By John Polley

This is a little out of left field, but come with me…

Since the 1990s, epigenetics has been revolutionising the way we think about almost everything. No longer victims of our genes, we now understand that environment influences the way our genes are expressed. This, in turn, affects physical outcomes, such as likelihood of disease, dysfunction and ability to recover from challenges.

Bruce Lipton, in the book, The Biology of Belief, takes this even further and contends that it is our perception of the world that creates the chemical environment in the blood which, in turn, affects all physical outcomes.

What runs perception?


What we think, consciously and subconsciously, we become. Not only that, but our subconscious mind is said to run 95% of the human show. We consciously control only 5%.

Fascinating, huh?

Here’s the cool science bit. Each of our cells is covered in what’s called an “integral cell membrane,” which is a fine “skin” surrounding the cell and reaching into the outside environment with neural sensors and back into the cell itself, relaying messages between the two. This membrane detects changes in the environment and stimulates appropriate changes or “expression” of our cells (Lipton, 2005).

So, what’s all this got to do with exercise?

Well, if we can create directed thinking which supports our physical goals, creating positive emotions around these goals, and the processes for reaching these goals, the outcomes improve physically, at the cellular level.

Did I say to come with me? Now stay with me!

Lipton himself also says that the integral cell membrane responds on a quantum, or energetic, level and creates cellular changes accordingly – literally, love responses create an environment for greater immunity and growth, and fear responses an environment of disease and dysfunction.

Okay, so just think positive, right?

Well, yes… and no.

Belief plays a massive role.  Placebo studies send a powerful message here. In the studies, those on the placebo, who believe they will be helped by the intervention (pill, “pretend” surgery) show the same positive outcomes as those on the actual treatment. They experience a physical change.

The message: don’t just think positive, believe positive.

Let’s apply all of this to an exercise goal.

This assumes repeated bouts of physical training are already happening. Now onto your repeated bouts of thought, which are seldom included in exercise programs.

Start with what you can do consciously:

  • Be authentic – align thought and action for the best result. For example, with the 22 push up challenge recently, I created 22 separate variations, to feed my progressive movement style. Thought changed physical action, which varied the physical load on my cells, but also aligned with who I was as a person, leading to greater positive effect on my cells.
  • Definitive declarations – “my movement is making me fitter/stronger/more mobile,” “I am reaching my goal,” “I can feel the difference.” Language is key: “want” is very different from “am.” Set your thoughts to the reality you desire, so that your cells respond to the message.
  • Imagine being in the state you want to be – if that’s stronger, then you’re lifting that weight, family member, or climbing that rock for example. Feel the emotions that this would generate; you are where you want to be. Send these mental and emotional messages to your cells.
  • Reframe what you don’t enjoy – for example, knowing the benefits of yoga, but always disliking my efforts, I decided to consciously only think about all the good it was doing for me, so that challenging poses didn’t perturb, but reinforced my belief that positive change was occurring. My physical results have improved so much more since doing this.

All this conscious effort is what we can control.

Subconscious reactions we can’t. However, by habitually creating change in your conscious thought patterns, you will over time, create change in your subconscious programming which, in turn, creates change physically.

This is the ultimate trilogy of mind, body and emotions. Change in the human body, directed by the human being.

The basic message: physical change is more than physical reps, it’s mental reps too.


Lipton, Bruce H. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles. Santa Rosa: Mountain of Love/Elite, 2005. Print.

John Polley John Polley (JP) is the founder of BE FREE movement lifestyle wellness in North Beach, where he specialises in helping people move as effectively as possible. His client base stretches from people with previously debilitating conditions like osteoarthritis, through to professional sports people. His methods are similarly wide ranging, from hands on bodywork following the principles of the myofascial lines, through to complex and challenging fitness training techniques, all designed individually for each client’s needs. His mantra is “train or treat the human being, not the human body”.