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Working out is the new happy hour, and we’re all invited. Only problem – we have no idea what to do when we get there.

There’s a widespread belief that says: Many people are out of shape because they don’t get enough exercise. And I’m not even sure we can call it a belief. It’s more of a myth. An idea. Or the result of well-executed propaganda. Whatever you want to call it, it’s just not true.

If you want proof, all you have to do is look at some vintage photos. See if you can find pictures of your favorite beach from the 40’s, and you’ll notice something truly strange – a conspicuous absence of fat people. You might even assume that back in those old days, folks were really serious about working out and staying in shape.

But you’d be wrong.

You see, exercise, on a mass scale, is a relatively new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, up until the mid 1950s, exercise for the sake of exercise was actually frowned upon.
It was an activity reserved for competitive athletes, not for the general public.

The closest thing women did to exercise was push the vacuum cleaner around the house.

“Now, that’s some fine cardio, Doris. You ought to give it a go.”

And men? No way. If a dude was seen swinging some battle ropes or doing burpees, his peers would think he had either gone insane or was too lazy to do more important things with his life. Either way – not a good thing for someone’s social standing.

Despite the lack of exercise, people were generally lean and the obesity rate was about 10% (compared to 40% today).

Today, on the other hand, gyms are packed with men and women from all walks of life. Traditional exercises like weight lifting, aerobics, swimming, and boxing, coexist with Cross Fit, Zumba, Pilates, you name it. New workouts are developed daily, and the fitness industry has ballooned into a $30 Billion dollar business.

I…I-um…I-uh, ha…should-a picked…the VACUUUUUUM!!!

Are more and more people becoming interested in fitness, or has the American nation become so affluent that we have countless hours to spend on self-improvement? Why is it that less than a century ago, this industry was virtually non-existent?

Turns out, that in the 1950s, just as the new processed food industry was gaining momentum and people were beginning to get fat, certain scientists experimented with overweight rats and concluded that lack of exercise was the cause of obesity.

  • Just because your CrossFit class feels like a killer workout, doesn’t mean it’s actually paying off. I once spent upwards of $1,200 on CrossFit classes, plus an additional $500 on nutritional supplements, only to gain 2 pounds of fat and lose 4 pounds of muscle, in the span of 8-weeks. Talk about disappointment.
  • The shredded guy in your gym may be doing lots of forearm curls, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get shredded that way. Chances are, he built his body with heavy compound exercises and is now working to bring out specific muscle groups. You also don’t know which supplements and/or drugs he’s on. If you ask him, you’re not guaranteed a straight answer.
  • Your coworker may have lost weight by running 2 miles each morning, but you don’t know everything else she changed about her diet and lifestyle. Even if you knew and adapted these changes yourself, your results could vary greatly.

We humans are mean to be active, and our bodies are designed to support a wide variety of movements. When we live in natural environments, we are constantly moving – pulling, pushing, climbing, running.

In cities, however, a lot of these activities are no longer needed for survival. Many of us spend our days in offices, under artificial lights, sealed off from fresh air. Our jobs don’t require us to load steel into train cars or till acres of soil. Instead, we sit still in front of monitors, clicking and clacking away.

Reasonable Effort, Maximum Results

When I was fourteen years old, my father acquired some secondhand gym equipment, and we converted our basement into a subterranean training camp. Like most boys that age, I couldn’t wait to put on muscle and impress my peers.

We had a few posters with Joe Weider’s workout program – the same one used by champion bodybuilders like Frank Zane and Arnold Schwarzenegger – and I followed them to a T.

One of the first workout programs I tried back in ’98.

Sadly, many people struggle for months or years, toiling away on cardio equipment or paying respects to every single machine in the gym. And yet, they make little progress.


This quote is excerpted from A Technique for Producing Ideas
by James Webb Young. Page 21. 1

This quote is excerpted from A Technique for Producing Ideas
by James Webb Young. Page 21. 2


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