Living organisms, including human beings, feel better and are more productive when they are physically fit. For some of us, staying in shape is a constant struggle, while for others it is a pleasure, but all of us do well to remain in good physical condition.
Physical fitness enhances well-being. It promotes happiness, productivity, and perhaps longevity. Its positive effects on the brain have been confirmed. In children, it is positively associated with cognitive function and academic achievement. Physical activity yields its greatest effects when started early in life.
There is no need for a long essay on this subject. A vast wealth of studies, and many books and other writings – technical, specialized and for general readers – are available for you to read; but as the slogan says, the best approach to physical fitness is “just do it”. If you have read this chapter from beginning to end in one setting, some physical activity probably is advisable.
Technical and Analytical Readings
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is an important adjunct to physical fitness. It is defined as the ability “to express and solve problems through the body”. It is characterized by “an ability to move the whole body for physical activities such as balancing, coordination, and sports”.
Perhaps because bodily kinesthetic intelligence is related to the physical execution of tasks, as opposed to their formulation, it has not received much attention in scholarly research. As a matter of speculation, this may reflect a bias among people who are inclined to do research into the functions of the brain. However, a Kinaesthetic Sensitivity Test has been developed to research “the relationship between kinaesthesis and motor performance”. Curiously, kinesthetic sensitivity of athletes did not differ from sensitivity of non-athletes, a finding that casts doubt on the relationship between kinesthetic sensitivity and kinesthetic intelligence. Researchers in one study found: “Taekwondo training improved body intelligence and brain connectivity from the cerebellum to the parietal and frontal cortex.” Non-peer-reviewed sources have identified characteristics of bodily-kinesthetic learners. Perhaps the relative lack of interest in the subject among researchers has left the literature barren.
Of course, we have a wealth of examples of people who obviously are gifted with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Our great athletes, dancers and surgeons are prime examples of this.
- Vivian H. Heyward, Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription (Human Kinetics, 2010).
- Mark Lauren, You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises (Ballantine Books, 2011).
- American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009).
- American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009).
- American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Health-Related Physical Fitness Assessment Manual (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2010).
- J. Larry Durstine, Geoffrey E. Moore, Patricia L. Painter and Scott L. Roberts, eds., ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons With Chronic Diseases and Disabilities (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009).
- American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Certification Review (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009).
- American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Advanced Exercise Physiology (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2011).
- Steven Jonas and Edward M. Phillips, ACSM’s Exercise Is Medicine: A Clinician’s Guide to Exercise Prescription (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009).
- American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009).
- John J. Ratey, Spark: The Revolutoinary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Little, Brown and Company, 2008).
- William D. McArdle, Essentials of Exercise Physiology (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2010).
- Carolyn Kisner and Lynn Allen Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques (F.A. Davis, 2007).
- Courtenay Schurman and Doug Schurman, The Outdoor Athlete (Human Kinetics, 2008).
- ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal
- IDEA Fitness Journal
- Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness
- A. Gill, R. Womack and S. Safranek, “Clinical Inquiries: Does exercise alleviate symptoms of depression?” Journal of Family Practice, 2010 Sep;59(9):530-1.
- Timothy J. Schoenfeld, Pedro Rada, Pedro R. Pieruzzini, Brian Hseuh and Elizabeth Gould, “Physical Exercise Prevents Stress-Induced Activation of Granule Neurons and Enhances Local Inhibitory Mechanisms in the Dentate Gyrus,” The Journal of Neuroscience, 1 May 2013 33(18): 7770-7777. (See also Science Daily summary.)
- William J. Broad, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards (Simon & Schuster, 2012): “Broad doesn’t just discuss the results of the scientific literature; he weighs the relative prestige of the journal in which the studies were published and scrutinizes each experiment’s design and methodology.”
Memoirs and other true narratives:
- Peter Sagal, The Incomplete Book of Running (Simon & Schuster, 2018): “A Memoir That Might Inspire You to Break a Sweat”
On healthful and unhealthful eating:
- Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Random House, 2013): a contemporary history of unhealthy eating habits in the United States
On physical activity:
- Bonnie Tsui, Why We Swim (Algonquin, 2020): “Tsui sets out to answer her title’s question with a compassionate understanding of how that mind game stops some and a curiosity about how and why it seduces others.”
On health, generally:
- Nicholas A. Christakis, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live (Little, Brown, Spark, 2020): “It’s a broad survey, not a deep dive, and sweeps across most of the signal topics: the inept early responses to the outbreak, first in China and then in the United States; the back story of modern pandemics and pandemic threats, notably the 1918 influenza and SARS in 2003; the social shutdowns, the mask issue and the tension between civil liberties and public health; the grief, fear and lies that make a pandemic emotionally as well as medically punishing; the social and economic changes, forced by this virus, that may become permanent; the general question of how plagues end and the specific, more speculative question of how this one might.”
- Suzanne O’Sullivan, The Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories of Mystery Illness (Pantheon, 2021): “All illness is 'biopsychosocial,' she insists, and though doctors instinctively know this, they tend to focus on the 'bio' and the 'psycho' at the expense of the 'social.' They are trained to 'treat illness as personal,' attending to what they can directly assess: the body in front of them, not the cultural context in which that body operates.”
- Aleksandr Deyneka, Morning Exercises (1932)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- Boyer, Three Olympians (2000): 1. Apollo; 2. Aphrodite; 3. Ares.
- Alexander Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 7, Op. 139, “Quarantine”
- The Tubby Hayes Quartet, “A Little Workout”
- Steven Halpern, “Achieving Your Ideal Weight” (1983) (60’)
- Steven Halpern, “Listen & Lose Weight” (2013) (75’)
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Paul Simon, “Run That Body Down”
Gueulemer was a Hercules of no defined position. For his lair he had the sewer of the Arche-Marion. He was six feet high, his pectoral muscles were of marble, his biceps of brass, his breath was that of a cavern, his torso that of a colossus, his head that of a bird. One thought one beheld the Farnese Hercules clad in duck trousers and a cotton velvet waistcoat. Gueulemer, built after this sculptural fashion, might have subdued monsters; he had found it more expeditious to be one. A low brow, large temples, less than forty years of age, but with crow's-feet, harsh, short hair, cheeks like a brush, a beard like that of a wild boar; the reader can see the man before him. His muscles called for work, his stupidity would have none of it. He was a great, idle force. He was an assassin through coolness. He was thought to be a creole. He had, probably, somewhat to do with Marshal Brune, having been a porter at Avignon in 1815. After this stage, he had turned ruffian. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume III – Marius; Book Seventh – Patron Minette, Chapter III, Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse.]