(Sorry for the sketchy posting, folks but some ongoing medical tests for a potentially serious condition is eating into my time — and distracting me mightily.)
By Bob Quarteroni
Just as the swallows return to Capistrano each year and the vultures to Hinckley, Ohio, another annual pilgrimage starts today: Those who resolved to exercise this year swarm the nation’s gyms and fitness facilities.
Dressed in their spanking new outfits still warm from time under the Christmas tree as presents, they invade, resolute, determined, throwing themselves into a frenzied enthusiasm of elliptical madness, treadmill marathons and weight lifting zaniness.
For about eight to 12 weeks. They’re all good for about two weeks but after that the number starts to decline, first a trickle and then a steady outflux. By the end of March they are mostly – or all – gone, never to be seen again.
The only sign of their existence is the mountain of exercise equipment for sale on E Bay and Craigslist.
As a dedicated gym rat for a half-century – OCD does have its advantages – I’ve seen this play out in gyms around the nation, from Penn State’s Rec Hall to the Wilkes-Barre YMCA to Fitness First in Tampa.
That’s not just my observation, it’s well documented.
A 2012 study by Harris Interactive on behalf of bodybulding.com looked at those who made fitness resolutions and found that 73 percent gave up before meeting their goal.
And a 2009 study in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that 50 percent of those who start an exercise program will drop out within the first six months.
I don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek or not, but one possible reason posited in fivethirtyeight.com, was that their quitting “…might be explained by decision fatigue, a theory that posits that the mere act of deciding to join a gym leaves us too exhausted to actually go there.”
Wow, if just thinking about working out makes working out too hard, we’re in worst shape as a nation than I thought.
It’s hard for me to understand, since exercise has always been such a big part of my life. Even now, with 70 only month away, I go to the Y three days a week.
On the days I don’t hit the Y I go for my 3-hour jaunts as an amateur naturalist (found Labrador tea and leatherleaf at the Nuangola Bog last week; oh boy!) or get five miles on my pedometer, even if I have to circle the block at twilight if the number isn’t there.
And I just love the whole ritual of giving it your all, trying to get one more rep out, finishing the dreaded plank, or getting to level eight on the elliptical.
And I like what it does. I was 164 pounds when I worked out at Rec Hall 35 years ago and I’m 166 now, and I’m trying hard to lose those two extra pounds.
And I’m able to ramble mountains like a billy goat and all the weight training seems to have strengthened my bones since I fall regularly out in the woods and have never even twisted an ankle.
For me, exercise is as natural as breathing, and just as important.
Which is why it’s so hard for me to understand why people hate it so much.
And we’re talking about a lot of people.
The Centers for Disease Control reported in a 2013 survey that “…only 20.6 percent of people met the total recommended amounts of exercise — about 23 percent of all surveyed men and 18 percent of surveyed women.”
Which leads to another interesting statistic, one germane here. A 2014 Marist poll of the “most common” new year’s resolutions found that “lose weight” was number one at 13 percent followed by “exercise more” in second place at 10 percent.
So, a clear example of the spirit being willing but the flesh being weak, weak, weak.
As for reasons cited for not exercising, they’re familiar and their own yearly ritual. I don’t have the time, it’s too expensive, I don’t like to sweat, I never see any results, I’m too tired after working all day.
Well, it’s their choice, their bodies and if they want to let them collapse around them, so be it.
But from my vantage point of 50 plus years of gym rattery I would suggest they push a little longer, try a little harder.
I give this advice because I know, as Mark Twain did, “that nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
And that is not entirely tongue-in-cheek either.