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The Best Deal in the World Right Now

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Come with me on this thought experiment.

It’s the year 2089 and the world is enjoying an incredible new medicine. Scientists working in the jungles of Papua New Guinea have discovered a natural compound that induces a host of tremendous health and quality-of-life improvements in virtually everyone who takes it. Because of its incredible properties, it has been named miraculos.

At first miraculos was only used to aid immune system function, and at this it was profoundly effective. People who take this medicine on a consistent basis get sick much less often, both with minor ailments like cold and flu, and major ones like cancer, heart disease, even dementia. As such, they live longer.

Researchers subsequently discovered that the same treatment confers dozens of additional health benefits. Subjects report things like clearer skin, improved sleep, greater bone density, and better joint health. They enjoy increased physical strength, flexibility, and co-ordination.

Amazingly, these physical benefits come with powerful cognitive and emotional benefits: increased focus and mental clarity, improved mood and outlook, and a lower incidence of depression and anxiety.

Miraculos is known to be socially transformative as well. Those who take it are consistently rated as better looking by focus groups. They invariably become more confident in their interactions, and receive more compliments and romantic interest. They do better at work. Their social status improves. They like themselves more.

Users of miraculos — when taken as directed — also notice greater subjective ease and well-being in almost everything they do, although this benefit is less often discussed than the official scientific findings. Doing anything physical, such as cleaning, loading up the car, or carrying groceries up the steps, feels like a breeze compared to how it felt previously. This effect often extends to the realm of self-control as well — it simply feels easier to eat right and get to bed on time, for example, creating mutually-reinforcing secondary and tertiary benefits. Users of miraculos often say their lives have transformed entirely within a few months of beginning their first serious treatment.

Post-miraculos society

No prescription is necessary for miraculos, but it is recommended people talk to their doctors before self-administering the compound. In 2089, it has been rigorously tested for several decades now, with very few people reporting negative side effects, at least when taken in the recommended doseage range, which is quite broad.

The terms of the deal

Think about what would you pay for such a medicine, if it existed — for a guaranteed, virtually entirely-positive life transformation in many areas, not to mention a longer and healthier life. A day’s wages per month? A week’s? . . . especially if it made you more capable of virtually everything, perhaps including earning money.

Thankfully, miraculos can never be patented, due to obscure technical reasons. It has been made available to every human on the planet, but not for free. The enlightened bureaucratic systems of 2089 guarantee that anyone can secure access to miraculos and its life-changing benefits by performing a moderate amount of manual labor every week — most often three to six hours in total. The exact schedule is up to the patient, but it can’t be done all at once. Typically this labor is done in short, daily instalments, so that people can fit it into their work and family routines.

There’s a wide variety of forms that this miraculos-qualifying labor may take, and subjects may choose the forms that appeal most. There are specialized locations for doing this labor, but many forms can be done at home.

One of many forms or payment

This labor-for-miraculos arrangement sounds as though it would be unfair to people less capable of vigorous manual labor. For that reason, the effort required is scaled to meet one’s present ability; it need only be vigorous for that person. People can simply work to their current level of capability, which increases gradually due to the transformative powers of the medicine. However, the labor must always be vigorous — for one person, that means unloading two hundred heavy crates, while for another, it’s walking, or hoisting a pair of soup tins. Under this system, miraculos will always have a meaningful cost that is payable by effort, but nobody is priced out of it.

The required amount of labor isn’t huge, certainly not compared to its ultimate benefits, but neither is it insignificant. People are busy, and it’s a non-negligible feat to ensure the labor gets done on the consistent basis required to secure miraculos’s benefits. You generally do not get paid money for this labor, although it is possible to arrange things that way.

Whatever the form, the benefits are so transformative that it’s hard to imagine anyone not prioritizing this work, especially as it makes almost every other aspect of life easier.

Why opt out?

Of course, miraculos does exist in our world, metaphorically, along with its scalable cost in labor. Most people do not opt to pay.

Just reading the word “exercise” can induce a certain tiredness, but that’s what miraculos is. It is available, eminently transformative, and, given its powers, surprisingly unpopular.


There are undoubtedly medical conditions that prevent a person from getting a miraculos-level dose of vigorous exercise, but that’s not the case for most people who opt out. Chances are, you can have the magic pill if you want it, under terms similar to those above: doing 30-60 minutes of vigorous (for you) exercise per day will positively transform your life, in a dozen or so mutually-reinforcing ways — unless you’re already doing it.

