Some big news is about to break and if I tell you what it is now, you will think I'm crazy, but if I talk about it after it breaks everyone will be like: dude, of course, that's old news. Being a Cassandra is a lose/lose situation. But perhaps some historian a hundred years hence will notice this blog post and make it all worth while.
The news is that exercise isn't good for your health.
I always feared this would happen. Talk to anyone with a degree in marketing and they will tell you ad nauseam, "Emphasize the benefits!" They are like, "Don't talk about what you do, avoid telling us what it is like, and never explain the process...tell them exactly what they are going to get--in glorious abstract platitudes!"
Forced against my better judgement to conform to this convention I end up with things like: Practice Internal Martial Arts and:
- You'll be more honest with yourself about how weak, clumsy, and stressed out you are.
- When you look at random other people you'll think, "Wow, I bet that hurts!"
- You'll be able to cut off a person's head, effortlessly.
- You won't like the elastic in bras and underwear anymore.
- You'll discover the unlimited freedom of matching your appetites to your fate.
- You'll be more mature and responsible...or is it.... spontaneous and childlike.
- You'll become unconditioned, like an uncarved block of wood.
- Empty, like a carton of Ice cream that we just bought yesterday (can you believe it's all gone?).
- Like water, always seeking the lowly and the dark.
Obviously you can all see where I'm going here. When my Mom wants to sound authoritative she tells me, "It's true! I read it on the Mayo Clinic website!" Heaven forbid she discovers the CDC website...also known as "Side-effects-R-Us" Never mind. Okay, mind. But what is this obsession with benefits?
Here are the reasons the Mayo Clinc gives for Exercising:
- Exercise controls weight
- Exercise combats health conditions and diseases
- Exercise improves mood
- Exercise boosts energy
- Exercise promotes better sleep
- Exercise puts a spark back in your sex life
- Exercise can be fun
Now before you fall out of your chairs, remember this is supposed to be the premier center of the world for medical expertise totally fact checked and backed up by the latest science!
So I told my advanced Tai Chi class the other day that I don't believe in exercise anymore and one of my students just about lost it, "Have you even seen the people walking around out side today! The obesity! The lethargy! The video game addictions!" We have a lot of fun in my classes, I showed him pictures of baby goats to calm him down.
Let's debunk the 7 Reasons For Exercising.
#1. It controls weight. Nope, it doesn't. A clearly false statement. Here is the counter argument to the counter argument: Yes, It Does. That argument is so pathetically weak it relies on a study that showed after 30 weeks of continuous aerobic exercise "over-weight" men lost 3 kilos. 3 kilos is 6.6 pounds. I gain and loose 3 pounds everyday, 6 pounds is nothing. 30 weeks is 8 months! Case closed.
#2. It combats health conditions and diseases. This statement is so general it doesn't even deserve a response, what conditions? what diseases? what type of exercise? for whom does the exercise bell toll? Oh, if you read the explanation they are talking about heart disease. Fail again, the heart association changed it's definition of good cholesterol 6 times this year alone! Coffee good, coffee bad...ignore, information does not compute. Exercise is good for arthritis. Eyes pop out. Moving on.
#3. It improves mood. And doing the dishes is likely to send me into a spiral of darkness? My guess is they wanted to say exercise helps you poo more regularly but worried about upsetting the delicate balance of authoritative elan.
#4. It boosts energy. Bored now. I thought sciency people didn't talk about "energy." Anyway, I think it does give people a "boost" if they haven't been exercising regularly. But this is circular logic. Doing exercise is itself a boost of energy. And if you do it regularly then you don't get a boost any more. Poor us.
#5. It promotes better sleep. Okay, I'll stop joking for a minute. Yes, that is a real possibility. But it can also make it worse. And for many people it simply doesn't help at all. The truth is, sleep is a huge mystery. I highly recommend the book Insomniac.
#6. It puts a spark back in your sex life. Folks, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that entirely depends on why you're not "sparking." As John, Paul, George, and Ringo put it: "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone any how." Take it away boys...
#7. And last but not least: Exercise can be fun! So can farting. I rest my case.
Don't click here unless you want to feel pitty for me.
Here is a quick rant on the health subject which I scribbled in my notebook the last time I was stuck on public transportation. Wait, before my quick rant, I have another quick rant. The arguments for public transportation are well known and very convincing--it is efficient, cheap, and saves time. Spock would love public transportation. In the USA, however, in practice it has completely and consistently failed to live up to its claims. Can we just stop doing it now? We should just focus on improving individual transportation systems. It's like we keep smaking into the same glass door because it's so clean we think it isn't there. Ouch.
Okay rant time: I freaking give up. Is sleep good for health? Does sleep cure cancer? Tai Chi properly understood is like sleep. It is a flexible routine part of life that nourishes and balances essential primary human appetites. There is a word for nourishing and balancing in Chinese: Zheng 正 (often translated correct, upright or rectification). So don't ask, "Is it good for this? is it good for that? The answer is YES! And if it isn't, well, then YOU are practicing wrong, or your teacher is TEACHING you wrong. And for those of you who find this to be a circular argument and unverifiable; I have this to say: YES, it is a circular argument! It circles down to the same issue every time: You are responsible for managing your own appetites. "Oh, really?" You say, "But we can test sleeping, and we can see health deteriorate daily when people go without sleep. Most people don't do any tai chi and some of them even have good health." Well if you say that, you obviously don't have any experience with circular argument! If they are healthy, then they are practicing tai chi already! They just don't know it. Even a man sitting on a sagging couch watching TV may be effortlessly and unconsciously using tai chi skills to place popcorn in his mouth.
Now back to the original point, exercise isn't good for your health. I'm not sure we will ever get to the bottom of it. I look around at what people are calling exercise and I see a lot of pain and injuries. I also see people having a lot of fun and feeling good. I don't know, I guess it just bothers me when I hear people talk about exercising because they have too. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm happy to work with people who are motivated to improve their health, however they define it. I just don't see a link between exercise and health. I do see a link between health and hanging out with friends, belonging to supportive, inspiring, or stimulating groups, playing around, improvising, visiting parks and wild spaces, milking goats, chasing chickens, driving a $100,000 car, having sex with movie stars, wiggling your toes in the sand, grass, snow, mud, grapes, peanut butter, fairy dust, and swimming away from sharks. Unfortunately all these things don't help me because I'm left handed and we are fated to die ten years earlier than everyone else.