I’ve written before that I don’t think of diet, exercise, and behavior as preventing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. I’m not a medical doctor, so this article isn’t about medical advice.

It’s about leading yourself. It’s about beliefs and mental models, which you can choose, which influences yourself, your behavior, and others’ too.

Recent articles touting “Exercise ‘keeps the mind sharp’ in over-50s, study finds” and “Cycling to work can cut cancer and heart disease, says study” prompt me to follow up.

I love that people are promoting healthy activity, but I notice something I consider counterproductive: they treat lack of exercise as the default.

Regarding cycling, saying that it lowers disease normalizes not exercising. I prefer to think of exercise as normal and sitting around as the disease-causing deviation. I would say:

Not cycling to work can increase cancer and heart disease


Sitting around when you could get your heart pumping can increase cancer and heart disease

Regarding exercise, over 50 or at any age, saying that it keeps the mind sharp normalizes not exercising. I prefer to think of exercise as normal and sitting around as the mind-dulling deviation. I would say:

Not exercising can dull the mind


A sedentary lifestyle instead of getting your heart pumping can dull the mind

The Big Picture

The difference may sound like wordplay, but different beliefs or mental models change how you view the world, how you respond to it, and how others respond to you.

If you want to lead yourself or others, skill choosing beliefs will make you more effective. Lack of that skill will decimate your effectiveness.

The difference in beliefs in these expressions make the difference between success and failure, at least in me.

Between a world of joy from exercise versus lethargy from complacency (I’m liable to sitting around as much as anyone).

Between activity versus passivity.

Between joy and accomplishment versus sloth and lethargy.

Which world would you rather live in?

The Big Big Picture

We’ve all changed a belief in our lives, hopefully to improve them.

To choose a beliefs here and there is valuable. To develop the skill to change beliefs in general, when we want, intentionally, is valuable on another level entirely.

What better place to practice that skill than on motivating oneself for one’s health?

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.