So yeah, exercise, amirite? Why is it such a jerk to us? The whole idea seems counter-intuitive. In fact, I dare say it practically goes against Darwin’s well-tested evolutionary theory. Our bodies somehow get better when we subject them to prolonged periods of negativity? Whaaa?
We’re talking muscle tears (needed to make them grow larger), profuse sweating, potential dehydration, spiked heart rate, and even shortness of breath. On their own, any one of these sounds like a symptom of some particularly lethal medical condition.
Yet there’s a mathematical formula at work here: two negatives make a positive. As do four negatives. And six. And eight. It seems the more nasty physical crap you throw at your body (within reason, of course), the better the results. Cosmic joke? That’s for you to decide. But clearly our physical beings are gluttons for all sorts of punishment.
The benefits of physical activity are very well established: a stronger heart, better looking hair and skin (ironic, given all the g-darn sweating), improved mood and cognitive function (extra dopamine, serotonin — all that good stuff). This isn’t speculation, of course: you’ll never meet a doctor or researcher who’ll suggest otherwise.
So why is exercise such a chore? It’s because the benefits of sitting around doing nothing are also very well established: Netflix binges, hammock time, backyard BBQs, World of Warcraft — the list is practically endless. Admittedly, none of these benefits are health-related. But man, they sure make us happy, and happiness is one of life’s most endearing benefits, no?
So there’s a real disconnect at play here: that which makes us immediately happy (the naps and video games) versus that which makes us happy in the long term (a finely-tuned mind and body). If you’re like much of society, the ‘immediate’ option tends to win out, because — at the risk of getting overly scientific here – it’s wicked cool when we can feel good right away.
Yes, immediate gratification: the enabler of the id, the scorn of the superego. (I skimmed through a book on Freud one time.) It’s the giant wall erected between us and our fitness goals. Sure, we can try to scale it, but wall-climbing is hard work, and hard work and immediate gratification don’t mix. That’s more or less a Catch-22, right? (I can’t claim to have ever skimmed that book.)
The moral here? It seems that for any exercise regimen to ‘take,’ our outlook needs a hearty shift. We have to begin viewing happiness as a long-term prospect, and not something desperately needed right this second.
No easy feat, but here’s the good news: there’s zero heavy lifting involved in adjusting our attitudes. So hey, that’s something, right?
Kinda inspired myself just now. After this House of Cards marathon is over, I’m totally gonna look into taking some action.
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