Open Letter to a Reluctant Exerciser

Humans are designed to move. Let’s use running as an example. Evolutionists theorize running is as old as mankind’s initial ability to walk upright, dating back about 2 million years. We evolved as the ultimate endurance athlete. That characteristic – efficient movement — is quite possibly what allowed Homo sapiens to outlast the bulkier, slower Neanderthals by running and scavenging for food through open plains.

As we evolved in artificial, sedentary environments where technology allowed us to minimize our physical movement, we have become sicker and fatter. While we’ve had amazing medical advancements over the past century, they have done little to curb that overall trend. Unfortunately, the numbers are only getting worse.

The more sedentary a person is, the less efficient with movement that person becomes. Once our brains realize we aren’t utilizing a certain movement or skill set, those resources get allocated to other tasks that we do more frequently. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Initiating exercise gets harder after years of inactivity and sedentary behavior because we have unlearned the ability to move efficiently.

Not by coincidence, some of the healthiest peoples on the planet share common characteristics that lifestyles in the modern Western world generally lack. Lives filled with physical exercise, abundant experiences in nature, environments relatively unspoiled by commercial development, minimal stress, and diets made up of whole foods are the norm, not the exception. Their health and fitness levels extend across their lifespan through old age where incidences of injury, pain, and sickness pale in comparison to the worst offenders, the most sedentary countries. It begs the questions: “Should movement become more difficult as you age, or does it get harder because you stopped doing it? Do you age faster because you stopped moving?”

Exercising provides an outlet to recharge and disconnect from a world in which we’re constantly bombarded with stressors. Scientific research continues to reinforce the positive impact exercising has on cardiac function, boosting beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters, improving cognitive function, enhancing mental health, improving body composition, increasing insulin sensitivity, and much, much more. Exercise also helps boost self-esteem and alleviate social withdrawal.

Modern technologies tempt us with conveniences that condition us to move less with each passing season. If we suppress our intrinsic physiological and psychological needs to move for long enough, our inactivity unfortunately can present itself in ugly ways. It can come in the form of chronic disease, pain, or a shorter lifespan.

With all of that said, why wouldn’t you exercise? Maybe it’s been a long time and you’re scared of hurting yourself. Maybe you’re out of shape and the thought of exercising intimidates you. Maybe you’ve been told that you can’t exercise, but deep down inside you know you can. I ask you this: what if no one ever told you couldn’t? What would you attempt?

About the Author

Dr. Tom Van Ornum is the owner and founder of Resurgent Performance Physical Therapy in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Studies degrees from Boston University. He has worked with athletes of all ages, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, performing arts, and military special forces, as well as nationally ranked runners, triathletes, and weightlifters.

Dr. Tom pulls from a variety of disciplines when treating pain/dysfunction and understands that “everything is connected.” The foundations of his practice integrate a recognition that pain, stress and performance are outputs of the brain and that the overall well-being of a person depends on an optimal interaction with his or her environment. He strives to eliminate pain and maximize vitality in everyone he works with. He has multiple articles published in national publications and regularly consults for numerous companies across the country on health, wellness, and injury prevention.