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The Exercise Myth & How It Has Been Destroying Your Health
Written by Brandon Campbell
Exercise simply isn't what you think it is. Here's why...
Before we get into this it is important that we get something straight right from the beginning...

This isn't like some of the articles that you've read before with a catchy title that doesn't include any real myth and only hints at some things that when looked at from just the right angle can potentially be considered mythical in the way that people view them.

What we're going to be getting into here is an actual, real live, myth and it is one of the most widely propagated ones that I know of.

Once we uncover this myth and you begin to develop a greater awareness of what the purpose of exercise actually is then you will be infinitely more well equipped to succeed in creating Thriving Health.

Here we go...

Lets begin with an unbiased look at your current beliefs about exercise.

Read the following questions and take a moment to think about what your answers are.

What is the purpose of exercise?

Why do you exercise?

Do you think you need to exercise more? If so, why?

Do you enjoy exercise?

What do you believe is the most effective form of exercise?

Take a moment to reflect on your honest answers while this fitness model holds a completely color coordinated advanced plank variation...
Okay great...she got a plank in for the period of time it took to snap that picture and you enjoyed some reflection on what your current beliefs about exercise are.

What did you find out?

I've had the pleasure of working with thousands of different people at this point in my career and I can't help but notice that there are some pretty universal answers to those questions.

See if this is at all congruent with what you came up with...

What is the purpose of exercise?

The purpose of exercise is to get into shape, to lose weight, to get fit, to be healthier overall.

Why do you exercise?

I exercise because that's what you're supposed to do to get fit and healthy or stay fit and healthy.

Do you think you need to exercise more? If so, why?

Yes I think I could benefit from getting more exercise or at the very least more regular exercise. I think that's the case because I want to get fit and healthy or continue to stay fit and healthy.

Do you enjoy exercise?

I really dislike most of the exercise that I do or that I think I'm supposed to do, but I generally feel better after I do it.

What do you believe is the most effective form of exercise?

This one has wildly variable answers and when you consider yours all I'd like to do is explore a little further so that we can begin to unearth the myth that's present in all of this. To do that, here are a few follow up questions to consider...

Where did that belief come from? 

Is that form of exercise the one that you enjoy the most or is it the one that you've heard, read or been told is the most effective from?

Did the question..."Best form of exercise for what?" even cross your mind or did you immediately choose the one that you think is most effective for whatever your current goals are?
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Here we are...at the precipice just prior to uncovering our Myth.
Are you ready?
Okay good...lets do it.
The purpose of exercise is not to get into shape, to lose weight, to get fit, or to be healthier overall.
The real underlying purpose of exercise is very simple. It is to create a stimulus for change. That's it.
You see...the reality of all of this is that our bodies are absolutely phenomenal at adapting to the stimuli that we provide in our daily lives which can be both a blessing and a curse.

How so?
Well when you provide a stimulus such as spending 30-40 hours each week sitting at a desk in a chair your body adapts to that stimulus and gets very efficient at sitting. 

Your hip flexor muscles shorten and tighten to accommodate the prolonged seated posture, your shoulders round to make it easier to reach your pen, keyboard or mouse, your core musculature will begin diminishing in both strength and efficiency because the chair is supporting you so the muscles are no longer needed and your head comes forward so that you can more effectively read the words on the page or the screen.

Look familiar?
By the same token, when you provide a stimulus like riding a road bike for prolonged periods of time you'll see the body adapt to that activity as well. 

The quad muscles will become overdeveloped to account for the excess load they are consistently placed under, your shoulders will round again to help make you more aerodynamic when you're in the drops, the muscle mass in your upper body will diminish significantly because it isn't being used much for this activity and muscle is expensive to the body and lastly the posture of your spine will change significantly to accommodate for the excessive trunk flexion that you're in for prolonged periods of time. 
BUT wait!

One of those is clearly "Exercise" and the other one is just sitting at a desk doing what most people who work in an office would refer to as "Working" so how can they both provide a stimulus for change and lead to adaptation in our bodies?

Great question.

Our bodies, unlike our brains, are completely nonjudgmental. They do not distinguish or differentiate between the activities that we consistently do other than for the purposes of increasing our efficiency.

Your body adapts so that it can become more efficient and expend less energy doing your "normal" activities. Your bodies aim in all of this is to conserve energy while simultaneously putting you in the best overall position to survive in your environment.

