Exercise & Play - Can We Learn from it?


 Exercise & Play - Can We Learn from it?

The benefits of playing and physical activity are fairly well known. They can improve our mood, reduce the chance of developing illnesses, have a positive impact on our cognitive function and learning ability, help us to maintain our weight or lose weight, improve sleep quality etc. Our society is finally becoming more aware of the importance of physical activity for overall health. And yet we seem to forget that this idea has been around for centuries.

In 1778 Benjamin Franklin discovered through experimentation that children who played acted like adults who worked hard. He published his thoughts in a famous paper titled "Just how important has this principle been".
The principle is that the human body has a certain amount of vigor, and a certain capacity for work, which it will do as long as it can; but when this vigor is spent, or the capacity for work exhausted, then if no food is taken, death soon follows. The bodily powers are indeed greater in grown than infant men; and it may be, that an infant is able to live without food longer than a man can; but the man will, before that time arrive, be so much better able to live without it that his life will be of more value than that of the infant.
When Franklin was writing about human beings, he was actually referring to farm animals. The principle he discovered was that the animals could as well be fed with hay and oats and survive instead of grazing and surviving. The observation he made was that animals would work as long as they can, but if they are not fed their work capacity will dwindle and eventually die. As we are not feeding our body with food to improve our physical performance, it will eventually collapse to a point where it cannot recover.

"The truth of the principle appears from the universal practice of farmers to fatten their cattle by overfeeding them just before they are killed. This is a practice, with regard to which all farmers take the same care, and which none of them deviate from. The practice is of the utmost importance to them; for they know, that in times of dearth, if not overfed before slaughtering, their cattle will not keep good. They are aware that if they fatten their cattle completely before killing them, it is only by fattening them well before killing them that they can derive any benefit from their carcasses beyond what is consumed by the actual rearing of the animal; yet they leave nothing to chance or uncertainty. It is therefore urgent and indispensable that every one should so far accustom himself as never to depart from this custom".
This was just one of the examples Franklin gave in his paper to illustrate the importance of regular feeding and rest. He also wrote about how people refrain from eating in order to be able to perform more work, or when people get sick they tend to regain their health faster if they eat and rest than if they do not eat or rest.
In his living will he also outlines what he wants done with his body after his death, and among other things he suggests: "my body must be decently buried; my debts paid; and six months after my death, I wish all my friends etc. to have sumptuous parties".
It should be noted that Franklin was not only a statesman and scientist. He was also an author and publisher, and his political opinion led him to write for the Pennsylvania Magazine. In this magazine he encouraged the reading of Daniel Defoe's book "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", where he states: "it is a principle, not local but universal, as proved by experience and observation, that every animal in its various operations acts with greater or less vigor so far as it is under the necessity of exerting itself".
So we should not be surprised to see Franklin's thought being present in some other well known authors such as Henry David Thoreau or John Muir. In "Walden" Thoreau writes: "the continual strain of some farm operations is a tradition that the surface of the earth was crusted with frost or snow during a large part of the year. I say, such is a tradition, for science tells us that all snow and ice have long since disappeared from this globe... But as I am speaking of frost, if we look at nature from early in the morning till late in the afternoon with a thermometer at zero, not more than one-third of the time is marked by frost. By night it appears in another character, and reminds us more of an image which we see in water than an object which we behold on land. I do not wish to live aloof from mankind, but neither do I wish to crowd myself into a hole. I must have the air and light. The community must have its place, and I must be left there with my door open".
John Muir, one of the most famous environmentalists in the world, also wrote about our need to play: "It is a high point of intellectual progress when humanity opens itself to all that is higher and finer in Nature". He refers here to music, art, architecture and more. He continues to say that "our culture is being balked of the great and good things of Nature", and that we have lost our natural sense of movement, turning our backs on the full expression of the free animal. In his famous book "The Mountains of California" Muir writes: "it is not true that all men are created equal; but it is true that all men are born with the same instincts and capable of sharing in the same activities".
In conclusion I would like to note that we should not be afraid to go against a popular belief, because this idea has existed for a very long time. Our society tends to believe that working hard equals staying healthy, but this is completely false logic.

The human being is not designed to live only for working, but work is necessary to have a better society. It is very important to learn more about how to feed yourself correctly so that your body will be as efficient and healthy as possible; it will increase your life expectancy and the quality of the work you complete. The great Thomas Jefferson once said: "I do not know whether our constitution or any form of government be best adapted to this purpose; but one thing I am sure, that every man has a right to judge for himself". We should not forget this advice, because we can all feel more comfortable in our daily lives if we are well fed and rested.
Additionally, exercise itself is good for your health in many ways.

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