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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 12, 2007

The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise

By Mark Sisson
21 Comments

Are you sick of hearing the same old lectures about the need to exercise? Tired of reading list after list of reasons why you really should work out? So over sifting through tip upon tip suggesting how to motivate yourself?

The nation’s collective “Move Thy Buns!” shout has been getting consistently noisier for a few decades now, and yet, despite all our best efforts, desire, and intentions, most people just don’t exercise enough. If at all. End of story.

Strange, because we know exercise is not only great, but actually necessary. I don’t believe there’s a single person alive right now who doesn’t know that exercise will help them lose weight, or live longer, or reduce stress, or just feel better. Whether you’re a gym rat, or are simply maintaining a decent standard of fitness, or are a regulation couch potato, I’d like to offer a thought as to why exercise, for the most part, just won’t stick.

The reason is because the baby boomer generation is the first generation to learn about the need for exercise. Our parents didn’t exercise. Sure, there were the Saturday rounds on the links for Dad and Mom played tennis with the ladies at the country club from time to time. Or there was the occasional evening constitutional or family camping trip. But exercise as a way of life? A daily habit? A necessity? It just wasn’t in people’s consciousness. Take a look at old male and female movie stars whose bodies were adored in their time – John Wayne didn’t have a six-pack. Miss Monroe had plenty of curvaceous heft. The silhouette was enough – nobody was sculpting, toning and defining back then. Sports were for fun, walks were for digestion, and activity was for stress relief, but the thought of daily exercise? Unheard of.

It makes sense to me. Our parents’ generation was really the first to be fully “modern” – ladies keeping house in middle-class suburbia and office-going gentlemen in the ubiquitous gray flannel suits. These are huge generalities, of course, but I think they’re largely true. It wasn’t uncommon at all for our parents to have been raised on a farm – until the 1930s, most families were still connected to agriculture or heavy labor in some way. But our parents weren’t farmers, and even a blue collar union job at GM was fairly mechanized. We simply weren’t raised to be active.

So, the Boomers are the product of at least one generation that didn’t work out. It’s taken us a few generations to realize that the hard labor Gramps put in on the family farm was probably really good for him. We don’t live that way anymore, so yes, we do need the gyms and fitness videos and exercise gear. And change is hard. Really hard.

I’m obviously a huge proponent of exercise. I work out 5 or 6 times a week and many of you know that I’m a retired athlete. I think everyone ought to work out at least a few times a week to the extent that they are able. That said, I also think total change takes more than a single generation. While I don’t go in for the “blame game” (it’s our parents’ fault), I also think it would be unrealistic to think society would change completely in the span of one generation. I’d love for everyone to get plenty of exercise – and I hope you have made it a part of your life. But if you look at the issue from a longer-term perspective, the fact that fitness videos and gyms are so popular is a pretty encouraging sign. If you’ve changed even a little, that’s a big deal.

Now, if you’re a couch potato or a once-a-weeker, move thy buns! (You’re not gettin’ off that easy!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Apples. How were you raised to view fitness? How do you work exercise into your life? Are you changing with the times?

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[tags]exercise, generation, gym rat, baby boomer, fitness videos, exercise gear[/tags]

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21 Comments on "The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise"

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[…] A good read can be found over at Mark’s Daily Apple on reasons why we don’t exercise. […]

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[…] Reasons to exercise […]

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[…] Americans don’t. We’ve blogged about one major overlooked reason why. Here’s a trick: just put on your sneakers. Don’t think about the workout. Just […]

Cliff
Cliff
7 years 4 months ago
For me, growing up had NO emphasis on exercise. I was involved in a once weekly youth bowling league (a social exercise for my parents) and in high school I took an interest in downhill skiing (another social exercise, this time for me). Fitness and exercise weren’t talked about in the home. I was exposed to it at school, dreaded gym class, and ballooned to over 300 lbs (never measured BMI then, buit ‘balloon’ is an appropriate word) before graduation through poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. now, 10 years later, I’m finally getting on track. I spent all that time… Read more »
suvetar
suvetar
6 years 2 months ago
1970’s – 1985ish: I grew up in central europe right next to a national forest. My parents made it a habit to walk with us for 1-2 hours every sunday morning through the forest and let us kids just blow steam. My school had 5 hours of physical education a week which included field hockey, swimming, sprinting, throwing ball, stretching, etc… In highschool you could even get the title and medal to be a rescue swimmer…and train to be a future tri-athlete. Since the 1990’s they’ve added all kinds of other extra things (computer be one of it) to teach… Read more »
Lewis
Lewis
6 years 2 months ago
I feel like my life has shown exactly this trend, if smaller scale. I was born in 1991 and my family was probably middle of the road in terms of exercise: we played tennis together or hiked every few weekends. But neither of my parents were really into sports and running races was almost a foreign word in my house. Since early childhood, my life has definitely changed in terms of exercise’s presence. Somewhere around grade 11, sports (I was in track and Cross country) started being less of an optional, fun thing and more of a compulsory, essential-to-staying-fit thing.… Read more »
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[…] We don’t exercise for many reasons. […]