So why don’t people pay the quite-reasonable price for the best medicine in existence? Having been someone who has both paid in full, refused to pay, and paid inconsistently, I think most of the resistance boils down perceiving the cost as higher than it really is, and the rewards as smaller than they really are.

In other words, the best deal in the world looks like a bad deal from the outside — i.e. when you’re not taking the deal.

When you’re not regularly doing anything vigorous, doing something vigorous feels awkward and uncomfortable. This problem is a completely surmountable one, but it is only a problem in the first place because of the anomalous period of time in which we live.


Our weird century

There’s only been a short window of history, roughly a century, in which it’s even been possible for a normal person not to regularly do vigorous work. For better or worse, we live in that window. Technology has allowed us to drift away from frequent moving and lifting and making stuff happen with our muscles, which used to be called “life.”

The resulting great illusion, particular to our era, is that regular vigorous activity is for human beings an elective pursuit. Being into bodily exercise is viewed as a niche thing, like being into K-pop or competitive Scrabble, only a little more popular.


Vigorous activity is only optional from the point of view of our anomalous, sedentary century. Think of it this way: human bodies were made specifically for doing strenuous things, and so living without regular vigorous activity makes us sick. Opting out of vigorous daily exercise isn’t denying oneself an excellent opportunity to rise above the normal human state, it’s to never know it at all.

How to cross the divide

Given that we futurelings are unlikely to get much exercise on an incidental basis, how do we get ourselves to voluntarily take the deal of the century? Even if you agree with my hypothesis that we’re emphatically made for physical activity and become sick without it, how do you cross the divide?

I’ll unpack that in an upcoming post, but for now I’ll say this much: the number one thing is to never do an exercise you truly hate.

Beginners almost always force themselves to do exercises they don’t like, because they’re the “best” ones, according to some person who exercises for a living and long ago achieved self-sustaining momentum. You do not ever have to do burpees or sit-ups or broomstick twists. You have to do exercises that have something for you in them — something at least marginally interesting or attractive. Try a lot of activities, build a repertoire from the ones you’re most keen on, and drop the ones you dread.

Not necessary

In fact, it is possible to get into great shape doing only things that are fun for you (climbing, squash, hiking, etc) although it should be said that once-unpleasant activities can become fun and comfortable in ways you never expected, once you’re not so sick with “exertion aversion.”

People that do any kind of vigorous activity regularly do it because they’ve found something they like about it in the short term. If it’s not the feeling of the movement itself, it’s beating their previous numbers, its social environment, its rituals, or something else that feels at least a bit good today. Nobody is running on pure willpower, or visions of distant rewards. Find the activities with qualities you like, and drill down.

And remember that you can’t evaluate the how well miraculos works for you until you’re taking it properly, and taking it properly entails consistency over a number of weeks at the very least.

That’s the deal, but it’s a very, very good deal.


Path photo by Emma Simpson, brick-carrier photo by Artem Beliaikin, all others public domain.

Lisanne April 14, 2023 at 4:14 am

Thank you so much for this! It’s so hard for me to get certain loved ones (whom I want to live a long time!) to seriously consider taking miraculos. Your metaphor is brilliant.

Brian April 14, 2023 at 4:54 am

Muscle is medicine. Children know this naturally: they’re in constant motion. However, our present-day society ruthlessly kills this natural tendency. We put them in schools and force them to sit in chairs for several hours a day. We harshly tell them to sit still. We abolish physical education programs in their schools. We give them electronic devices that keep their bums glued to their seats. We drive them two blocks to school. We feed them all manner of sugary and ultraprocessed foods that dull their energy. Most important, we model inactivity and bad eating habits. We activate the automatic door opener instead of opening the door with our arms. We use riding lawn mowers, robot vacuums and all manner of labour-saving devices. We hire people to do things instead of doing them ourselves. I could go on, but my watch tells me it’s time to get up and move. Imagine–needing a reminder to move!

George April 14, 2023 at 8:56 am

Brilliant article, and also a brilliant comment, Brian. Thank you!

Sally April 14, 2023 at 8:39 pm

Did not see that coming! Used to take Miraculos on a regular basis running marathons. Now I can hardly walk 2 miles but I complain about my aches and apins much more than I ever did when running. You have me really thinking. Thank you.

