Ferrovial SA: Physical well-being as a driver of change throughout history



We live in an age where advances in technology and science provide us with invaluable knowledge about virtually everything. The field of health and wellness is no exception. Numerous studies and meta-analyses demonstrate irrefutably the benefits of physical exercise for all aspects of our health.

For some examples, it not only prevents the appearance of serious or chronic diseases (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory infections, hypertension), but also reduces mortality by 33%, whatever the cause, and prevents mental disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s.

We are aware of the risks of lack of physical exercise and we know that this medicine is much more powerful than any prescribed pill. Yet it is not surprising that more than half of the world’s population does not get the minimum level of physical activity recommended by the WHO (150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week – walking, cycling , dance…)

Why do we ignore the risks a sedentary lifestyle poses to our physical and mental health? Why not move? Our current lifestyle gives us a list of excuses, but we shouldn’t use them to justify what is often a lack of personal responsibility for our personal care, as well as ignorance of the effects of physical exercise. on our work and our family and social environment.

A little history

Let’s start from a fundamental principle: human beings are made to move, and our survival has depended on this movement for thousands of years. Evolution has not eliminated this need to keep moving from our genes or from our organs, muscles, bones and joints.

But let’s move on and find out some fun facts from the past.

The importance of physical exercise is not new. If we look back, history offers some lessons on how physical fitness has influenced many societies since before the common era. This was the case with Stoicisma philosophy that promotes the idea that the mind and body need challenges to grow stronger.

The Greeks trained physically for war and regarded physical excellence and athletic ability as sublime aspects of the strength of their society and civilization.

The Romans coined the saying “mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body. This concept of mental and physical health has evolved over centuries.

And then there is England during the First World War. The British Army created the so-called “soccer battalion“, which was made up of 400 professional and amateur football players, reflecting the known advantage of physical well-being on the battlefield.

As you can see, knowing that people’s physical well-being is important not only on an individual level but also for a nation is as old as life itself. This is where we find a modern leader emphasizing the need to stay in shape (in a context a little different from that where we find ourselves today, it is true).

The case of John F. Kennedy

In 1960, John F. Kennedy (now JFK) promoted the fitness statement, encouraging the American people to exercise for their individual benefit and that of the nation. JFK understood that if Americans were physically healthy, they would also be emotionally, spiritually, and mentally healthy. He also linked physical fitness with intellectual activity and the development of people’s full potential, allowing them to seize the opportunity to make the best use of all their abilities.

During the Korean War, the decline in strength and physical abilities of American soldiers was evident, followed by publications showing that many men were rejected for service because they were mentally or physically unfit. JFK pointed out that young Americans lag far behind Europeans and Japanese in physical fitness, and that the continued neglect of this area endangers the country’s defense of freedom and threatens its security.

Aware that wars are not won by a few weeks of basic training but by maintaining an active life from school, JFK took this issue to the national level and launched a national program to improve the fitness of all Americans. He established a fitness committee, held the Department of Health, Education and Welfare accountable, and called on all governors to lead, commit to, and participate in both fitness programs. as well as the annual National Youth Fitness Conference.

Physical exercise “here and now”

Today, a sedentary lifestyle is a invisible global pandemic it’s not talked about enough, but it involves millions in public spending that we can’t ignore.

JFK’s view of the importance of exercise to citizens and their country in a wartime and national security context is thankfully not a reality in many places around the world. Beyond that, one thing that we can definitely bring into our current reality, something that JFK very rightly pointed out, is that will, determination and effort are fundamental ingredients to surpass ourselves and achieve our fitness, life and everything else goals. This is where we can connect this moment with our “here and now”.

Comfort, immediacy, stress and the hectic pace of life are the perfect excuses for not taking control of our lives and our health, for letting ourselves be guided by inertia and laziness. Commitment and responsibility for one’s own physical and mental health and well-being is essential in today’s world.

Let’s take advantage of all the knowledge that was not available before and use it for ourselves. We know that staying active improves our concentration, creativity and efficiency in solving complex tasks, which improves our performance at work. Our motivation, mood and mental health generally experience a noticeable improvement, and there are countless physiological effects that are very beneficial to our body.

Since this is the case, why not take charge of our own health and well-being and set an example for our children on how to live a better and more fulfilled life? Physical exercise involves living with values; it gives us mental strength and surprises us by teaching us how far we can go. It can change us and even save our lives.

Now let’s move!

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