Fitness Versus Inertia

By Lou Earle – September 3, 2013

Motion (or its lack thereof) was something that engaged both Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton and, in this age of obesity, is a topic that goes beyond the celestial to touch on our bodies…and, surprisingly, our minds. Galileo first addressed the concept of inertia and Newton expanded, incorporating the concept into his first law of motion (also known as “the law of inertia”).

It is indeed ironic that the word “inertia” is derived from Latin, which refers to a lack of skill or inactivity. This term, which encompasses the meat of Newton’s first law, seems to be extraordinarily apropos to our modern-day fitness paradigm.

Inertia has a significant influence on several critical aspects of fitness that may not often be appreciated. Foremost is that inertia encompasses the mind and emotions. Attitudes about changing lifestyles and perceived efforts versus benefits and ultimate outcomes enormously affect subsequent actions. Those who most need to change their diets, become more active, and adopt healthy lifestyles often face the greatest obstacles and require significant force to change direction. Low self-esteem, emotional, physical, and psychological challenges become the mass that opposes any efforts to alter one’s course. Once the challenge has been accepted and real energy has been expended to alter an existing inertia, equal and opposite forces often act to inhibit one’s good intentions. Inertia, however, can work in one's favor since a body already in motion tends to stay in motion and so, if a healthy lifestyle has been adopted, the ability to sustain that direction is generally improved.

Fitness and performance are unique to each of us and are affected by many factors in our lives. “Couch potatoes” valiantly attempting to get fit are faced with an entirely different set of obstacles than folks who are already routinely running 5Ks, cycling, or walking regularly. And for newbies (those who have only just entered the orbit of a fitness lifestyle), support, encouragement, and expert counsel are especially important contributors to sustaining the appropriate force needed to maintain healthy living. For those with physical or mental challenges, athleticism could be viewed as overwhelming.

Our society is filled with wonderfully inspiring people who have vanquished opposing force, conquered enormous challenges, and achieved extraordinary results. We are awed by the stories of wounded warriors who suffer with PTSD and physical problems who’ve taken on physical challenges. We are inspired by those who, plagued by chronic illness and obesity, have fought their way back to health. We learn how our neighbors have tackled their own obstacles and persevered because, although each of us must deal with our own form of inertia, we all have the opportunity to change our direction.

Our issue this month focuses on the mind/body relationship in fitness and offers up some great stories of connections made and challenges overcome. So check it out and be inspired!


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