The Truth About Fad Madness

An interview with John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Is it okay to choose a workout because it satisfies your personality? 

If you mean is it okay to choose a workout you like, then yes! Absolutely. People are becoming more aware of the benefits of exercise not just for looking good and losing weight but things like improving mood, focus, and job performance. One of the biggest problems with exercise has been that it’s hard to get people to stick with it for the long term. If you do a group activity that’s fun for you, you’re much more likely to continue doing it.

Pushing yourself is good. Exercise is about challenging yourself. It’s not about a walk on the treadmill.

But are you then more likely to ignore what your body may be telling you? 

The beauty of many of these workouts is that they’re so democratic. I go to CrossFit, for example, and there are doctors, lawyers, and chief executives working toward the same goal as waitresses and electricians. It’s a real equalizer. I think instructors have become more aware of catering to all skill levels, and knowing when to push people and when to back off.

Can you get addicted? 

Less than one percent of people actually get addicted to exercise. An hour-a-day “obsession” isn’t an addiction. And if it is? What a great addiction to have. Instead, what tends to happen is that obsession becomes the platform for people to self-improve in other areas. Their new self-confidence makes them feel like they can do anything.

Any downside to this fad madness? 

There is a joke about CrossFit, that it keeps a lot of orthopedic surgeons in business. You can overstress and overstrain and you can pay for your fun, but if you make a point of being gradual, and listen to your body, not the voice telling you to do it better than the guy next to you—learn to push yourself in only the healthiest way—you will only reap the benefits. —Alyssa Giacobbe

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