For thousands of years, we have been aware of the connection between body and mind health. It was the ancient Roman poet Juvenal who came up with the Latin phrase ‘mens sana in corpore sano’, translated as ‘healthy mind in a healthy body’. If your body is fit and healthy, then your mind, in turn, will be too. If your body is not healthy, this has a detrimental effect on your mind.
Here we are now in the 21st century, and modern science and technology are proving Juvenal to be oh so right. Increasingly we are able to prove how much of an impact our physical wellbeing has on our intellectual and mental health. People who take the time to look after their bodies, through eating well and having an active lifestyle, are going to have a positive impact on their minds and their ability to think clearly, stay focused for longer and have a better intellectual life.
Unfortunately, the 21st-century lifestyle for a lot of the people in the world has become quite sedentary. The modern convenience of transport, lifestyle innovation & design and the rise of sedentary jobs has seen an increase in obesity, diabetes, and other issues and illnesses that are detrimental to physical health. Studies in America have shown that in 1960, 50% of jobs required moderate physical activity; this has dropped to 20% today, and the remaining 80% of jobs are sedentary or only require light activity. And as a result, we are also seeing an increase in mental health issued at the same time.
Jobs done by people have moved away from the physical; manufacturing, heavy industry, agriculture, coal mining and many other industries and fields of work have been completely transformed by technology, innovation and design. Increasingly, jobs are intellectually based and require us to use our minds instead of our hands.
The dichotomy is this: We have created a world of work that requires us to sit still, and therefore we suffer the consequences of an unhealthy body. What we actually need is a healthy body in order to create a healthy mind – the thing we need the most to do the jobs we have now created for ourselves to do. It’s all very well having machines to do the repetitive, manual tasks but we neglect our physical health to our mental detriment.
The answer is obvious. We don’t need today’s scientists to give us the answer. Just turn back the pages of time and heed the words of Juvenal: Mens sana in corpore sano.