Quotables Week: Marty Seligman on the real power of exercise

From the founder of positive psychology: some findings on the value of exercise for longevity that got the good doctor himself off the couch, for good.
From the founder of positive psychology: some findings on the value of exercise for longevity that got the good doctor himself off the couch, for good.

Today’s notable quote comes courtesy of University of Pennsylvania psychology professor and the founder of the field of study known as positive psychology, Martin Seligman. This quote is from Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being.

From p. 218 of the paperback edition:

Just as optimism is a subjective health asset for cardiovascular disease, it is clear that exercise is a functional health asset: people who exercise a moderate amount have increased health and low mortality, while couch potatoes have poor health and high mortality. The beneficial effects of exercise on health and illness are finally well accepted even within the most reductionist part of the medical community, a guild very resistant to any treatment that is not a pill or a cut. The surgeon general’s 2008 report enshrines the need for adults to do the equivalent of walking 10,000 steps per day. (The real danger point is fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and if this describes you, I want to emphasize that the findings that you are at undue risk for death are—there is no other word for it—compelling.) To take the equivalent of 10,000 steps a day can be done by swimming, running, dancing, weight lifting; even yoga and a host of other ways of moving vigorously.

So compelling did Seligman find this research that he himself decided that he needed to make health improvements of his own. He looked to the Internet to form a support group and embarked on a new lifestyle of much more movement. His report from the front:

From p. 219:

I made a New Year’s resolution for 2009: to take 5 million steps, 13,700 per day on average. On December 30, 2009, I crossed the 5 million mark, and got “Wow!” and “What a role model!” from my Internet friends. So effective is this group for exercise that I am now trying this out for dieting…I started to  2010 at 215 pounds, and I also started reporting my daily caloric intake, as well as my number of steps, every night to my Internet friends. Yesterday I took in 1,703 calories and walked 11,351 steps. Today, February 19, 2010, for the first time in more than twenty years, I weigh less than 200 pounds.

Good stuff from a good scientist. Now get out there and get your workout on.

Yesterday’s Every48 workout: Walking, walking, walking, but not as much as I wanted, or as much as I had planned. Today will be better.

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