Michele April 16, 2023 at 7:47 pm

Hear! Hear! I agree with everything Brian wrote. (I’d like to keep automatic doors though, to avoid the spread of germs. There are many other ways to exercise our arms.)

I walk or hike every day. I started the habit in 2014. Great metaphor in this post! I guessed what you were getting at quite early.

oneWEIRDword April 17, 2023 at 2:22 pm

We spend the first years of a kid’s life getting them to walk and talk. Then we put them in school and tell them to sit down and shut up!

Karen April 17, 2023 at 8:48 pm

Bravo Brian! (and, bravo David!)

Di April 14, 2023 at 6:31 am

Brilliant! As a 63 year old woman who didn’t start Miraculos until I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, 4 years ago, I have to say it’s the best medicine I’ve ever taken. I am actually stronger and feel better in myself than I did 10 years ago. Miraculos has helped me build muscle armour that is keeping me strong and flexible, and confident that I can manage my health issues as I get older. Start with small doses, be consistent, have fun!

David Cain April 14, 2023 at 9:22 am

Physical strength really does feel like armor. You know you can handle more, in both the sense of doing things and withstanding things.

Pam April 14, 2023 at 7:03 am

What a cool thought experiment!

My watch reminds to to take Miraculos and shows me when I haven’t taken my full dose as prescribed. It’s a big motivator for me because I like to see all the rings close and do their little fireworks show.

Beth April 14, 2023 at 9:35 am

Another great thought experiment, thanks David. I love the word “strenuous” – it’s landed with me and I think will stay with me, like “dignified” from your previous piece. The word “exercise” has a similar impact on me as on many people probably, I feel immediate resistance and rebellion. But the idea of doing something strenuous every day – well, I like that very much. I carried some suitcases today instead of letting my husband do it, and will go for a fast walk later. My daily Strenuous Miraculos!

David Cain April 14, 2023 at 9:42 am

Agreed, the words are important and “exercise” is one of the most off-putting words of all. It describes all things tedious — school assignments that aren’t worth any marks, rehearsals that don’t count for anything, pointless and repetitive bodily motions, and so on. I don’t know what else to call it though — “working out” or “training” sound too niche, too fitness-dude. I like the words vigorous and strenuous because they sound life-giving.

Jan May 1, 2023 at 3:02 pm

I would go with strenuous activity or simply movement, exercise sounds way too indoor for an outdoor person like me.

Being a silent reader for a few months now I also wanted to thank you for another hard hitting article and all you’ve been putting out lately, you’ve given me a lot food for thought (which is the one food I don’t mind exceeding my daily recommended intake)

Sierra April 14, 2023 at 9:41 am

Incredibly motivating and a really impactful use of metaphor. I think I’ll stop at the gym today :)

LanChi April 14, 2023 at 10:01 am

I adore the metaphor. My form of miraculos is an unusual one: I like doing household chores. For example, I just weeded the garden, swept the patio, and mopped the entire house in a span of two hours. While most people do not consider that “exercise” or “strenuous”, it definitely gave me a good workout. Not only that, but I like household chores because being able to see immediate results (a tidy garden, clean floors, swept spaces) motivates me to continue doing it consistently. Meanwhile, exercising at the gym takes usually takes several weeks to see results. Just a thought.

David Cain April 14, 2023 at 10:10 am

Not unusual at all. Before the labor-saving devices of the 20th century, basically everything in the household was done with muscle power. The need to do these thigns made sedentary life impossible for most people.

I would argue that the rewards of gym exercise come in many forms and some of them are relatively immediate. Post-workout glow is real. Even finishing a set, or a difficult rep feels great in its own way. Micro-rewards all the way down.

David April 14, 2023 at 10:06 am

Yes, yes, yes! Some years ago I realized that people are actually designed to do a fair amount of physical work daily, more or less. The problem is that we are actually also set up to be as lazy as possible, since that saves energy which historically has been in somewhat short supply. What a problem!

In addition, it became obvious to me that when I didn’t exercise, ageing is accelerated. Research has now shown this is true.

Also true, is that aerobic exercise (and maybe strength training) is actually a better anti-depressant than anti-depressants!

