121 Stoic Quotes on Health and Physical Fitness

Updated December 23, 2022

The ancient Stoic philosophers valued eating healthily and maintaining your physical health through exercise. At the same time, as we'll see in these Stoic quotes on health and physical fitness, they warned against doing these things with pride or to excess.

Stoicism is a practical philosophy, which means it is meant to be applied to your day-to-day life-- including your workout! Let's take a look at how you can take a Stoic perspective on your quest for physical and mental wellness in the words of the Stoics and other great minds of history.

Stoic Quotes on Health

The Stoics believed that virtue is the only good and vice is the only bad. Everything else is categorized as one of the "indifferents." Indifferents are things that are neither good nor bad in themselves but instead can be either used well or badly.

They did, however, break down the class of indifferents into "preferred indifferents" and "dispreferred indifferents," the former being "according to nature" and the latter being "contrary to nature."

Health is one of these preferred indifferents, along with life, strength, pleasure, beauty, good reputation, wealth, and noble birth. This means that health is something that is capable of being used well or badly, and that maintaining one's health must harmonize with a person's other actions in order to be virtuous.

seneca quote about health

"Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life, which fade and are tasteless without it."

– Seneca the Younger

“Let the fulfilling and accomplishment of those things which the common nature hath determined, be unto thee as thy health. Accept then, and be pleased with whatsoever doth happen, though otherwise harsh and un-pleasing, as tending to that end, to the health and welfare of the universe, and to Jove’s happiness and prosperity.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"No my friend: enjoying health in the right way is good; making bad use of your health is bad."

– Epictetus

“Of all the things that are, some are good, others bad, and yet others indifferent. The good are virtues and all that share in them; the bad are the vices and all that indulge them; the indifferent lie in between virtue and vice and include wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, and pain.”

– Epictetus

“I tell you, you only have to learn to live like the healthy person does . . . living with complete confidence. What confidence? The only one worth holding, in what is trustworthy, unhindered, and can’t be taken away—your own reasoned choice.”

– Epictetus

"What good are gilded rooms or precious stones-fitted on the floor, inlaid in the walls, carried from great distances at the greatest expense? These things are pointless and unnecessary-without them isn’t it possible to live healthy? Aren’t they the source of constant trouble? Don’t they cost vast sums of money that, through public and private charity, may have benefited many?"

– Musonius Rufus

“And so accept everything that happens, even if it is disagreeable, because it leads to this, to the health of the universe and to the prosperity and felicity of Zeus.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Health is the greatest possession."

– Laozi

"Every human being is the author of his own health or disease."

– Gautama Buddha
"It's no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."

– Mahatma Gandhi

"What is called genius is the abundance of life and health."

– Henry David Thoreau

"The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings."

– Hippocrates

"Health is worth more than learning."

– Thomas Jefferson

"The secret of health for both mind and body is...live the present moment wisely and earnestly."

– Gautama Buddha

Quotes About Physical Fitness

Gaius Musonius Rufus was exiled several times in his life and wrote about his observations regarding the impact exile had on individuals.

Rufus wasn't the only Stoic that was exiled or otherwise met an untimely fate, by the way. Cato the Younger was exiled to Cyprus, Seneca the Younger was forced to take his own life, and Cicero was dispossessed, forced to flee, and murdered.

In any case, Musonius Rufus recorded his thoughts on the positive effect of exile on a person-- namely, that the circumstance forced them to live a life that involved more vigor and strength.

“Others have been in poor health from overindulgence and high living, before exile has provided strength, forcing them to live a more vigorous life.”

– Musonius Rufus

“The modern mind is overstimulated and the modern body is understimulated and overfed. Meditation, exercise, and fasting restore an ancient balance."

– Naval Ravikant

"Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being."

– Plato

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity."

– John F. Kennedy
"The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results."
– Tony Robbins
"The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character."

