How working out benefits you from the outside in
Little did Karp know then how that experience would change the trajectory of his life and shape the way he sees the world. He became hooked on the “freedom” of running, and he’s never stopped. Since then, in his time spent not running, he’s earned a PhD in exercise physiology (along with an MBA in entrepreneurship). Additionally, he’s a successful coach, educator, and speaker, and the author of more than a dozen books, including The Inner Runner and Lose It Forever. Yet it’s one of his newest books that truly encompasses his life’s work.
Within the pages of Work Out: The Revolutionary Method of Creating a Sound Body to Create a Sound Mind—and in his popular TED talk that inspired it, called “How Running Like an Animal Makes Us Human”—he shares his long-held belief that in order to activate your mental health, you must be physically active.
“Humans like to believe we can do anything we set our minds to, even though that’s not really true,” says Karp. He explains that it’s the body that’s the “boss” over the brain and the mind, not the other way around. That means exercise is just as essential as the other daily requirements needed to keep our bodies going.
“Without sleep, food and drink, and going to the bathroom, your life ends,” he writes in the book. “Your earthly life begins with your body and ends with your body. From your first heartbeat to your last. It is virtually impossible to live without movement of the body.”
Unfortunately, he says, our lives have become unbalanced, mostly due to the conveniences of modern society, including technology. “The brain evolved from the body’s movements so that we could successfully navigate the world around us. But we no longer need to use our bodies to do anything; we can order things online with the click of a mouse. We have forgotten that we’re physical animals first.” (He’s fond of saying, “You think a lion asks himself, ‘what’s my why?’”)
Despite the proliferation of inspirational posters and book titles out there displaying sentiments like, “If you dream it, you can do it” or “You can achieve anything you put your mind to,” Karp isn’t the only one who believes the key to a healthy mind is being physically active.
Over the years, numerous studies have shown that exercise has myriad benefits on the brain and the mind. Being physically active increases blood circulation to the brain, which enhances cognitive function and helps reduce anxiety and depression, leading to increased self-esteem.
There’s also the obvious physical benefits, such as improved strength, coordination, flexibility, heart health, and weight management, that can in turn affect self-esteem—just as they did for Karp during his formative years.
Though running has been Karp’s choice for physical exercise for nearly 40 years, he’s quick to point out that it’s not the only physical activity that benefits the mind: “Any aerobic exercise offers physiological and psychological benefits.”
Among the many workouts included in Karp’s book are activities like white water kayaking, rock climbing, cycling, and soccer. “Aerobic exercise in general, and running in particular, has been scientifically studied, so we know a lot about it,” he says. “But different types of activities offer different types of rewards. Exercises that help improve balance, agility, and hand-eye coordination are also quite good for the brain.”
Karp maintains a well-rounded exercise regimen himself, though he plans on running for as long as he can, and he’s made it his mission to help others learn the importance of just keeping at it.
“Exercise alone is not the trick to living a confident, successful life, but it’s a start,” he says. “When you create stronger muscles, you become a stronger person. A strong exterior makes a strong interior. With a strong interior, you become confident. With a strong interior, you walk with a swagger. With a strong interior, you are a superhero… and superheroes can do amazing things.”
When paired with regular exercise, these supplements can elevate your workout to the next level.
|Supplement||What it does|
|protein powders||help build muscle mass|
|greens powders||increase energy|
|creatine||improves physical performance|
|iron||helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body|
|probiotics||help metabolize important nutrients for sports performance|
|Beta-Alanine||reduces neuromuscular fatigue, especially with high-intensity exercise lasting 1-4 mins.|