I have been very lucky in that I like riding my bicycle, which gives me a good deal of aerobic exercise. Unfortunately, at my age it is now necessary to do strength training because all my non-cycling muscles are going away. The key will be to figure out some way to make that training at least somewhat enjoyable…

ps. for those having trouble starting, consider getting an exercise watch! A friend of mine got an apple watch, and it has been pretty effective in getting him to do stuff! In general, any trick or incentive you can find is probably worth it if it gets you to do stuff!

David Cain April 14, 2023 at 10:14 am

Not only are we tuned to minimize energy expenditure in an age where that’s all too easy, we’re tuned to maximize energy intake in a world where it’s all too easy. We have to make interventions in both of these places to avoid “modernity sickness.”

I’m sure you’ll find a routine to maintain your non-cycling muscles. On Andrew Huberman’s podcast he said we need six sets per week per muscle group to maintain muscle mass. You could just pick your favorite two for each.

Ben April 14, 2023 at 10:37 am

Thanks for continuing to write, I always appreciate your thoughts.

Betty April 14, 2023 at 12:44 pm

Excellent thoughts as usual. A few years ago I started to exercise, and I looked at it as a payment back to my body for what it has done for me. It worked for me, so I had to give it a paycheck.

Bonnie Truax April 14, 2023 at 2:08 pm

That is a really great way to look at exercise. I always enjoy your writing. Thank you.

Bruno April 14, 2023 at 3:50 pm

“In fact, it is possible to get into great shape by doing only things that are fun for you”. I most of the times I just read the articles, but by self experience through life, this is the master key point, for sure, plus minimum consistency.
Many times, through out the years, aiming to get strength – and ,mainly, *feel* myself strong – I tried to start and keep going to gym, but I did think the process soo boring that I quit all atempts after some months: I even had actually some consistency to go, but zero motivation at all, it was no fun for me. I always went thinking in the ‘final’ objective not in the practice itself, what always lead me to break the streak at a minimal resistance.
By encouragement of a friend of mine, I got to know Climbing and I’ve been practicing it for about 5 years consistently, I found there the personal combo that I was looking for but I didn’t know where to find. But it could be any other sport/activity, just a personal example.
I think its way much more easier to be consistent when you like the process, the training itself, than to keep thinking in the untangible rainbow-like objective. Can be gym, pilates, walking, cycling, running, climbing, swimming, volleyball, golf, whatever….the grow in the quality of life will come naturally and the natural urge for keep consistency as well.

David Cain April 15, 2023 at 10:40 am

I love climbing so much. I would do it for hours if I could.

One point I’d make is that a good audiobook or podcast can make even less interesting physical activities something to look forward to.

Corey Astrom April 14, 2023 at 4:55 pm

This is one of the, if not THE BEST, things on exercise I’ve ever read.

Jase T April 14, 2023 at 11:19 pm

Very timely piece for me to read David. I just finished reading Outlive by Dr Peter Attia (a very highly recommended read for everyone), and now I’m onto The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter. Look forward to more from you on this very important topic that needs serious attention in our present day society.

David Cain April 15, 2023 at 10:40 am

I like Attia. I’ll check out his book.

Daniehl April 15, 2023 at 5:03 pm

Thank you for the pep-talk, David. That’s the lesson I most need to learn: do exercises that you like doing! Repeating what you like doing is fun and the doing is what makes one happy.

raro April 16, 2023 at 12:09 am

Great post David, thank you very much.

ScottG April 17, 2023 at 6:28 am

Outstanding article, David! I have been taking miraculous for 35 years in the form of 5 day a week weight and cardio training. At 55 I have never felt stronger and more youthful. This is truly a wonder drug that requires more governmental support to get the word out!

Johnny April 18, 2023 at 10:29 pm

Excellently said David. And to anyone who wants to start and stick something as easily and simply as possible, I cannot highly enough recommend this framework which I’ve followed for years https://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/e4/exercise.html

Baba Salman May 10, 2023 at 2:50 am

I totally agree with the author’s perspective on finding exercise activities that we genuinely enjoy. It’s crucial to break away from the notion that we have to force ourselves into exercises we hate just because they are considered the “best” ones. The key is to explore a variety of activities and build a repertoire based on the ones that genuinely interest and attract us. By doing activities we find enjoyable, such as climbing, squash, or hiking, we can get into great shape without feeling like it’s a chore.

Baran May 10, 2023 at 3:22 am

It’s important to remember that true evaluation of the benefits of exercise comes with consistency over time.

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