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The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise

Posted By Mark Sisson On April 12, 2007 @ 4:41 pm In Fitness,Health,Personal Improvement,Prevention,Sisson Said What? | 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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