– Arnold Schwarzeneggar
"No man has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training."
– Socrates

Stoic Quotes About Hard Work

When we think of physical fitness, we typically think of hitting the gym, going for a run in the morning, or doing kettlebell swings. There is also a lot of merit to doing hard, physical labor, though, the benefits of which Musonius Rufus speaks to in this first quote.

"If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures."

– Musonius Rufus

"Plough deep while sluggards sleep."

Benjamin Franklin

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

– Theodore Roosevelt

"Labor, but slight not meditation; meditate, but slight not labor."


"Nothing worth having comes easy."

– Theodore Roosevelt

"The things which hurt, instruct."

Benjamin Franklin
"I never won anything without hard labor and the exercise of my best judgment."
– Theodore Roosevelt
"What exercise is to the body, employment is to the mind and morals."
Henry David Thoreau
"Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to a successful life."
– Theodore Roosevelt

Quotes About Laziness

Of course, we can't talk about the potentially virtuous act of staying fit without talking about its opposite: laziness.

“This is the mark of perfection of character—to spend each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, laziness, or any pretending.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Evil is a by-product of forgetfulness, laziness, or distraction: it arises when we lose sight of our true aim in life.”

– Epictetus

“Some people with exceptional minds quickly grasp virtue, or produce it within themselves. But other dim and lazy types, hindered by bad habits, must have their rusty souls constantly scrubbed down. . . . The weaker sorts will be helped and lifted from their bad opinions if we put them in the care of philosophy’s principles.”

– Seneca the Younger

"If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside."

– Epictetus

"The sleeping fox catches no poultry."

– Benjamin Franklin

"Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction."

Anne Frank

"Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable."

– Lord Chesterfield

"He that rises late must trot all day."

Benjamin Franklin

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

– Thomas A. Edison

"The only menace is inertia."

Saint-John Perse

"Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy."

– Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but the lazy man, never.

Benjamin Franklin

"Work is not a shame. Laziness is a shame."

– Hesiod

"There art two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness."

Franz Kafka

"Idleness is the Dead Sea that swallows all virtues."

– Benjamin Franklin

"The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master."

Khalil Gibran

"It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing."

– Thomas Jefferson

Stoic Quotes About Rest, Recovery, and Healing

Focusing on our health and getting enough exercise is important, but it's also essential to take the time to rest, recover, and heal when necessary. Remember, moderation is one of the four Stoic virtues, which means you should also be careful to develop an addictive relationship with physical fitness, too.

Marcus Aurelius cautions against crossing that fine line between "recharging" and "indulgence" when resting. Seneca reminds us that our minds require rest and relaxation in order to experience our full mental capabilities.

marcus aurelius image and quote about rest and health

"Rest is for recharging, not for indulgence. Take only what is sufficient for your health and vitality. Too much rest—like too much food or drink—defeats its purpose, weakening the body and dulling the spirit."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Our minds must relax: they will rise better and keener after a rest. Just as you must not force fertile farmland, as uninterrupted productivity will soon exhaust it, so constant effort will sap our mental vigour, while a short period of rest and relaxation will restore our powers.”

– Seneca the Younger

"Must be out-of-doors enough to get experience of wholesome reality, as a ballast to thought and sentiment. Health requires this relaxation, this aimless life."

– Henry David Thoreau

"Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death."

Arthur Schopenhauer

"True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment."

– William Penn

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."

Robert Frost

"The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well."

– Hippocrates

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you."


"Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work."

– Nhat Hanh

"The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind."


"Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."

– Hippocrites

"The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind."

– Caroline Myss

"To heal our wounds, we need the courage to face them."

– Paulo Coelho

Quotes About Exercise

It's known that Marcus Aurelius was "fond of boxing and wrestling" in his youth, according to the Historia Augusta. Cleanthes, the successor to Zeno of Citium as the second head of Athen's Stoic school, was a boxer. Chrysippus trained as a long-distance runner.

