How to Exercise Efficiently

Researchers at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and Pennsylvania State University are explaining how “all animals bear the same stamp of physics in their design.” (
The researchers show that “constructal theory” is a powerful analytical approach to describing movement, or flows, in nature.
Adrian Bejan, J. A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke’s Pratt School reports that in the case of animal locomotion, “animals move such that they travel the greatest distance while expending the least amount of energy.”
“The theory applies to virtually everything that moves,” Bejan said.
This is what I took home from the article: All animals attempt to be efficient when it comes to movement. This is probably subconscious for the most part.
A related article “The Best Exercise for Your Brain and Body” describes the brain preferring muscle synergies (muscles working together in groups) so as to be more efficient with movement.
The human body’s architecture is such that it enables fluid movement when allowed to perform optimally. The skeletal system, muscular system and ligamentous system is arranged to work in harmony to expend the least amount of energy for the task desired.
Muscle fibers are orchestrated in a manner to promote multi-planar movement. This helps the body produce more force, which in turn makes it more adept at achieving desired movement results.
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Our system and, it appears, all animal species’ systems, are designed rather well for success.
As children we are “wired “with all the right movement patterns for success. As we age and develop poor postures, inflexible musculature and other compensations due to poor movement habits…we “foul up” the system.
It would seem to make sense that our best movement strategy would be to let the body move as it is designed to move. We would be successful by leaving well enough alone. “Don’t try to fix what ain’t broke”- so to speak.
We are “messing with nature.”
So, how can we keep from altering nature? How do we keep from developing poor movement habits; and better yet un-do existing ones?
I think it is fairly simple and something that can be achieved quickly. As the saying goes, we will have to jump over to “the simple side of complexity.”
The body is a complex organism. However, it is already designed for us to be successful. We just need to take advantage of the arrangement and work with it instead of against it. This will improve our overall health and fitness.
Here are some key points to allow this to happen:
Perform a daily exercise routine that works the body in all three planes of motion. These planes are the sagittal, frontal and transverse (front to back, side to side and rotational). This action alone will allow the muscles to operate as designed and give proper feedback to the brain and spinal cord. Sending proper information to the “control tower” will result in better movement outcomes (posture, flexibility, reflexes, muscle and ligament strength).
Exercise with the movement goal in mind. What does your body have to do on a daily basis? What postures, movement patterns and activities do you ask it to do? How do you need to prepare for its ultimate success? What exercises and/or stretches must you perform to prevent problems?
If I am a computer programmer, I want to make sure I do exercise routines to stimulate my muscles to help keep my metabolism at levels to prevent excessive weight gain. I want to make sure I do flexibility routines to prevent muscle tightness and poor posturing. I need to make sure I take several breaks throughout the day to at least adjust my posture and possibly do quick exercise routines to stimulate my brain.
Stop introducing unnatural exercises and exercise machines to your system. A basic rule of thumb is to evaluate your routine based on its functionality. Do you do a movement like this on a daily basis? Does a particular machine put you in a non-functional environment?
Pretty much any exercise that “isolates” a muscle is unnatural. The brain recognizes muscle synergies, so isolating a muscle confuses the brain. Examples: seated leg extensions, machine biceps curls, pec (chest) machine.
Get on your feet and work in 3 planes of motion. Allow the muscles to “load and explode” (lengthen and contract) through the available range of motion (i.e. not too extreme range under tension as to cause injury).
Lastly, feed the system nutrients. Start with water; half an ounce to one ounce of water per pound of body weight. Keep your body hydrated to ensure proper functioning – not to mention clearer thinking.
I recommend 2.5 grams of carbohydrates for every gram of protein. Breads, fruits and vegetables (carbohydrates), provide the main energy source for our bodies. Meat, fish, dairy products and nuts (protein), provide the major building blocks for all the cells in our body.
In general, whole foods are better than processed. Stay away from sugar, flour, and high fat oils.
We can aid the architecture of our body by working with our natural system and avoiding habits that work against it.
We are born with all the tools for movement success; it’s how we develop these tools over time that makes the difference in our health and fitness.
As a wise man said long ago:
“If a man would move the world, he must first move himself.” -Socrates
Copyright 2006 John Perry