About Jacques Courseault, M.D.

Jacques CourseaultDr. Jacques graduated from Tulane Medical School and has seven years of experience as a personal trainer.

He is one of the founders of Don't Weight to Lose, a faith-based program for diet and weight loss that is run by Tulane University School of Medicine medical student volunteers.

Exercise Right!
with Jacques Courseault, M.D.

The First Step to Success: Committing to More than Yourself
How to Begin an Exercise Regimen
Walk Your Way to Better Health
How to Begin a Walking Program
Eating and Exercise: What to eat and when to eat it
Weight, Lean Body Mass and Exercise
Strong Muscles Fight Disease
How to Exercise with Disabled or Weak Legs
How to Conserve Muscle Mass During Weight Loss
How to Build Muscle Mass
How to Build Muscular Endurance
Exercise Ideas: Play Video Games!
Exercise Improves Eating Habits


The Deep Roots of Exercise

"Human uniqueness" is the quality that distinguishes us from other beings. "Uniqueness in exercise behavior" is the realization that humans can give extra time and energy to performing a physical activity that has no immediate benefit to survival, but has long-term benefit. No other being on the planet sets aside time during the day or week to build muscle and burn calories. Therefore, the philosophy of exercise is an innate human quality that has been written in our DNA.

In researching the history of exercise, there is no better example of an ancient society involved in sport than the Greeks, whose cities always included a theater and a gymnasium. In fact, the Greek word athletes describes the one who competes for a price, and comes from the root arête, which signifies one's reputation. But whether in competition or not, one's level of physical fitness was equated with his level of honor in the community. Exercise was an important part of the Greek culture.

To Plato, an important Greek philosopher and politician, exercise was more than a means to improve one's physical health. He felt that exercise was a beautiful activity for the soul, which can remove "leaden weights," reduce impulsivity and prevent one from being "pulled to the ground." In essence, he felt that exercise can serve as a cleansing, rejuvenating activity for the soul.

According to Plato, exercise has value in connecting three different pleasures of the soul: 1) material pleasure, 2) honor and victory and 3) the pleasure of knowledge and thought. Exercise targeted towards receiving material pleasures he considered the worst and exercise that extends to the better understanding or knowledge of one's self, the best.

Exercising for money or material gain has the least connection to one's soul because money and materials do not originate from within. Plato states that this is the worst type of spiritual reward because there is no place for developing one's inner self. While material rewards may be pleasurable for a short term, this type of reward does not lead to further spiritual development. Because there is a strong connection between physical activity and the soul, exercising solely for material pleasure is not sustainable, he contends.

Rewards of honor and victory are considered to be more valuable than exercising for material reward, but spiritual growth is also limited. Receiving glory (compliments for weight loss, attention from others, praise for muscle growth) can help to further develop one's self-esteem, but personal, spiritual growth remains limited. Plato explains that honor and glory can only be received from another person. Praise is not from one's own soul, but completely dependent on someone else. You must rely on another to gain that soulful pleasure.

Finally, the third type of soulful pleasure from exercise is the most rewarding and independent of the behaviors and recognition from others. Plato teaches that you must exercise to form a connection with yourself — the essence of who you are. You do this through competing with the self. For example, executing the perfect form or stepping up to a workout challenge are competitions that you can have only with yourself. Self-competition is the highest union between body and soul, and always results in the best possible outcome in that particular moment. It allows you to reach or exceed your optimum potential. It forces you to reach your maximum capability, whether it be doing a single biceps curl or a 500 Rep Workout. The point is that you reach your physical limitations with every workout. Certainly you will have good workout days and weaker ones, but no matter the circumstance, you should do the best you can with the time and energy available.

The reward? A source of true happiness that provides a way to exceed the limitations of the physical world. You become your true biological and spiritual self. You turn on the switch of your genetic blueprint that improves mood, releases stress, prevents and treats chronic disease, reduces pain, increases energy and improves physique. No one is meant to be unhealthy and spiritually disconnected.

Regular, self-challenging exercise strengthens the bond between your body and your soul. It was true thousands of years ago, and the same is true right now.


Fox, R.M. (1982) Plato's use of sport analogies in the lesser hippias. Journal of Sport History, 9, 100-106.

Kyle, D. (1983). Directions in ancient sport history. Journal of Sport History, 10, 7-34.

Pisk, J. (2005). What is Good Sport: Plato's View. Acta Univ. Palacki. Olomu., Gymn. 2006, 36, 2.