Sunday, January 18, 2009

Exercise and the "Greater Good"

As I watched my husband shovel the snow that was supposed to measure 1-3 inches when we woke up but magically turned into 8-10 overnight, like evil fairy dust, I thought about something PastaQueen wrote last month. In her blog entry, “Going to the gym is ridiculous,” she said: “I think it odd that our culture has developed to a point where we now have to set aside a block of time every day to do something our bodies were meant to do everyday anyway.”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all the energy we spent exercising could go to some greater good beyond just sculpted calves and lower cholesterol? I’m just an English major, but surely some scientist could find a way to hook up those treadmills, stair steppers, ellipticals, bikes, and rowing machines to generate electricity, right? Think of it, especially with all the newbies joining gyms in January. In just a few weeks we could probably generate enough electricity to keep New York City in lights for months! We’d be more than simply mice on wheels.

I just came in from feeding birds. Their feeders were covered in snow and I felt guilty sitting here eating a smoothie while they pecked away at the empty containers hoping to dislodge just one, sad little sunflower or thistle seed. So I put on my “snow” pants (the size-larger stretch pants that go over the real pants), pulled on my boots, wrapped a scarf, zipped up the liner jacket, then the outer jacket, and put on a hat and gloves. For 15 fifteen minutes I plodded through knee-deep snow, then went back in the house, stripped back down to normal clothes, and sat in my office and watched several dozen happy birds eat lunch.

Fifteen minutes on the elliptical doesn’t give me that kind of warm fuzzy.

I know the economy is in the tank and he’s got more important things to think about then how to generate energy from crazyass gym folks, but maybe Barack Obama could ask his new energy secretary, Steven Chu, to find a few minutes to ponder it. He’s a physicist. Isn’t that what physicists do? Think all day about movement?

Call me Buck Rogers I guess. All this snow is making me a little punchy. But it’s also making me think outside the box of gym equipment. We’re supposed to keep exercise interesting and fun or it gets boring and we quit, right? So what kinds of things do you do or would like to do that incorporate exercise and the greater good, beyond your own physical health?

I’ll think about it, too, and let you know what I come up with. Besides feeding birds and shoveling my next-door neighbors walk, I’m at a loss. I look forward to your thoughts.

17 comments:

  1. I've never thought about how my exercise program serves the greater good. I suppose it's serving the greater good to keep from costing the National Health Service a fortune on obesity/sedentary-lifestyle-related illnesses? That's a contribution. It doesn't snow here and I don't have a garden, so no feeding of the birds. I do walk everywhere I go because I don't have a car--surely that serves the greater good? :)

    Call me selfish, but I guess I get plenty of warm fuzzies from good old endorphins during a workout. It would be awesome if some greater good could be served, but oh well!

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  2. Mopping. It makes everyone happy, the house smells so fresh, and it is a really great workout for me (more than half of my house is tiled).

    What else... trimming trees and bushes. Raking. Washing the car. Scrubbing stuff in the house. And playing with my kids :)

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  3. Carla, I think walking in lieu of using gas is exactly what I'm trying to figure out. And I hadn't thought about the $$ cost to our healthcare system. Thank you for that.

    Lyn, I hadn't thought about moving via cleaning as a way to make people happy, but now that I think of it, when I do those things, it really does make a difference.

    And playing with the kids. Of course! I'll see Claire tomorrow and I know at 300 pounds I couldn't play with her the way I can now. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  4. Very interesting, Lynn. You got me thinking of some ideas. I think you're on to something here. Let me know if you have any future thoughts on this matter as I'd love to hear them.

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  5. Hi Lyn! Thanks for your comment on my blog. Please feel free to link to me if you like. I would be honored. :)

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  6. What a great question. This weekend I am invited to go tubing (snow) and we have to climb up the hill to get to the spot so that will be a great cardio as well as for the legs exercise. Will let you know how it goes. I just try and be creative - I seem to be getting bored real easily and I am trying to find new ways to keep myself motivated.

