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The Butterfly Effect of Fitness and Health

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” – Chaos Theory ​

We make hundreds of simple, seemingly small decisions every single day. While some are clearly life changing, the majority of our decisions and actions seem to have a direct, small effect.Today as I was telling my 3 year old son that I had to leave for work, he asked me to play with him. I was trying to get to work just a few minutes early, but I chose to spend four extra minutes playing with him before I left. We didn’t accomplish anything significant in those four minutes. We didn’t have some life-changing moment that he will remember for the rest of his life. I also didn’t miss anything significant in my work by getting there four minutes later. But that decision is one of thousands that I try to intentionally make so my son knows that his father cares deeply about him; that being a father is far more important than any job I get paid for.
We make choices like this every day. Whether we realize it or not, we are adjusting the trajectory of our lives, and more importantly, the lives of many others. Every. Single. Day.

Our Fitness Team and Clients Making A Difference

2 weeks ago we hosted a blood drive at our facility, Progressive Health & Performance. It was a booming success! We had 58 donors come to donate blood on a summertime Saturday. According to LifeStream Blood Bank, those 58 donors saved over 150 lives; those people made an intentional choice to care for others. But this story goes much deeper. We had one donor in particular whose story really stands out to me. This donor, Mark, has been a client of ours for over a year. In the weeks leading up to the blood drive, I approached him asking if he was going to donate. While he was willing, he explained that he had tried to donate blood numerous times in his past and had always been turned down due to his blood pressure and medications. He signed up (somewhat reluctantly) for a donation appointment anyway. I imagine he feared the feeling of rejection and failure if he were turned down again. It should be noted that Mark is a model client. He shows up consistently, works hard every time, and buys into every bit of advice we have for him.

Not surprisingly, Mark went through the blood donation process as smoothly as anyone. His blood will potentially save three lives ‒ not just because he was willing to spend some time on a Saturday to help others, but also because he committed his time, effort, and finances to improving his health through his fitness and nutrition habits.​These kinds of stories fuel us as health and fitness professionals. Knowing that we not only improved Mark’s quality of life, but that together with Mark, we positively affected others we know nothing about. This kind of impact is what lights that little fire in us. In fact, as I was soaking in this story about Mark, it reminded me of how and why I got into this field in the first place.
I grew up an overweight kid. We’re not talking just baby fat. We’re talking husky, 34” waist, pre-teen big. My family tells stories about me ordering two adult meals at restaurants and still saying “I’m hungry.” In fact, I still have some of the clothes from back then and they fit me more loosely now as a 30 year old man. What rescued me from continuing down that path towards chronic disease and obesity were parents that made going to the gym a regular part of our lifestyle. I started working out when I was 12 years old. While I cringe at some of the workouts I was doing at the time, they were more than good enough to impact my body in a positive way. I could write at length about how this experience changed my self-esteem, self-confidence, and of course how my physical health and appearance changed my life, but that’s really missing the biggest effect. My experience with fitness and health as part of my lifestyle led me down this path into making it a career. This led to me directly influencing hundreds of clients, and indirectly thousands of others when you take into account families, friends, and the impact of our team at Progressive Health & Performance.

Mark’s story gave me a glimpse at that impact because I saw the next level of compound interest, if you will. Mark’s blood may very well save the life of someone who is on their way to becoming a heart surgeon that saves lives, a teacher who works with special needs kids, or a single mom of four kids. Do you see what I’m getting at? We need to understand and be aware of how important the decision is to be physically active. That’s not to say it’s the most important factor in health, but in my completely biased opinion, it is definitely near the top. It’s about so much more than looking good in a bathing suit or at a high school reunion. The butterfly effect of each and every one of our decisions to be physically active and live a healthy lifestyle has the potential to improve literally hundreds of thousands of lives within our lifetime (not to mention after we are gone).

So here is my call to action for YOU:If you’re already physically active: REFLECT ON WHY

We live in a world that is predominantly self-serving. As a whole, we think about ourselves too much, and get so wrapped up in our own world that we often don’t realize how much we affect others. This isn’t to say that working out to look better at the beach is a bad thing. I’m saying that if we only frame our fitness and health routine to be beneficial to our physical appearance, we are missing out on an exponential amount of joy that can be extracted only by reframing—broadening— our perspective. 

If you’re not physically active: THINK ABOUT YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

Many people forego exercise and proper nutrition because, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of work. It takes commitment and it’s uncomfortable. Because of this, many people have no problem not following through with something they know they should be doing. In that narrow view, it doesn’t negatively impact anyone but themselves. However, when we are aware that our decision negatively impact others, things change. We are much less likely to knowingly hurt someone we love. 

​This will hit those with children the most: As parents we have the opportunity and responsibility to set the trajectory of our children’s lives. One in five kids between the ages of 6 and 18 are obese. Are you setting up your child for a healthy, thriving adulthood? This starts with modeling! Don’t just throw your kid into some activities hoping they will stick it out. Show your kids through your actions, that being physically active is a normal part of your family’s lifestyle.

For those whose kids are already grown, consider the burden you might become if you continue to let your health deteriorate. It’s never too late. I promise that you’ll enjoy your later years more with a body that still allows you to be mobile and do the things you love.

This isn’t about shaming anyone. This is about being aware of the full impact of our decisions surrounding health and exercise throughout our life. For 17 years I have experienced the butterfly effects of being physically active. I am blessed to have played a small role in many stories just like Mark’s. I wish that for everyone, and if there is any way I can help that come to fruition for you, I would be honored to be of service.

Eric Cruz

​Eric Cruz is a husband, father of 2, and CEO of Progressive Health & Performance. With a diverse educational background in human movement and exercise physiology, he has trained hundreds of clients ranging from 5 year old kids and athletes to busy executives and seniors with neurological diseases. His passion to serve others is rooted in his Christian faith.

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