Is exercise important enough to pursue? Does exercise actually pay off in the long run? When should we start to care about our physical bodies? If we do want to start exercising, where do we go?
It’s probably a little ridiculous to ask these questions…maybe a little click-baity, but honestly if someone came up to me on the street and asked, “why should I care about exercising?” I’m not entirely sure how I’d respond. Would I laugh? Would I get upset? Would I go into a long dissertation and reference published articles? Maybe a combination of all of these, but I’ll try to be succinct in my discussion in this blog.
The easiest way to determine why you should care about exercising is to watch two different groups of people: 1) children and 2) the elderly. Basic observation of these groups will give you an insight into where you came from and where you are headed.
Let’s start with the kids. Have you ever noticed that babies have an inherent drive to move? By that I mean that even though their parents are very proud when they roll-over, crawl, stand, walk, run and jump, their parents aren’t pushing them to do those things. Babies and young children just do them. For the better part of our early lives, we all pursue increasingly complex forms of movement. Locomotion is what unites us with the world around us. For almost the entire history of humans we have moved ourselves and other objects to accomplish nearly everything. So the question comes back again, “why should we / I (modern man) care about exercising?” Honestly we have become less of a physical being then I ever thought possible in recent years and that trend is only accelerating. You can and a lot of us don’t, never leave your house and acquire everything you need to “survive” these days. So if we don’t need to move to stay alive, or at least one step ahead of a sabertooth tiger, why do we need exercise.
A simple response would be because we are incredibly adaptable. The human body is the most amazing object in the known universe, it adapts to nearly any situation you expose it to. So you sit at a computer screen for work, then move to a couch to stream your favorite show, and ultimately to end up in your comfy bed. Your body recognizes that pattern and makes the muscles needed for those activities (which aren’t many) really efficient. Everything else gets the power turned down. End state, the entire posterior side of your body weakens, you get a strong case of kyphosis and your knees, shoulders and back all start to experience bizarre pains.
Your solution? Go to the doctor and tell him about these things and that you have no idea how this happened….. “I must just be getting old.” You mention. Nah, all these things are a product of your lifestyle and in the long run living this “easy” life will get really hard when you get to your grandparents age. I am terrified for when my generation and the generations behind mine get to our golden years; our easy lifestyles will make us weak and decrepit in a way that no other generation has encountered yet.
So why do we look at the second group, the elderly? Because they can show us, either through a positive or negative example what our futures hold. Those that remain active and live life experience physical challenges can show us that we can live that way as well. Those that can barely get themselves out of a chair or to the bathroom show us the sobering reality of what happens when our bodies weaken. Our grandparents have a couple huge advantages over us too; a lot of them grew up in a much tougher world. They lived on farms and had to work those farms for their entire childhood, this made their bodies strong and resilient….it also exposed them to dangerous and even life threatening work. Secondarily they grew up in an era where food came from the ground or from animals you raised. Today we have a plethora of FDA inspected fake food that was essentially “built” in a lab or warehouse, made with ingredients that keep costs down but were never intended for our bodies to ingest.
If we don’t care to pursue our innate drive to develop complex movements and understand that we are physical beings we are doomed to live a very uncomfortable life in our later years. Visits to the orthopedist and physical therapist will replace trips to the gym. And here’s a little nugget, the former is substantially more expensive than the latter.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, we live in a super cool time in human history. If we look in the right places we can find pockets of wisdom that combine the positive aspects of our grandparents’ world with the advances in safety and sanitation for the world we live in today.
So should we care about exercising? The answer is obvious and we all know what it is, we just have to have the foresight to see what happens if we don’t and the courage to do something about it.