Fitness: Taking it to the next level

The purpose of the passive fitness environment discussed in previous posts is to grant you a fully functional and reliable body that you are comfortable living in. Such a body will allow you to live your life completely free from the burdens of obesity and most probably free from the disruption, pain and expense brought by degenerative disease. It is perfectly OK to be satisfied with such a body and not want to do anything more than a casual little bit of fun exercise with some friends every once in a while.

If you are interested, however, there exists a higher level…

Indeed, exercise is the portal towards a body you can genuinely love living in – a body that effortlessly carries you from place to place, makes the sports you play a pure joy and looks great in any outfit. Depending on the type of activities you pursue, such a body can also last significantly longer. Studies have found that professional athletes in power sports live 1.5 years longer than the average, those in team sports live 4 years longer and those in endurance sports live almost 6 years longer.

Now the trick for an average person is to cash in on most of the positives of being a professional athlete while sidestepping all of the negatives (nasty injuries, unnatural eating habits, possible substance abuse, stressful public pressure and difficult lifestyle changes at the end of a career). If you can drop all those things while still getting close to professional conditioning levels, you can really see massive gains in health, longevity and life satisfaction.

And the good news is that this is fully possible. The average professional athlete trains for only 12 hours per week (makes you wonder what they do with the rest of their time), while the average world class athlete trains for 23 hours per week. Well, the average American watches TV for close to 40 hours per week, implying that all of us could very easily reach the fitness levels of professional athletes if we tried.

To fully understand this argument we quickly have to cover something called the law of diminishing returns – a blindingly simple concept that is very poorly understood by the general populous (and their policymakers). Below are three examples of the law of diminishing returns in action:

These examples clearly show that initial increases in GDP, resource usage and healthcare spending produce great returns in life satisfaction, happy life years and life expectancy, but these returns very quickly start to diminish and can even go negative if we try to push too far. The same relationship holds for fitness and we should make sure that we use it intelligently.

Note that the average professional athlete who trains only 12 hours per week is probably about 90% as fit as the world class athlete who trains twice as much (although this 10% difference is massive in the world of professional sports). Similarly, you can eventually become 90% as fit as an average professional athlete with only 6 hours of training per week if you really wanted to.

We’ll take this further in the next post…

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