    Mara
    http://24stepstogo.blogspot.com/

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  7. I use a food diary website to track calories and exercise as well as get support from other members. Not too long ago someone asked if she had to join a gym in order to get good exercise. I answered "of course, you don't" and went on to talk about using exercise DVD's, walking more, and doing more physical activity around the house. I was dismayed by other answers that indicated the only way to get fit was join a gym - that you couldn't really build muscle fitness otherwise. I'm sure that joining a gym was unheard of 100 years ago when much of the population was in general, healthier and fitter. They had to be - chopping and carrying wood, planting and harvesting gardens, kneading bread by hand, doing almost everything without the added 'help' from machines. Lynn, your post reminded me that being fit isn't necessarily about how many bicep curls one can do, but how many loads of wood one can carry, or steps one can take. I forgot a few items at the grocery store on Saturday, so my partner and I ran out yesterday to get them. I didn't even consider walking the 2 miles or so. Next time I will. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Lynn!

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  8. I guess playing with kids is the biggest one I do. I have none of my own but I am very close to my sisters' kids. On a daily basis I am rolling around on the ground with them, tickling them, playing in the garden, playing catch etc...It is good exercise for me and great for the kids too. It is even good for their Mom's since then my sisters have 30mins to spare to do something they need to.

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  9. A couple of years back in the week before Ironman Arizona a company put together a display that needed electricity to run it, but hey wanted to 'be green'. So they hooked up stationary bikes to batteries and used the triathletes to generate the electricity needed to run the display. I believe they ran the display for the entire week and did not use any outside electricity. So yes, it can be done :)

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  10. I always laugh at the people who drive around to get the closest parking spot to the gym. I laugh at people in general who drive around to find the closest parking spot unless they have a condition. We have become so lazy in our every day tasks that the gym has become the only activity some people can get because they hire maids, take the elevators, and drive everywhere.

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  11. Flo, I hadn't heard of that. So it IS possible! Yay! Another reader wrote me an email that on the Ellen Show she featured exercise bikes that generated electricity for the TVs attached. That's pretty innovating, too.

    Rebecca's point really hit home today. I watched my 15-month-old granddaughter for 7 hours and man alive that kid is active! I'm so glad I could keep up with her. She body slams like no one's business. Uffda. She wore this old lady out, but physically I feel good. That wouldn't have been the case sans exercise.

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  12. Check this out:

    http://www.livingcompassion.org/keepitsimple/549.html

    Excellent topic. I really struggle to keep up with housework, and it does help to make it exercise when I time it, as you would gym activity. I tend to put move faster if I'm timing myself, and am aware of moving body more and in correct manner to get some benefit. Cleaning up the basement is going to get me moving!

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  13. Hi Lynn! I think this is a great post and something to think about. One of my co-workers told me that Ed Begley, Jr. does something like what you're suggesting - which is a great idea, I think!

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Renewable-Energy/2007-01-01/Bicycle-Pedal-Power-with-Ed-Begley-Jr.aspx

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  14. If only electricity could be *stored* - you could lower your electric bill by using the machines, putting the electricity into some sort of battery, and then using it to help run some appliances in the house. Or, same with the gym, the gym could give you a discount basedc on how much electricity you contributed to the grid. Maybe one day.

    I'm trying to figure out a new route so I can ride my bike to work. We moved much farther away, with very busy roads. But if I can do it, even once a week, that's 2 gallons of gas I'll save.

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  15. Ed Begley...totally into this. He had a show for awhile "Life With Ed" that was all about the ways to make our exercise work for us...I know that there are also families that have their kids ride bikes to "earn" TV watching time by generating the electricity for it...

    Anyway, just wanted to say I enjoyed your post...but I do love the gym as well...

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  16. Volunteer your time at an animal shelter to walk the dogs! It's a great way to get on your feet, make some new (fluffy) friends, and to help those sweet little doggies who are happy just to have you near!

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