In the 1980s, the Soviet empire was falling apart. This led to shortages of food and fuel on the island of Cuba. People grew gardens and switched from driving to walking and biking. From 1991 to 1995, daily food intake dropped from 2,899 to 1,863 calories. And the percentage of physically-active adults increased from 30% to 67%.


Health benefits were dramatic. The average Cuban lost 10 pounds. Deaths dropped by 18% thanks to declines in heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.


The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but instead will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.

-Thomas Edison


Importance of exercise

Here are life-changing benefits:










Physical activity—even if you don’t lose an ounce, you’ll live longer, feel healthier, and be less likely to get cancer, heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. It’s the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.

-Tom Frieden


How to exercise

Exercise 30 minutes every day


Aerobic training


Resistance training


Balance/flexibility training


The best exercises are the ones you are willing to do.

-Scott Adams


How to start today

About 75% of Americans do not exercise enough. But you can with this 3-week plan:


When I want to get something done, I start with a ridiculously small first step. If the step is small enough, there is no expected pain to stop you. Want to start running? Put on a pair of shoes. Want to start building muscles? Do one push-up.

-Karl-Mikael Syding


Personal notes

I do yoga every morning for 10 minutes. I like the first 12 of 26 postures for Bikram Yoga because they force me to be present or fall over. I hold each posture for 30 seconds. Also, I work at a desk and yoga prevents stiffness in my neck, shoulders, and lower back.


After yoga, I do resistance training for 15 minutes. I have a 3-day rotation that alternates bicep and tricep curls, push-ups, and pull-ups. I do 6 sets until failure and rest 60 seconds between sets.


After exercising, I eat oatmeal with peanut butter, blueberries, and banana. These foods have a low glycemic index, which means they release glucose slowly into my bloodstream. Protein in peanut butter builds muscle and keeps me full longer.


For aerobic exercise, I walk briskly at least 30 minutes per day.


I find it easiest to exercise first thing in the morning. My workout wakes me up and I often get ideas and insights.


Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.

-Charles Duhigg


Franco M et al. (2007). Impact of energy intake, physical activity, and population-wide weight loss on cardiovascular disease and diabetes mortality in Cuba, 1980–2005. Am J Epidemiol. 166(12): 1374–1380.


Moskow A. (1999). Havana’s self-provision gardens. Envir Urban. 11(2): 127–134.



Laaksonen DE et al. (2005). Physical activity in the prevention of type 2 diabetes: the Finnish diabetes prevention study. Diabetes. 54(1): 158–165.


Davenport MH et al. (2018). Prenatal exercise for the prevention of gestational diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 52(21): 1367–1375.


Cheng W et al. (2018). Associations of leisure-time physical activity with cardiovascular mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 44 prospective cohort studies. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 25(17): 1864–1872. 


Li J, Siegrist J. (2012). Physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease--a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 9(2): 391–407.


Moore SC et al. (2016). Association of leisure-time physical activity with risk of 26 types of cancer in 1.44 million adults. JAMA Intern Med. 176(6): 816–825.


Reimers CD, Knapp G, Reimers AK. (2012). Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature. J Aging Res. 2012: 243958. 


Ekelund U et al. (2016). Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. Lancet. 388(10051): 1302–1310.


Khera AV et al. (2016). Genetic risk, adherence to a healthy lifestyle, and coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 375(24): 2349–2358.


Arem H et al. (2015). Leisure time physical activity and mortality: a detailed pooled analysis of the dose-response relationship. JAMA Intern Med. 175(6): 959–967.


Swift DL et al. (2014). The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 56(4): 441–447.


Wroblewski AP et al. (2011). Chronic exercise preserves lean muscle mass in masters athletes. Phys Sportsmed. 39(3): 172–178.


Puterman E et al. (2010). The power of exercise: buffering the effect of chronic stress on telomere length. PLoS One. 5(5): e10837.


Wu T et al. (2009). Long-term effectiveness of diet-plus-exercise interventions vs. diet-only interventions for weight loss: a meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 10(3): 313–323.



Erickson KI et al. (2019). Physical activity, cognition, and brain outcomes: A review of the 2018 physical activity guidelines. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 51(6): 1242–1251.


Hamer M, Chida Y. (2009). Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychol Med. 39(1): 3–11. 


Sanders LMJ et al. (2019). Dose-response relationship between exercise and cognitive function in older adults with and without cognitive impairment: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 14(1): e0210036.


Oaten M, Cheng K. (2006). Longitudinal gains in self-regulation from regular physical exercise. Br J Health Psychol. 11(Pt 4): 717–733.



Rebar AL et al. (2015). A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health Psychol Rev. 9(3): 366–378.


Zhang J, Chen W. (2019). A systematic review of the relationship between physical activity and happiness. J Happiness Stud. 20(4): 1305–1322.


Pritchett RV, Daley AJ, Jolly K. (2017). Does aerobic exercise reduce postpartum depressive symptoms? a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract. 67(663): e684–e691.



Gerbild H et al. (2018). Physical activity to improve erectile function: A systematic review of intervention studies. Sex Med. 6(2): 75–89.


Frederick DA, Haselton MG. (2007). Why is muscularity sexy? Tests of the fitness indicator hypothesis. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 33(8): 1167–1183.


Crane JD et al. (2015). Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging Cell. 14(4): 625–634.


Exercise guidelines

Garber CE et al. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 43(7): 1334–1359.


Rogers MA et al. (1990). Effect of 10 days of physical inactivity on glucose tolerance in master athletes. J Appl Physiol. 68(5): 1833–1837.


Aerobic training

Lee D et al. (2014). Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk. J Am Coll Cardiol. 64(5): 472–481.


Gillen JB et al. (2016). Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. PLoS One. 11(4): e0154075. 


Resistance training

Morton RW et al. (2016). Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training-mediated hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance-trained young men. J Appl Physiol. 121(1): 129–138.


Moore DR et al. (2009). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 89(1): 161–168.


Klika B, Jordan C. (2013). High-intensity circuit training using body weight: Maximum results with minimal investment. ACSM Health Fit J. 17(3): 8–13.


Melov S et al. (2007). Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle. PLoS ONE. 2(5): e465.


Neuromotor exercise for balance and coordination

Zoogman S et al. (2019). Effect of yoga-based interventions for anxiety symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Spirituality Clinical Practice. 6(4): 256–278.


Huang Z-G et al. (2017). Systematic review and meta-analysis: Tai Chi for preventing falls in older adults. BMJ Open. 7: e013661.


Holtzman S, Beggs RT. (2013). Yoga for chronic low back pain: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Res Manag. 18(5): 267–272.


Decoster LC et al. (2005). The effects of hamstring stretching on range of motion: a systematic literature review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 35(6): 377–387.


How to start today

Blackwell DL, Clarke TC. (2018). State variation in meeting the 2008 federal guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities through leisure-time physical activity among adults aged 18-64: United States, 2010-2015. Natl Health Stat Report. 112: 1–22.


Personal notes

Jenkins EM et al. (2019). Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 44(6): 681–684.

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