If in your current environment your normal activities consist of sitting on the couch all day watching television then you get very efficient at doing that. 

If, on the other hand, in your current environment your normal activities consist of doing a marathon every weekend then your body adapts to that stimulus as well and will get very efficient at running.

What does all of this mean to your health?

If you are concerned with changing anything about your body then it is imperative that when you are choosing your activities that you take into account what it is that you want the adaptations to be.

For some people that means regularly accounting for some of the repetitive activities that they do at work with some strategic "corrective exercise" which is simply activity that provides a stimulus to improve posture or deviations that occur with prolonged positions. For most people this usually consists of a few strategic motions and a greater level of awareness while at work.

For other people this means choosing activities that lead their bodies to adapt to a stimulus that effectively changes their body composition by supporting muscular growth and/or efficiency and minimizing their body fat stores.

Still for others this means strategically accounting for a previous or recurring injury by providing the proper stimulus to simultaneously strengthen the muscles that will keep that area well protected while minimizing the tension in the painful areas to minimize the body's pain response.

As you can see, regardless of what your chosen version of thriving health looks, sounds or feels like the exercise component is really as simple as selecting the proper stimulus for the change or adaptation you are looking to support.

The other very important implication when we shatter the broken paradigm of thinking about exercise as a means to an end with regard to health and fitness as opposed to simply another type of activity that provides a stimulus for change is how much of it needs to be done.

Most people are under the false belief that if a little exercise is good then a lot must be even better. This leads some people to actually begin forming an unhealthy addiction to exercise.

The reality is that when we know that exercise is simply a stimulus for change then we can recognize and acknowledge that the exercise in and of itself is not what leads to the results that we want to create.

What actually leads to the results that we want is the adaptation that our bodies undergo after we have provided the stimulus for change. So you actually improve your health through exercise not during the exercise at all...you improve your health through exercise during the recovery period while your body is adapting.

The other powerful implication that this has may have dawned on you by now, but if not it is definitely worth pointing out.

The reason why so many people hit times where the results seem to stop, what are commonly referred to as plateaus, as they are pursuing better health with regular exercise is because the body has done its job effectively.

The body adapts to the stimulus that you provide and becomes very efficient and this includes exercise as well.

Think about it like this...

I'm roughly the same size as Lance Armstrong so if we both jumped on a spin bike at the gym and rode for an hour at a moderate pace with some intervals mixed in the calorie calculator would say that we both burned about the same number of calories during that hour. It would end up telling us that we had burned somewhere around 500 calories.

While the equations for calculating calorie expenditure are pretty good what they can't take into account is the efficiency that we have for the activity that we've chosen.

Knowing that Lance Armstrong could ride roughly 2200 miles over the course of 23 days in the Tour de France do you think he would really burn the same 500 calories in an hour on the bike that I would?

It just doesn't add up because if that were the case then his body would not be able to sustain the effort for that type of event. Because of all of the time he has spent on the bike he is incredibly efficient at that movement pattern. Far more so than I am because I haven't spent decades on a bike.

The overall implication of this is that if Lance wants to create a change in his body composition riding a bike would be one of the worst ways to do so because his body is already so efficient at it. It will take him a lot more time and effort to create the proper stimulus for change to accomplish that adaptation on the bike than it would doing sprints or jumping rope.

This is all very exciting for you because when we know what it is that you want to accomplish and we account for what you are currently doing then we can select the appropriate stimulus for change that will lead to the fastest and most sustainable result.

Here are a few key points to summarize the Exercise Myth:

All exercise is simply a stimulus for change.

Your body is excellent at adapting to stimulus and becoming efficient at your chosen activities whether you like it or not.

You don't improve or even get any results during the time you are exercising, the actual changes occur during the time you are recovering.

If you've hit a plateau it is because your body is doing exactly what it is meant to do and it is your job to select a new stimulus for change.
Wouldn't it be nice to create a program that you knew was built for who you are rather than who someone told you you're "supposed to be"? 

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The exciting thing with all of this is that identifying and understanding the way in which you can begin to effectively utilize exercise for what it actually can do for you in your life is only one small component of what is included in your MyThrivingHealth Assessment.
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About Author: 
Brandon Campbell

Father, Husband, Athlete, Creator, Master Coach, Health & Neuroscience Expert
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