I was reading the BBC news the other day, and the findings of a recent survey were pretty depressing. Survey participants were asked if they would be willing to exercise if it were necessary to avoid an early death. 38% said yes. Death is apparently the preferred choice!
I suppose that death as an lifestyle activity choice is underrated. But I began to wonder why someone’s life would be worth so little that it wouldn’t be worth exercising for. Maybe many people are so despondent that they don’t value life at all, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.
Even more cheering was the statistic that only 4% of participants found exercising fun. I knew that many people did not like exercise, but I didn’t know the numbers were that bad. But then I thought about it. If it were found that hitting yourself with a hammer for several hours a week would improve your health, and only 4% of people found it to be fun, then I can see where people would not be willing to do it. And many people evidently consider exercise just as pleasant as hitting themselves with a hammer.
I’ve written elsewhere here about strategies for making exercise palatable, and even possibly fun, but people’s minds are hard to change.
That same week, my wife and I went to a farm to pick our own apples at Mr. Clark’s farm north of Syracuse. Another customer had arrived before us, and she was there to pick up several bushels. Mr. Clark was helping her load the rather large bags, and because he’s an older fellow, I stood poised to help him out. But I could see that he was having no trouble, so I didn’t try to intervene.
After the customer left, we chatted with Mr. Clark for awhile and he showed us his excellent antique apple sorting machine, still running strong. As we talked, it came to light that he was 88 years old. Yes, 88 with two 8’s. We told him that we were very glad he was still running the farm, and complimented him on his strength. He said that his knees hurt a little bit, but he had no other major complaints, and he was planning to continue working indefinitely. He’s clearly fitter than many people 20-30 years younger than he is (make that 40-50 years younger in some cases). He’s a humble but very impressive guy.
I would be hard-pressed to point out a better illustration of the old adage, “what you don’t use, you lose”. I would seriously doubt that he ever considers what he is doing to be exercise at all. But by using his body every single day, he is very fit.
Farming is, to be sure, a very physical activity, so exercise sort of takes care of itself. Farmers frequently have very impressive strength, including grip strength, something that most exercise buffs almost entirely ignore. And it’s true that enjoying what you do makes it easier to do it day after day.
Jobs that require physical strength and activity are becoming fewer and fewer these days, so most of us don’t get that sort of “instant exercise”. That’s where some creativity and knowledge can help. The human mind’s potential for creativity is almost unlimited (if actually used). I suppose it’s easier to sit stretched out in front of the boob tube with a remote and a beer carefully balanced on the stomach, maybe even while watching fit people run around on TV. But it’s inspiring that people like Mr. Clark show how healthy it’s possible to be even at an advanced age! Don’t give up!