Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 60° Partly Cloudy
News >  Features

Exercising is tough but essential

Bryant Stamford Gannett News Service

Americans refuse to exercise, and it costs us dearly. We are too fat, and we live sicker and die quicker than folks in other highly developed societies.

Our horrible dietary practices are at fault, to be sure, but our total lack of exercise stands out like a sore thumb.

The reluctance to move our bodies is the subject of considerable research, and concerns over the implications of a sedentary lifestyle finally are making headlines.

You’d think that with all the hoopla, this was new stuff. Not so.

The need to exercise has been around as long as the practice of medicine. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-375 B.C.) offered: “All parts of the body which have a function, if used in moderation and exercised in labors in which each is accustomed, become thereby healthy, well-developed and age more slowly, but if unused and left idle they become liable to disease, defective in growth, and age quickly.”

This message was alive and well hundreds of years ago, and sages warned us of the effects of slothful living and the increased body fatness that goes along with it.

John Dryden (1631-1700) observed: “Better to hunt in fields, for health unbought, than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught. The wise, for cure, on exercise depend . …”

The famous literary figure Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once said: “I look upon it that, he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.” Others in that era warned that “if you don’t make time for exercise, you’d better make time for disease.”

But back then, as is the case today, not everyone was on board with regard to the benefits of exercise.

Chauncey Depew (1834-1928) quipped: “I get my exercise acting as pallbearer to my friends who exercise.” And others looked upon exercise with disdain, because it “makes people smell.”

Being inactive and packing on body fat are programmed into our genes, and this is why so many of us are slothful and gluttonous. Overcoming these natural tendencies requires insight and profound discipline.

The insight part is easy. Everything we know about the chronic diseases that plague us points clearly to exercise as a powerful preventive tool.

The discipline part is the tough sell, because it goes against our innate tendencies. From the moment we are born, our most powerful concern is survival, and the body equates survival with having an ongoing supply of energy.

Thus, eating is the most powerful drive, because it leads to stored energy. And not exercising makes perfect genetic sense as a means of conserving energy.

So what do we need to do? We need to make adjustments in the same way we are forced to make adjustments in just about every other aspect of our lives.

We cut the grass, dust and vacuum, brush our teeth, change the oil in our car, wash our hair, put out the garbage, fix leaky faucets, iron our clothes, etc. These are all things we’d rather avoid, but we feel compelled to do them because we don’t want to face the consequences of not doing them.

It’s time for that mode of thinking when it comes to exercise. It’s time we realized that this choice is not really a choice at all. It’s something we need to do, because the consequences of not doing it are horrific.

Having a heart attack, stroke or diabetes is a thousand times worse than having an unkept house or yard.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to sugarcoat the exercise message. It’s a duty that must be addressed every single day, and there’s no other way around it.

Fortunately, there remains the freedom to choose what kind of exercise you will do, as long as you yield to the need to do something.

So please, wake up, America, and whether you like it or not, add exercise to your daily to-do list.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.