing to do. But that’s because it can literally make you smarter.

The topic of IQ is still pretty hotly debated among scientists. Some believe it’s genetic, others that it can be affected by environment. There still seems to be some clarification needed in research. What IQ actually is, what can affect it, and if anything by how much? For now, I’ll let the scientists duke it out.

One of the largest studies ever done tried to shine some light on the subject. Data from over 1 million Swedish men were used and the researchers found something interesting. There was a convincing link between cardiovascular health and performance on IQ tests. Taking it one step further, they also observed that young adults who improved their cardiovascular health between the ages of 15 to 18, also saw an increase in their IQ.

3. Increases Your Focus

In today’s world of flashing cell phones and beeping technology, we all need the skill to ignore distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. It appears that exercise can help us survive in an increasingly connected world. Good news when everyone and everything is trying to grab our attention.

One of the first studies demonstrating this was published in 2004. The study used two different experiments. The first compared physically fit people to those who weren’t. The second study looked at people who were aerobically trained over several months and compared them to others that received no training. The results found benefits in both studies. Physically fit people have increased control over their ability to focus attention as measured by a challenging cognitive task. The people who were trained over several months also saw these benefits.

That’s great news for regular exercisers, but even better news if you’re thinking about becoming a bit more fit.

4. Increases Your Cognitive Flexibility

Focus isn’t the only skill needed for a busy life. Our jobs demand us to take on several responsibilities. School studies are stressful and rigorous. And our personal lives can pull us in 100 directions. We are required to multitask, switching thinking modes, and keep track of several things at once.

Research in 2009 looked at the effects of three different levels of exercise in healthy adults. They wanted to measure if the frequency of aerobic exercise had an effect on a person’s cognitive abilities. At the end of ten weeks, a battery of cognitive tests was given to the participants. Here’s what they found. They saw that the amount of aerobic exercise correlated with increases in mental speed, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Being the thorough scientists, though, they adjusted for variables like gender and education level. The one mental ability that still held statistical significance was that of cognitive flexibility.

5. Gives You More Willpower

Willpower is another life skill closely related to your brain’s executive function. Also, willpower is a key ingredient in a successful life. We use it to avoid temptations, stay on track for personal and professional goals, and adhere to healthy habits.

Exercise is one path that can increase your willpower.

A meta-analysis published in 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at several groups of people. Children, adolescents, and adults up to the age of 35. They found that short bouts of exercise had a significant effect across all age groups in areas of executive function, along with inhibition and interference control – which is better known as willpower.

The subject of willpower gets a decent amount of coverage in the media. But rarely is exercise mentioned as a path to increasing self-control.

6. Helps You Control Your Emotions

Being able to control your emotions might not seem like it’s a cognitive skill. Yes, emotions are a part of our psychological makeup. But the actual ability to control our emotions is a skill of cognitive control. Whenever you reign in an outburst of anger or continue your day despite feelings of sadness, you are exercising emotional regulation.

Scientists wanted to track changes in self-regulation. So they conducted a 2-month long study where participants were exposed to a program of regular physical exercise. The researchers noted a number of positive changes in behavioral patterns. Among these was a decrease in emotional stress and an increase in emotional control.

If you have a tendency to blow up at people or lose your calm, exercise can help you keep centered. Life is going to throw you a curveball or two, and a calm mind can help you navigate turbulent waters.

7. Sharpens Your Short Term Memory

Short-term memory is sometimes called working memory. There are different definitions used in the scientific community, but for general purposes let’s agree they are very similar. Working memory is the information in your head that’s currently being processed. It’s involved in comprehension, interpretation, and manipulation of data.

It’s also had some mixed results in exercise studies. The intensity of workouts and the duration of exercise seem to affect working memory in different ways. However, one study in 2014 had participants complete 30-minute workouts of moderate intensity. At this level of difficulty, researchers found a significant increase in working memory following completion. However, the increased memory capacity was only a short-term effect and exact duration not measured. Any long-term benefits of exercise on short-term memory still need to be determined.

8. Exercise Helps Your Long-Term Memory

There is a strong link between regular exercisers and improved memory. One such review in 2010 found positive and significant improvements among participants who exercised.

One study found that 35 minutes of interval exercise on a bike strengthened long-term memory. The timing of the exercise was important, though. Better memory was found for subjects who exercised four hours after learning. No benefit was seen for those exercising immediately after learning.

Another study split participants up into three groups. Each group was told to recall as much information as possible from two paragraphs. The first group received the information after exercise, the second before exercise, and the last completed no exercise. They found that the group that was exposed to exercise before being given the information performed significantly better at recall than the other two groups.

The effects of resistance exercise on memory was also studied. Subjects were shown photos with different emotional values (neutral, positive, or negative) and then proceeded to exercise using a leg extension machine. After 48 hours, they were asked to recall the photos again. The results found that the group which performed the resistance exercise performed better at recalling, particularly the pictures that were emotionally charged.

9. Makes You Think Faster

Everyone wishes they could arrive at solutions faster. Who wouldn’t want to be faster at solving problems and remembering things?

White matter is responsible for the transmission of data in and around your brain. Having more white matter in the brain means that your connections are better insulated and more efficient at relaying information in and around your brain. So does exercise help with this too?

It turns out that it does. A study published in 2013 found that older adults with a history of aerobic exercise were observed to have better white matter integrity than their sedentary peers. And it’s not just older adults who benefit. It’s also children. A research article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience reported that aerobic fitness levels were linked with stronger white matter integrity.

Finally, in another meta-analysis, researchers found 24 studies that looked at processing speed and exercise. They found that exercise gave people a modest improvement in their cognitive speed. And verifying the results mentioned above, it did this across all ages.

Stayed Tuned for Section 2 tomorrow!
This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website: http://thebrainflux.com/brain-benefits-of-exercise/

 

 

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