Thomas Jefferson

So what was Thomas Jefferson’s “secret?” It was exercise. (how convenient for us, eh?) Furthermore, he was SERIOUS about it. Two-hours-a-day serious about it. Let this collection of his quotes on the matter educate and motivate you. Don’t cheat yourself by only reading a few short ones. Take 2 minutes and read them all. It’s interesting to read one’s perspective from so long ago, when horses instead of cars were used for transportation.


He warned against the gain of disease, and the loss of happiness – both results of avoiding exercise:


“Your love of repose will lead, in its progress, to a suspension of healthy exercise, a relaxation of mind, an indifference to everything around you, and finally to a debility of body, and hebetude of mind …”


He noticed that exercising people had better friendships:

“Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, chearfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends …”


He saw the decline in people’s health when replacing walking with “sitting” to get places:

“The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man. But I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained by the use of this animal. No one has occasioned so much the degeneracy of the human body. An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day, for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse, and he will tire the best horses. There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue.”


He purposely left time in the day for exercise:

“… leaving all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading; I will rather say more necessary, because health is worth more than learning.”


He understood the influence of the body on the mind, and the mind’s dependence on the body:

“I give more time to exercise of the body than of the mind, believing it wholesome to both.”


He didn’t buy the popular misconceptions of the day regarding illness, and accepted no excuse not to exercise:

“Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather should be little regarded. A person not sick will not be injured by getting wet. It is but taking a cold bath, which never gives a cold to any one. Brute animals are the most healthy, and they are exposed to all weather, and of men, those are healthiest who are the most exposed. The recipe of those two descriptions of beings is simple diet, exercise and the open air, be it’s state what it will; and we may venture to say that this recipe will give health and vigor to every other description.”


He recognized the benefits of resistance training, and the response of a muscle group to challenge:

“Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual…Give about two of them [hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong …”


He was serious about his exercise, and recognized the importance of recording progress in even the simplest activity:

“I step a French mile of 1000 toises = 6408 Eng.f. in 1053 double steps. This yields 3f. & 1/2I. English to the step and 1735 steps to the mile. I walk a French mile in 17 1/2 minutes. A French mile is = 1.21 or 1 1/4 Eng. miles. I walk then at a rate of 4 3/20 miles or 4.mi.264 yards an hour. Walking moderately in the summer I walked a Fr. mile of 1000 T = 6408 f. in 1254. steps and in 26′. That gives 2.55 f. to the step and 2066 1/2 steps to the Eng. mile 1735 the brisk walk of winter 331… “


He gave great advice to those concerned about starting exercise, when they hadn’t done much before:

“No one knows, till he tries, how easily a habit of walking is acquired. A person who never walked three miles will in the course of a month become able to walk 15. or 20. without fatigue. I have known some great walkers and had particular accounts of many more; and I never knew or heard of one who was not healthy and long lived. This species of exercise therefore is much to be advised. Should you be disposed to try it, as your health has been feeble, it will be necessary for you to begin with a little, and to increase it by degrees.”


He knew that you had nothing to gain by skipping exercise:

“If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong. The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise …”


He had to tell people over and over again, because they either didn’t get it, or didn’t do it:

“I repeat my advice to take a great deal of exercise, and on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality.”