During our interminable Northern winters – when it’s so cold outside that liquid nitrogen stays liquid — it’s difficult to get the amount of physical activity recommended in the Federal Exercise Directives — Ultrathin People (FED-UP) guidelines.
A person might get a burst of exercise after a snowfall. And handling a snow shovel can certainly be a workout, especially when each shovelful of the white gunk weighs approximately as much as a cubic yard of wet concrete.
We have an elliptical exercise machine at our house. I’ll use it in the wintertime, but it makes me feel silly. I’m not going anywhere or accomplishing anything useful. I might think better of it if the elliptical were powering the coffee maker.
Generally speaking, we Americans are leading increasingly sedentary lives. This is certainly true for me.
For example, when we were kids, my seven siblings and I had to share one bathroom. A person could dance off an astounding number of calories while waiting his or her turn for the bathroom.
Going back even further, when I was a wee tyke, our bathroom facilities consisted of a small wooden structure that sat about 15 yards from our farmhouse. Under particularly dire circumstances, a kid could cover those 15 yards at speeds that broke the sound barrier. I think. In any event, some sort of boom was often involved.
Another problem arose when you needed to use the privy on a cold winter’s day (or worse, night!). A person had to mentally balance his or her needs with the very real possibility that he or she could freeze into a life-like lawn statue during the journey to and from the outhouse. I quickly learned that it’s futile to try to hold it until springtime arrives.
I was raised during an era when children were expected to be physically active every waking moment. We were constantly being admonished to “go outside and get some fresh air.” This was especially true when squabbles broke out. We kids spent a lot of time outside.
Life in general has become much too soft. Back in the day, if you wanted to change TV channels, you had to physically get up, walk across the room and twist a knob. And if you wanted to “fine tune” the TV, you had to physically smack it with your hand.
And growing up on a dairy farm was a fulltime physical fitness program. “Running water” meant jogging with a 5-gallon pail of H2O in each hand. The same could be said of running silage and running grain. No wonder we were all skinny little kids.
There are those of you who are probably thinking, “Ha! That’s nothing but a bunch of sentimental authorial hooey! He’s looking back on his childhood through the rose-colored glasses of time!”
I have an answer to that: Ha! You are wrong! Because I have photographic proof!
Recently discovered amidst my desktop clutter is a photo of my 3rd-grade class. The 26 of us are ranked in three tidy rows, with my beloved 3rd-grade teacher, Mrs. Mortimer, standing beside her charges.
Two things are immediately apparent in that snapshot. One is that some of my classmates took Class Photo Day much more seriously than I. A boy in the middle is wearing a necktie and a sporty sweater; another boy has donned a bowtie and a smart-looking blazer. It appears that I was wearing a clean shirt that day, which was about the best one could expect of me at that time.
Who am I kidding? That’s about the best one can expect of me today.
The second noticeable feature in the old photo is that we are all scrawny little kids. One child is a teeny bit heftier than the rest, but he would still be classified as “athletic” by today’s standards. None of us could be considered overweight.
Our collective dearth of exercise isn’t the only factor affecting our collective waistlines. Over the years, food has become cheaper and more abundant. Portion sizes have expanded faster than a balloon at a helium festival.
For example, my wife and I recently dined at a Chinese restaurant. We had so much leftover rice in our “to go” box, we almost needed the pickup to haul it all home.
My wife and I recently completed a really energetic workout together. Sweat formed upon our brows; during the heat of the action, small exclamations of pain could be heard. It got so intense that furniture was moved. Our communal exercise session ended with a ragged whisper of “Halleluiah!”
Things got pretty strenuous, but we finally found that stupid TV remote.