Jeff
5 years 10 months ago

It’s changing for the better now more and more. Now it’s becoming more and more cool to be fit and healthy.

daire
daire
5 years 9 months ago

im excersizing better , & lost my stomach .

Emily
Emily
5 years 8 months ago
I think my mom tried to raise us using play as our exercise. I had some serious ADHD going on when I first started elementary school, so my first grade teacher told my mom to enroll me in ballet and gymnastics, probably so I could have an outlet for all my energy. My brothers played soccer and basketball. I ditched the “girly” sports for soccer, and eventually volleyball, while my older brother joined track. My parents played volleyball at a near professional level, but just for fun! Only recently has our family evolved into “gym” people–mostly due to time constraints… Read more »
Alex Good
Alex Good
5 years 7 months ago

The only joy I had throughout childhood was spending my day in the woods. Eventually I was put on medication to make me less violent (I was a normal kid but my mom had a tendency to overreact) which unfortunately had a few side effects (increased hunger and decreased energy). So, now I’ve stopped taking that medication (and surprise, I’m not violent, the dumb bitch was wrong) and I once again find pleasure in exercise.

George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog
George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog
5 years 6 months ago

lol I’m funny

Louis
Louis
5 years 2 months ago

Although I rarely played sport. I was big into climbing, jumping, cycling etc. as a child. That coupled with strict TV and food options means I can never remember a time when I could see my abs.

Ann Coleman
Ann Coleman
5 years 1 month ago

“(and surprise, I’m not violent, the dumb bitch was wrong)”

Yes, you sound like a really mellow guy.

Alex, you might want to talk to someone about your attitude toward your mother before it turns violent. If my comment makes you mad — read it again.

Michelle
Michelle
4 years 7 months ago
I was never raised to exercise or play sports, but it was not really a problem, since I was always fairly active…until one day I wasnt. Always waifish, people kept telling me how good I looked with a little “meat on my bones,” but this was not the end. The pounds kept packing on, and while not obese by any standard, I was getting a little chubby. For a girl that prized her looks and beauty, this was difficult. I got depressed, drank a lot, and got fatter. Finally, at 5’7 165ish (afraid to step on a scale) I got… Read more »
Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago
The AHA reccomends keeping you heart rate elevated to an “acceptable” range for thirty minutes. I’m going to put this bluntly. That’s boring as shit and it sucks. And that’s what a lot of other people think about exercise. They think this is something I won’t enjoy at all and it’s something I just have to do for some invisible benefit that I won’t see for decades. The next time you walk into a gym take a look at everyone on the “dreadmills”, look at their faces, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Little do they know that brief… Read more »
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[…] Americans don’t. We’ve blogged about one major overlooked reason why. Here’s a trick: just put on your sneakers. Don’t think about the workout. Just don’t […]

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3 years 7 months ago

[…] TODAY’S BLOG the real reason why we don’t exercise !! […]

Lynn
Lynn
3 years 3 months ago

Marilyn Monroe weighed 118 pounds and her measurements were 35-22-35. She had curves, but certainly no “heft.” In today’s sizing, she would have been a size 2 or 4.

May
May
2 years 11 months ago

I was born in a different country than where I love now. We had huge grounds and an entire forest behind our home and we used to run all day having fun. That’s how my muscles developed. I was very active till the age of 11 then once I went to secondary school though I still liked sports I didn’t do it as frequently. Fast forward 10 years and some extra kilo, and I’m right back on track 🙂

Chechy
Chechy
2 years 10 months ago

The real reason I don’t work out: stress fractures on both feet, and joints that crunch. I used to work out 6 days a weak. This is me 🙁

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