Getting some exercise isn't just good for your body-- it's good for your mind. The Stoic philosophers knew this as well as anyone.

"See what daily exercise does for one."

– Seneca the Younger

"Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading."

– Thomas Jefferson

"A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world."

– Paul Dudley White
"An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."
Henry David Thoreau

"If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health."

– Hippocrates

"No man has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training."
– Socrates
"Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day."
– William James

Stoic Quotes About Mental Health

A recent study found that using cognitive training built upon Stoic principles helps to reduce emotional vulnerability in people that are at risk of depression and anxiety. As you start to learn about Stoicism and apply its ideas to your daily life, you'll likely find that you are better able to live in the present, focus on the things you can control, and base your actions and words on your values.

Physical exercise is also known to be a powerful tool for obtaining and maintaining a good state of mental health. In this realm, going for a walk and thinking about Stoic principles might just be the perfect combination for overcoming whatever it is that's ailing you.

epictetus image and quote about physical and mental health

“People with a strong physical constitution can tolerate extremes of hot and cold; people of strong mental health can handle anger, grief, joy and the other emotions.”

– Epictetus

“If you don’t wish to be a hot-head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth . . . if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today, or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.”

– Epictetus

"It is, in other words, not objects and events but the interpretations we place on them that are the problem. Our duty is therefore to exercise stringent control over the faculty of perception, with the aim of protecting our mind from error.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"In a disordered mind, as in a disordered body, soundness of health is impossible."

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

"A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work."

– John Lubbock

Quotes About Illness

Though we all hope to be healthy and for our loved ones to be healthy, illness and sickness are simply a part of life. Whether you're dealing with a cold or something more serious, these quotes about illness can help you in your effort to gain perspective and adopt a Stoic outlook in the face of things that are both within your control and outside of your control.

seneca image and quote about healing and health

"The wish for healing has always been half of health."

– Seneca the Younger

"I will expose its true nature by outdoing myself in calmness and serenity; I will neither beg the doctor’s help, nor pray for death. What more could you ask? Everything, you see, that you throw at me I will transform into a blessing, a boon–something dignified, even enviable."

– Epictetus

"If you are surprised at the number of our maladies, count our cooks."

– Seneca the Younger

“Maximus was my model for self-control, fixity of purpose, and cheerfulness under ill-health or other misfortunes. His character was an admirable combination of dignity and charm, and all the duties of his station were performed quietly and without fuss. He gave everyone the conviction that he spoke as he believed, and acted as he judged right."

– Marcus Aurelius

"It is part of the cure to wish to be cured."

– Seneca the Younger

"You have inner strengths that enable you to bear up with difficulties of every kind. You have been given fortitude, courage, and patience. Why should I worry what happens if I am armed with the virtue of fortitude? Nothing can trouble or upset me, or even seem annoying. Instead of meeting misfortune with groans and tears, I will call upon the faculty especially provided to deal with it.

‘But my nose is running!’ What do you have hands for, idiot, if not to wipe it? ‘But how is it right that there be running noses in the first place? Instead of thinking up protests, wouldn’t it be easier just to wipe your nose?"

– Epictetus

"'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes."

– Henry David Thoreau

Stoic Quotes About the Body

An important principle in Stoicism is that you should focus your attention on the things you can control and accept the things you can't control. According to Epictetus, our bodies are one of the things that aren't in our control, which can seem pretty extreme at first.

When you think about it, though, it is true. There is a separation between "us" and our body-- we aren't our bodies, but we instead inhabit them. As Seneca says, our bodies are an inn that we stay in only for a short time.

seneca image and quote about health

"Hold fast then to this sound and wholesome rule of life; indulge the body only as far as is needful for health."

