A Nation of Couch Potatoes

couch potato

i don’t have much patience with couch potatoes.  Personally, I don’t sit well.  I fidget a lot.  At work I’m always jumping up and down — walking to the printer, the coffee station, the bathroom.  Walking fast because there is always so little time.  I wouldn’t go so far as to work at a standing desk but it’s far too easy when you’re working hard, concentrating on a PC screen, to become an immovable object.  Something health experts say is the very antithesis of healthy. AKA couch potato.

Before I blew out my knee I ran (and finished) 28 marathons. Not necessarily well and certainly not fast but — I finished. This past Sunday my husband Frank finished his umpteenth marathon (we’ve lost count and who has time to add up his medals).  Today’s New York Times contained a timely article on the gold standard for all runners known as the runner’s high. This was a somewhat windy article about how that high may not be caused by endorphins after all but by a marijuana-like chemical in our bodies. Doesn’t really matter.  What matters is how serious exercise makes you feel.  I can still get a runner’s high from my current short 2 to 5 mile runs.  Whatever its chemical cause, a runner’s high is simply a feeling of well-being when your run is done.  I imagine people who bike a lot get the same lifting of the spirit. In fact probably any sustained exercise makes you feel good.  Aerobic classes.  A long, fast-paced walk in the fall-colored woods.

I see out of shape people sashaying hopefully into my gym every day.  No doubt sent there by their doctors, their children, their loved ones who’d like them to stick around for a lot more healthy years.  A few of them stick it out.  Work on the weight machines with a trainer, huff and puff on the treadmill or a bike, struggle through a zumba class.  After a few hard-fought months or maybe even a year –those few even become gym rats like me –determined to keep their thinner, more muscled, healthier, happier and – actually – younger selves.  But the majority waste their year’s membership.  Drop out in a month or less after their determined start.  I don’t really know why. For most it’s wasted money they worked hard to make. Or someone in their families did.

What makes some of us not just able to keep our daily date with exercise but more than willing to do it?  And what makes others seemingly unable to stick to a workout plan which could save their lives and will certainly make those lives a lot better? I’m just a reporter not a psychologist. I haven’t a clue. But the psychological rewards of regular exercise — those runners’ highs — would certainly change the equation.  Overcome couch potato-ness.  If only more sitters would just stand up — and move.

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