What do human beings need in order to be happy and feel fulfilled? Is it love? Money? Health? According to Abraham Maslow, a legend in the field of psychology, the answer is a combination of the three, plus other factors, listed in varying levels of importance. In his most famous contribution as a psychologist, Maslow developed a pyramid-shaped “hierarchy of needs” that described the necessities for happiness and fulfillment:
It is important to note that each need is stacked on top of one another, with attainment of physiological needs at the base, and self-actualization at the top. This infers that the base-tier needs are prerequisite to attaining the top-tier needs. For example, it is impossible to feel secure without food and water (think droughts and famines), but it is possible to attain food and water without having security (think soup kitchen). It is impossible to be self-actualized without having self-esteem, but it is possible to have high self-esteem without experiencing success in all areas of life.
Read it, understand it, and post it on the refrigerator because Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a brilliant blueprint for how to curate our lives. It also helps remind us of what’s really important in these modern and very distracting times. My one beef with the hierarchy of needs though, is that it fails to mention physical fitness. While I can’t pretend to be smarter than Abraham Maslow, I can describe how physical fitness is an imperative component of each of the five fundamental human needs. So here we go…
Physical fitness and physiological needs: Food, water, air, and rest are listed as the main physiological needs, and physical fitness is necessary to optimize these factors. For example, better fitness leads to better digestion and absorption of nutrients. Better fitness leads to better respiration, both in terms of breathing mechanics and gas exchange. And better fitness leads to better sleep quality and reduced anxiety. We also have a physiological need to be free of disease. Staying active and having high levels of physical fitness can prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, and diabetes by way of strengthening the immune system, maintaining energy balance, and reducing chronic inflammation.
Physical fitness and safety needs: Physical fitness is almost synonymous with safety. Don’t get me wrong, dense bones and strong pliable muscles definitely won’t make anyone bulletproof. But in the event of a bomb threat, it would be helpful to have the ability to run away while carrying a loved one. As a less severe example, it would be helpful to have the leg strength and agility to prevent falls, or to have adequate bone health as to not suffer a fracture from slipping on aisle nine. Everyone has an innate need to feel safe and comfortable in their own skin and hard physical training is the best way to get there.
Physical fitness and love/belonging needs: There is a special bond that comes from doing something physically taxing with another human being. I know in my own life all of my best friends are people I’ve come to intimately know through difficult physical activities. The friendship gained over days of hiking in 40 degree heat, months of consistent early-morning weight training, or years of soccer practice are founded on real blood, sweat, and tears. Friends who suffer together, stay together.
Fitness and esteem needs: Self-esteem is built on a foundation of hard work, period.
Physical fitness and self-actualization needs: To be your best self, you have to be your best self. A best self can do more than one push up. A best self doesn’t get winded walking up stairs. And a best self certainly doesn’t go about life in a slumped posture. While physical fitness is not the only component self-actualization, it is one of the most important. So go out there and make sure you’re crushing life mentally, socially, financially, environmentally, spiritually, and last but not least physically.
As always, if you’d like to know more about, and start taking responsibility for your own health, fitness, and wellness, please reach out to Crux Fitness Richmond for any of your personal training needs.
Pat Koo – Personal Trainer at Crux Fitness Richmond