Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play, and Joyful Movement-A Book Review

Exuberant Animal: A book by Frank Forencich

Exuberant Anima: A Book Worth Reading

The book begins with:  WARNING:  “Before beginning a program on physical INACTIVITY, consult your doctor.  Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health.”

Soon after he you read and consider:  “Rapid changes in transport, work and leisure activities have led to a global collapse in physical activity levels.”  Science Magazine editorial, “Global Chronic Diseases” January 21, 2005

Forencich is a physical educator who over the years could find nothing written that unifies biology, human origins and physical exercise.  Even worse, there didn’t seem to be any fitness program anywhere that linked humans with the millions of other species that inhabit this planet.  Throughout numerous modes of exercise including martial arts, yoga, sports training, etc. that claimed to be the ultimate word in training the body, none addressed the historical reality of the human body or our animal heritage.

In his book The Exuberant Animal Frank provides perspective on how your body works and gives some ideas on how to make it work better.  He explores two main branches of human health:  exuberance and animalhood.  Our exuberant side is creative, curious and playful.  The animal side (we are at the top of the food chain) is our physicality; strong, endurant and primal.

“Given our nation’s epidemic of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity, modern living has put us in a bad spot.  We study and test, research and measure, drilling our knowledge down to the deepest levels, and then wonder why people find exercise so dull and unattractive.” He asserts we are missing “something fundamental.”  Add the tremendous stress coupled with terrible eating habits, we need to change and get back to a mode of living that is much more in line with nature.

The book then is a series of essays and ideas to help us find a tight interconnection of mind and matter.  He does not provide an anecdote for weight loss or how to be beat the aging process.  Instead the ideas in the book help us develop a sense of depth and how to happily sustain a life of physical movement.  After reading this, we begin to realize that the world of the body is far more than the sum total of calories consumed and how many sets of reps we did at the gym.

What I loved about this book is that it promotes a truly integrated approach to life and fitness and reminds us that we are in many ways like the animals we observe in the wild.  As a species we have strayed so far from where we came.  He reminds us to get out of the gym and into the woods.  Climb rocks and trees.  Throw a rock or a ball.  Pick it up with your other hand and throw it again.  Run, sprint, walk, and get outside and enjoy nature.  Otherwise, we’ll lose interest, burn out, put on the weight and continue to be caught in the vicious cycle that comprises our modern world.

While this all seems like such a simple concept, this is an opportunity to appreciate and remind ourselves that we can play, swing on monkey bars (just like the kids), and enjoy what nature has provided us in order to stay fit and healthy.   Go into the woods near your home and appreciate the enormity of your surroundings.  Then play…….

I recommend you give this book a read.  It will change the way you think about health.  You can also view his website to learn even more.


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