Updated: Sep 14
Author: Mario Rodriguez Rodriguez, BSc, MSc.
‘There is nothing more inspiring in this world than witnessing a soul conquer adversity ‘
The complexity of the human mind has reached a level where we no longer need to struggle to satisfy our most basic needs; in modern days, we can get food delivered to our door, do not need to look for a warm shelter, nor defend ourselves from predators, we can have a world without significant adversity. Continuous movement to survive adversities and dangers allowed Homo sapiens to achieve such a degree of cognitive development.
Thanks to continuous movement and physical activity, we have gathered much more nutritious sources of energy, comfortable habitats, and the ability to colonise new lands. Our bodies evolved for efficient movement and superior locomotor abilities, allowing us to be one of the few animals that can tire out prey during hunting. The ancient civilisations travelled thousands of miles by foot to conquer, colonise, and explore new territories. Movement in the way of being physically active and evolution are interdependent. We are built to be active, and so it is our brain. Many of the current mental health issues are caused by physical inactivity, which results in overthinking behaviours (we are static spinning our minds).
The human mind has evolved to the point that there is a clash between primitive behaviours mixed with complex thinking patterns. We constantly try to solve problems we cannot resolve; however, we do not realise that this is an ancient mechanism that tries to protect us. This threat does not apply to most situations in the modern world. Anxiety and fear are natural, primitive, and necessary responses of the brain to potential threats that help us survive. However, these responses can be less specific in contemporary life, where we may not have to worry about escaping physical dangers like tigers. Modern societies offer a comfortable life that leaves us with abundant free time, which we often spend on overthinking and worrying. We tend to feel anxious about the future and depressed about the past. As the illustrious Charlie Chaplin once said, ‘We tend to think too much and feel too little’.
When we are static, our mind dominates; when we move, we regain control. Rich Roll (ultra-endurance athlete and well-being & nutrition advocate) said, 'mood follows action’; in other words, it is our attitude towards a goal that puts us in the process of achieving it. When you are active, you are in the process, you gain perspective, and then it is much easier to detach from pernicious thoughts. Great leaders have used this practice of exercise throughout history. Stoicism, a philosophical school where modern psychology draws principles, believes in self-control and detachment from negative emotions. Stoics were known for the rigorous discipline of training. Great leaders, scientists, and artists recognised the power of movement and exercise and made time for this practice. This allowed them to get a broader perspective, focusing more on their goals and the things that truly matter.