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A Simple Challenge with Surprising Results

Doing this quickly increased my health and fitness.

A Simple Challenge with Surprising Results

Let’s revisit the origin of the 2-Percenter statistic before this week’s edition of the newsletter. It’ll give you more background on the weird way I’m being a 2-Percenter.

2: That’s the percentage of people who take the stairs when they also have the option of taking an escalator.

But the figure goes far beyond the stairs. My research and reporting shows that only two percent of people do the harder thing that has a greater long-term reward if there’s an easier option. It applies to how we exercise, eat, work, and spend our time and attention.

To choose to be a 2-Percenter is about consistently choosing the slightly more uncomfortable thing. Accepting short-term discomfort for long-term growth. The research shows the benefits accumulate and multiply over time. It’s the best thing you can do to improve your health span (the number of years you’re physically and mentally healthy).

So … about that weird way I’m being a 2-Percenter. You might know in addition to being an author, I’m also a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). This week, classes started and my courses are spread far apart on this giant campus. Instead of being bothered by the distance, I can use it as an opportunity to challenge myself.

What’s in my backpack?

My backpack always contains my laptop, books—and a 20-pound ruck plate. 20-pounds sits comfortably in my pack’s laptop sleeve. This makes every long walk I take across campus a bit more challenging. But the weight isn’t so heavy that I show up to give a lecture awkwardly sweating or gasping for air.

The benefits of this have added up. For example, a couple of years ago I was on assignment for Men’s Health magazine, where I had to spend time with a former Navy SEAL. We went rucking together. During an uphill section, I easily powered up the hill. He asked me if I ruck often. I told him about my 20-pound rucks across campus. “Ah,” he said. “That explains it.”

People never had to dream up weird ways to make life physically harder until about 1950. Before then, our lives and most jobs forced us to move often (from hunting and gathering to agriculture and factory work). This is why humans evolved to resist additional movement. It saved energy when food was scarce. Any ancient person who "exercised"—burned calories, built muscle, or improved their fitness for the sake of it—would have died off. Then the 1950s kicked off a mass shift to office work.

This now leaves us in a pickle. It’s now easy to be inactive and do the easy thing all day, yet our brains still want us to move less. Case in point: 98% of people take the escalator! (I go into a lot more detail on this in my book, The Comfort Crisis, specifically chapter 20).

Living well now requires that we find little ways to make life a bit harder. I’ve found that adding a bit of weight to a pack I’m already going to carry is a great way to sneak in extra effort. It’s micro-dosing fitness.

We also know that carrying is one of the most effective exercises we can do. Carrying weight builds muscle and endurance while burning fat. It also minimizes the risk of injury—at the correct weight—that often comes with other forms of cardio, like running.

This month’s 2-Percenter Challenge

Last week, I challenged you to put the labor back into Labor Day. Carrying weight is the perfect way to stay on the path of a 2-Percenter. If you have a pack lying around, can you toss some weight in it and wear it the next time you walk your dogs? Can you make your normal work pack a bit heavier? Or could you even use a basket during your next visit to the grocery store? (One scientist told me this is a sneaky good way to help relieve and prevent back pain).

Remember: we’re making everyday life just a little bit harder. Easy does it — but do it. Start with 5-30 pounds, depending on your size and current fitness level.

Ruck for 10 days over the next month. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with your results. When you try it, share it on Instagram and tag me @michael_easter. I say hi to as many people as I can.

2% Top Two

Note: every week I’ll share my two favorite things from the past week. Reply to this email and let me know yours!

One: The Rehearsal

If you want to get uncomfortable without even getting off the couch, watch The Rehearsal on HBO Max. It’s the most batshit crazy, bonkers, insane, strange, and uncomfortable piece of television I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t look away. I still don’t know if I liked it. I do know it’s a work of genius.

Two: Smart Advice: Exercise five hours each week

A large new study found that exercising for five hours a week led to a significantly lower risk of death compared to getting 2.5 hours, which is what the government recommends. Going above five hours is great, but it won’t give you as big of a longevity boost.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week,


p.s. watch me go on a winter Rucking adventure in the Park City mountains with my friends from Huckberry.

When I decided to accept sponsorships for this newsletter, GORUCK was a natural fit. Not only is the company's story included in The Comfort Crisis, but I've been using GORUCK's gear since the brand was founded. Seriously. They've been around ~12 years and I still regularly use a pack of theirs that is 11 years old. Their gear is made in the USA by former Special Forces soldiers. They make my favorite rucking setup: A Rucker and Ruck Plate.