Saturday 7 April 2012

Exercise High and Other Lies

I’ve been trying to be better about exercising since school started and I got some regular kid-free time.  We have a treadmill at home and I have dutifully dragged it out and been striding my way to a fitter me.  At least in theory.

And here’s the problem: I hate it.

I resent every second I spend on that thing, no matter how much I try to make it fun with high-energy music or multi-explosion movies.  People keep telling me that I’ll start getting an exercise high and then I’ll enjoy it.  Or that my body will get used to it and then if I miss a day, I’ll miss the exercise.

So far, not happening.  I kept hoping it would but it’s not, leaving me to wonder.  Some people do obviously enjoy exercise and reap the benefits of it.  I’m just not one of them.  It makes me wonder.  Maybe there are people who never get the exercise high.  Up until the last century or two, it didn’t matter if you liked exercise or not.  You had to do a fair chunk of physical labour just to survive.  There wasn’t the option of being sedentary, at least not for most people.

Our bodies are designed to preserve calories above almost every other goal.  There’s very little in life which doesn’t seem to increase your ability to put on weight.  Even starving yourself drops your metabolism and makes it more likely you’ll put on weight once you start eating again.  Consistent and dramatic starvation tends to lead to a food obsession, even if the individual wasn’t concerned about weight or food before the starvation.  That tells you how important it was to our ancestors and how close to the margin of starvation we evolved.

Of course in a world which includes a McDonald’s drive-thru every few kilometers, those particular adaptations start to suck.  Exercise will help but it’s a slow process, a gradual eroding of extra calories and it won’t help if you give in to the extra appetite that exercise stimulates.  The only surefire way to be thin is to either a) inheirit a fabulously active metabolism and never, ever abuse it or b) reduce your food intake permanently.  There are surgical options but those are the only two non-hospital ones.

Once you reduce your food intake, your metabolism goes down.  It’s preparing you to survive a cycle of starvation-abundance.  Once you allow the intake to go back up, your body will shove everything into storage, anticipating the next cycle.  So you can’t ever allow your intake to go back up, the dirty little secret which keeps the diet industry rolling.

It’s not very encouraging.  But it’s necessary.  If you want to live a long life and preferably, one which doesn’t involve a lot of hospital stays, then you have to be fit.  Not Hollywood fit, but reasonably fit.

I’m going to keep on with it.  It’s something I have to do if I want to be healthy.  But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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