– Seneca the Younger

“Human life. Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of Body: decaying. Soul: spinning around. Fortune: unpredictable. Lasting Fame: uncertain. Sum Up: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Our soul is sometimes a king, and sometimes a tyrant. A king, by attending to what is honorable, protects the good health of the body in its care, and gives it no base or sordid command. But an uncontrolled, desire-fueled, over-indulged soul is turned from a king into that most feared and detested thing—a tyrant.”

– Epictetus

“In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his sense a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, his fame doubtful. In short, all that is body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Just as there is no use in medical study unless it leads to the health of the human body, so there is no use to a philosophical doctrine unless it leads to the virtue of the human soul."

– Musonius Rufus

"This body is not a home, but an inn; and that only for a short time."

Seneca the Younger

"You are a little soul carrying around a corpse."

– Epictetus

“How good it is, when you have roast meat or suchlike foods before you, to impress on your mind that this is the dead body of a fish, this the dead body of a bird or pig.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Not in our power are all the elements which constitute our environment, such as wealth, health, reputation, social prestige, power, the lives of those we love, and death. In our power are our thinking, our intentions, our desires, our decisions. These make it possible for us to control ourselves and to make of ourselves elements and parts of the universe of nature. This knowledge of ourselves makes us free in a world of dependencies. This superiority of our powers enables us to live in conformity with nature.”

– Epictetus

“All things of the body stream away like a river, all things of the mind are dreams and delusion; life is warfare, and a visit to a strange land; the only lasting fame is oblivion.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."

– Jim Rohn

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body."

Benjamin Franklin

"Your body is not who you are. The mind and spirit transcend the body."

– Christopher Reeve

"Every man is the builder of a temple called his body."

Henry David Thoreau

"Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded."

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"An active mind cannot exist in an inactive body."

George S. Patton

Motivational Stoic Quotes For Your Next Workout

Finally, let's take a look at some Stoic quotes that will definitely help get you motivated to get out there and start moving around.

Whatever your poison is when it comes to exercise-- whether you like running, walking, boxing, biking, dancing, lifting weights, or doing somersaults in the yard-- you'll find the action-oriented nature of Stoicism is the perfect pick-me-up to help you remember why you want to get some exercise.

"Nothing important comes into being overnight: even grapes and figs need time to ripen. If you say you want a fig now, I will tell you to be patient. First, you must allow the tree to flower, then put forth fruit; then you have to wait until the fruit is ripe.”

– Epictetus

"If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures."

– Musonius Rufus

“Just as nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it — turns it to its purposes, incorporates it into itself — so, too, a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.”

– Marcus Aurelius

"How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?"


“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

– Seneca the Younger

"Man conquers the word by conquering himself."

Zeno of Citium

"Even if we fail here and now, no one stops us from competing again, we don’t have to wait another four years for the next Olympics, but as soon as a man picked himself up and renewed his grip on himself and shown the same enthusiasm he is allowed to compete. And if you give in again, you can compete again, and if once you win, you are like someone who never gave in. Only, don’t let sheer habit make you give in readily and end up like a bad athlete going around being beaten in the whole circuit like quails that run away."

– Epictetus

“The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live.”

Seneca the Younger

"Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Whatever can happen at any time can happen today."

Seneca the Younger

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit."

– Aristotle

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

Thomas Jefferson

"Go the extra mile. It's never crowded."

– Wayne Dyer

"Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it."

George Halas

“You can either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”

– Jim Rohn

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

Gautama Buddha

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."

– Mark Twain

¨The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.¨

Ralph Waldo Emerson

¨A feeble body weakens the mind.¨

– Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Vidal Sassoon

"Our bodies are our gardens - our wills are our gardeners."

– William Shakespeare

"The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus."

Bruce Lee

"Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."

– Jim Rohn

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Steve Prefontaine

"Action is the foundational key to all success."

– Pablo Picasso

Are you looking for more Stoic quotes to help you out in your quest to be healthy, fit, and leading a virtuous life? Check out our recent quotes posts on endurance and resilience, the shortness of life, and success and ambition.

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Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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