By Samir Becic
Culturally speaking, Germans are known across the globe for being very well disciplined and having a high-quality work ethic. In my experience of traveling around the world and experiencing different cultures, it is easy to notice that German influence in terms of discipline and the quality of the products is almost always second to none. The only country that comes close to Germany in terms of discipline and work ethic is Japan. Even when I visited the high altitudes of Cuzco, Peru, in the wild surroundings of Machu Picchu, the only company and the service that was always on time, looked professional, and made me feel comfortable was the German-operated railroad. Companies like Siemens, Bosch, DB and car industries Mercedes Benz, Porsche and BMW, just to name a few, strive for a level of perfection that stands out when compared to all others.
This same kind of structured, disciplined environment is one of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. Once you have that, being healthy is easy! For that reason, I believe the Germans have more than enough discipline to become the leading country in Europe in terms of health and fitness. Of course, I’m not saying every German has that kind of structure, but considering the cultural characteristics, that is the predominant opinion of their disciplined mindset.
I was educated in Austria and Germany, therefore, my success as a fitness expert in America is largely influenced by that knowledge. The discipline I developed in Germany helped me to stay focused and pursue my ambitions.
The Health Fitness Revolution team researched available data on how discipline can be beneficial, and we found the following:
- In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers measured self-discipline in a sample of eighth grade students through self-report, parent report and teacher report, in addition to a behavioral task. In the behavioral task, researchers gave participants the option to receive $1 at that moment or return it a week later in exchange for $2. Preference for delayed monetary awards correlated with all other measures of self-discipline. They found that highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their peers on every measurement of academic success, including final grades, school attendance, SAT scores, and selection into a competitive high school program the following spring.
- In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers followed children from birth to age 32 to examine the consequences of self-control on health, wealth and criminal history later in life. When assessed as adults, individuals with high self-control in childhood (as reported by researcher-observers, teachers, parents and the children themselves) had better physical and mental health, fewer substance abuse problems and criminal convictions, and better money management skills and financial situations.
- In a 2005 study, researchers investigated the relationships between personality traits and mortality in a sample of 65- to 100-year old Medicare patients. They found that participants high in self-discipline were less than half as likely to die during the three-year follow-up period than those with low or average scores. The authors suggest that these individuals may be more proactive about engaging in health-promoting behaviors, while avoiding behaviors that are detrimental.
- In a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers investigated whether preschoolers’ performance on a delay of gratification task (in which they were asked to choose between a small immediate reward or waiting to receive a larger reward) would predict their body mass index in adulthood. The researchers found that longer delay of gratification was associated with lower BMI 30 years later. Each additional minute that a preschooler waited predicted a 0.2-point reduction in BMI in adulthood. High self-control and ability to delay gratification may help people resist overeating and maintain a healthy weight.
With this being said, the discipline is one of the most important elements in improving yourself on a mental, social and physical level. This idea is one that has been rooted in German society for centuries.
German Fitness Pioneers
Historically speaking, after the Renaissance came the National period in Europe, which was marked by the first modern fitness movement of gymnastics. This inspired many gymnastic experts to develop their own programs. Two of the leading experts in Europe were Germans Johann GutsMuths and Friedrich Jahn.
GutsMuths, known as the grandfather of gymnastics, was especially known for his role in the development of physical education in the school curriculum and the basic principles of artistic gymnastics. He published his book Gymnastik fuer die Jugend (Gymnastics for Youth), which became a standard reference for healthy lifestyle. It was also published in England.
Jahn, a famous German gymnastic educator, was also known as the “father of gymnastics.” Besides being a military man and a teacher at the gymnasium (A gymnasium is a type of school with a strong emphasis on academic learning), he is the perfect embodiment of the idea that a powerful mind in a healthy body can accomplish a lot. His motto was “Fresh, Pious, Cheerful, Free.” I personally can relate a lot with him and he is one of my favorite fitness pioneers, visionaries and philosophers.
Catalysts for National Change
Germany has a strong history of showing how physical fitness and healthy lifestyle can influence the country, society and family. Healthy lifestyle has a tremendous impact on the health of a nation, which is reflected in people’s health, a powerful economy, strong military and healthy self-esteem.
The following segments of society can tremendously help in achieving that goal:
- Political leaders have an influence over their constituents and can be one of the building blocks towards attaining healthy lifestyle in mainstream Germany.
- Professional athletes are the best natural ambassadors for spreading the message of healthy lifestyle and their involvement can tremendously impact the healthy lifestyle of a nation.
- More media personalities need to be aware of how healthier lifestyle can have a positive impact on German society and how their influence as ambassadors for healthy living can be crucial in changing this nation towards being a leader in health and fitness.
- The wealthy population’s contribution to German economy is imperative for the further growth of the country. There is another great avenue the wealthy can take in order to improve the economy, creativity, discipline, positivity and a winning spirit, and that is by being fit and spreading the message of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
- Considering that corporations are the backbone of the German economy, I personally believe that it is crucial that they have strong wellness programs in order to ensure the productivity, creativity, and powerful dynamic that is in their potential. A healthy company also has fewer sick days from its employees, more motivation, and a positive atmosphere that is good for team-building.
- The churches of today hold a strong influence on the general opinion of mainstream thought process. Followers look for daily guidance from pastors on the best way to live their lives and raise their families. It is enormously important to provide the churches with the correct knowledge on fitness and proper nutrition so they can influence and better their members lives. With that being said, Health Fitness Revolution published an article on the Fittest Spiritual Leader in the World, in order to motivate other spiritual leaders to live a healthy lifestyle so that they can be a great example for their congregations on leading a healthy life. Spiritual awareness is one of the key components of healthy lifestyle that impacts the whole body and rejuvenates the spirit. Physical fitness and healthy nutrition allows that spirit to flourish to new dimensions and many people experience a closer relationship to God.
- Teachers have a strong impact on the development of every aspect of the lives of young adults and children, including healthy lifestyle. By getting proper fitness training, healthy and fit teachers and professors can actually help their students grow into the powerful young leaders of tomorrow, while imparting core values of health, fitness, life balance, perseverance, hard work, determination and respect. Teachers and professors have the power to help their students reach their ultimate potential in taking control of their health as they grow into their adult lives.
Training with Angela Merkel
It is extremely important that the leader of the nation is a pro-health activist who is encouraging the citizens and leading by example. With that being said, if I was a trainer for Angela Merkel, I would offer the following suggestions:
- Train at least 3-4 times a week with light weights and high repetition in order to prevent bone loss and increase aerobic endurance.
- As a politician of one of the strongest nations in the world, she has high stress levels, so I recommend she spend some time alone in order to do things that she finds relaxing.
- Stretching and range of motion training, such as Pilates and yoga.
- Light dinners to improve sleep quality.
- She could also benefit from eating certain foods that aid in relaxation.
- Eat balanced meals with lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, and drink plenty of water because 7 out of 10 times we are not hungry, but thirsty.
- Perform water aerobics, which offer a resistance and buoyancy that produce high energy expenditure, flexibility, balance, agility, muscle strength and power, cardiovascular fitness, and little strain on low-joint extremities.
If any nation in the world can turn around from moderately healthy to No. 1 in Europe, it is Germany.