Tuesday, July 28, 2015


     Widespread recreational exercise is obviously a modern phenomenon, born of wealthy, idle societies.
     In the not-too-distant past (and in some parts of the underdeveloped world today), everyday living required tons of exercise working the fields, caring for livestock, hunting, fishing, transporting goods, carrying produce and water, and everything else needed just to survive.
     With the exception of professional athletes; farm, construction, mining laborers and the like; and others out in the field or walking the streets, few Americans today get anywhere near enough exercise from their jobs alone. Most, for good health (and perhaps happiness) require supplemental recreational exercise. Yet few Americans choose to get it.
     Not I. I love to exercise, walking to and from the bus stop, during lunch breaks, and after dinner on non-workout days. Workouts consist of three or so mile runs every third day. I feel so much more relaxed after exercise that I've even started walking on weekend mornings to give my mind and body an early release from excess energy (stress) I've been lately feeling.
     Conversely, none others in my family engage in voluntary exercise as a rule—they have to be told to go outside and get some exercise. Otherwise they stay all day indoors reading (all four), crocheting (Pene and Deanne), getting in trouble (Braden and Jaren), playing with toys (Jaren), or cooking or doing the laundry (Deanne).
     Upon being sent out, Jaren enjoys himself well enough by riding the scooter or bike, running around the house ten to fifteen times, kicking a soccer ball, or wandering about while engaging in imaginary play.
     Penelope tolerates it by riding scooter in the carport and driveway, jumping rope, or running around the house.
     Braden loathes it, usually doing only the minimum we demand of him (running around the house ten times or jumping rope a hundred times). If left to his own, he'll dribble a ball around or bounce a tennis ball on a racket until he tires in ten to fifteen minutes, then read, talk, or get in trouble with Jaren.
     Not that he's the only exercise cheat: they all sit around and read or talk after they tire of being active and thus fall way below the daily recommended minimal exercise levels—not even close most days for moderate exercise.
     But even so I know they get far more exercise than their peers who aren't enrolled in competitive sports or martial arts, swimming, or other such lessons. I know this because Pene's P.E. teacher once complimented her on her fitness level and asked her, “How do you stay fit?”
     “My dad makes us go outside and exercise,” she said.
     “And you do?” he asked incredulous.
     “Yeah,” she said.
     Just the fact that he asked “And you do?” tells me that parents rarely force their kids to get any real at-home exercise.
     This, to me, is sad. I taught all our kids to swim and ride bike because these, plus running, can be pursued with lifelong passion—the best individual athletic exercises there are: joyful, healthy, inexpensive, convenient, and fun. Doing them always improves my outlook. And I see how much calmer and yet more alert they, too, are after vigorous exercise. It's a joy to be alive after such effort, cool down, and recovery.
     Deanne's not into it. There's a one in seven chance she'll agree to an after-dinner walk and only after sighs and slammed books, chairs, or other objects acted out upon. And the walks themselves sometimes feel more like trips to a dentist than pleasure strolls.
     My mom was inactive like that when I was still living at home (and we didn't eat very healthy diets, either). Praise God her health held up and she took up golf in her sixties and her diet's improved substantially. At age eighty-three, she's still walking all eighteen holes at least twice a week at a hilly golf course (I've done it before; its tiring) so she's terrific healthy for her age.
     I pray that my immediate family maintains its token level of fitness and that God will protect us all, like Mom, until the day when all of us come to enjoy exercising voluntarily. And may that day come sooner rather than later for all our sakes.

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