Fitness for the faint-hearted

The general population can be divided, roughly, into three categories: the fit, the unfit and the soon to stop breathing. Given that most of us fall into the last two, I thought it prudent to ask why.

Many centuries ago we were a labour intensive society. Men ploughed fields and gathered crops. Women baked bread and swept the hearth, constantly on the move with large families to support. The absence of the trusty motor car meant people had to walk to the village pub instead of taking a taxi and, if you supped too much ale during the session, there was always the good old horse and cart to ferry you home.

All that changed in the 1800s with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. The population of cities grew exponentially and, rather than toil all day in the fields for a pittance, labourers flooded in from the countryside to sign on at factories. For the great majority, the days of walking miles to plant a few grains of corn were over. The age of mechanisation had arrived.

We live in strange times. Science has given us technological advances our ancestors could only have dreamed of. E-mails are sent around the world at the touch of a button. Thousands of books can be stored on an electronic device that fits neatly inside a handbag. Even our child rearing skills have been given a dubious boost, with mind-altering computer games in almost every bedroom. Every day some new innovation comes along that’s supposed to make life easier. But how do these advances affect the general state of our health?

When you look at the bigger picture, the statistics aren’t all that promising. In spite of the warnings from health care experts, chronic inactivity is still one of the biggest killers around. Add to this the phenomenonal amounts of sugar and salt we consume in our diets and the problem is magnified tenfold. The evidence is indisputable. The less you do, the more your body suffers. The combination of poor diet and lack of exercise really is a fast-track to the grave.

The dropout rate for exercise programmes is depressingly high. Why is this? Perhaps, for the average punter, the soul destroying grind of the running machine proves too much. But this need not be so. The biggest problem is the goals people set themselves. I must lose four stone by Friday, drop three dress sizes for the annual dinner and dance, run a marathon in six weeks, etc, etc. The tendency, nearly always, is to do too much.

Take heart. The sweaty business of getting fit needn’t be so daunting. Twenty minutes of light exercise, three times a week will work wonders for your equilibrium and improve your circulation at the same time. Factor in a slight change in diet and the results will astound you. The super-slim waistline might not happen overnight but, with a little dedication, you’ll soon be feeling a whole lot lighter.

Cosmetics aside, the most important changes a fitness programme brings about are biological, (think of a rusty old car, lovingly restored to its original glory). Your outlook will also be given a remarkable boost. Admittedly, your chronological age will stay the same, but you’ll certainly look and feel younger. Sex will take on the dynamism and passion of youth, even if you do still only manage fifteen seconds!

So vow to make one small change, even if it’s getting up to turn off the TV instead of reaching for the remote control …

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