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Sticks and Stones May Build Your Bones

While Nautilus machines and other high-tech gym equipment may seem so modern, their roots can actually be found in the Renaissance period -- and even earlier, says Joe Mullen, a Winter Springs, Fla.-based author of several books including The Da Vinci Fitness Code.

During the Renaissance and the Stone Age, "people used stones and rocks to do anything from cover up the front of their cave to building architecture, and what was probably noticed was that these people became stronger and that their body responded to higher levels of strength with flexibility and more muscle mass and endurance," he says. As a result, strength training was born.

"It's the same principle as today, but it was modified by the invention of high-tech equipment," he says. And the golden ratio also applies to modern-day fitness, he says. "Do sets of strength exercises in numbers that adhere to the golden ratio as opposed to picking numbers at random."

"Your body will respond better because it is attuned to the same natural rhythm found in nature," he says. Do sets based around the Fibonacci numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 ...), in which each term is the sum of the two previous terms (for example, 2+3=5, 3+5=8 ...). As you go farther and farther to the right in this sequence, the ratio of a term to the one before it will get closer and closer to the golden ratio, he explains. "Do 13 sets of reps instead of 15," he advises. "Your body will respond better."

Everything Old Is New Again

"Holistic medicine was the drumbeat of health in the renaissance," says James Mahoney, DO, an osteopathic doctor in South Lake, Texas, and the author of the forthcoming Dying to be Healed, a book that focus on historical health trends. "Renaissance physicians used herbals like crazy. They were the mainstay of medicinal treatment."

It wasn't until the 1900s or so when prescription drugs were developed and people started to abandon herbal medicine, he explains.

"Once that shifted, it was impossible to get herbalists back into the fold, but now the public is clamoring for herbal medicine and it's drifting back," he says.

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