Natural exercise is both physically beneficial and productive. Stupid exercise is pointless. Natural exercise is a by-product of performing some useful task. Stupid exercise is useless.
Most sports are fine examples of natural exercise with the exception of golf, especially when a golf cart is involved. Sports not only work the whole body but promote human interaction with people that you would probably otherwise not want to be associated with. Furthermore, sports often fosters beer drinking, a premier civic virtue.
Even bowling has value since it not only nurtures involvement with other human beings, but it engenders the wearing of nifty shirts with one’s name embroidered over the pocket.
Watching baseball on TV is not exercise, natural or otherwise, and while it does serve as therapy for insomnia, no matter how severe, it almost certainly leads to a decline in cerebral function.
Intrinsic to each sport is competition which prepares one for survival in our world of cut-throat capitalism.
Stupid exercise most frequently is situated in warehouse-like buildings where people with zombie-like facial expressions climb stairs to nowhere, pedal stationary bikes to nowhere or stride on moving surfaces to nowhere. To redeem these exercises, at the very least, the machines should be hooked up to generate electricity for the establishment’s lighting, or charge the users’ phones or power the TVs that hang in front of these ersatz athletes pursuing fitness through futility. Of course, any TVs displaying Fox News should be immediately disabled.
In the suburban world, lawns provide a grand source of natural exercise. Mowing with a push mower is natural exercise. Mowing with a rider-mower is stupid and the exemplification of sloth when applied to any lawn smaller than 10 acres.
In the fall, raking leaves is natural exercise and next to godliness. It uses the arms, the legs and the trunk and gets the raker outside in inclement weather. Of course, raking can induce tennis elbow without providing the enjoyment of actually swinging a racquet. Using a leaf blower is not an acceptable substitute. It is not even exercise and generates irritating noise.
In the winter, shoveling snow is another full-body form of natural exercise despite the paucity of snowfalls in Central New Jersey, an obvious consequence of global warming. Although shoveling snow does lead to a disproportionate number of heart attacks, they usually happen to someone else.
Using a snow blower is not natural exercise. However, if you have a neighbor who made the mistake of buying a snow blower, it is all right to feel sorry for that individual who now finds few opportunities to use the machine and who offers to clear the end of your driveway. That’s the driveway that you just cleared only to find that the township snowplow has filled it back up with heavy ice.
Cross-country skiing is stupid exercise, but I like it, so it’s OK.
Weight lifting is really stupid exercise. Why pick up something heavy that doesn’t need to be moved? Why not volunteer at the Mercer County Equestrian Center and shovel out those stalls or empty out your garage (or my garage). Keep in mind, no matter how much iron you pump, you are never going to look like The Terminator.
Riding a bike is natural exercise as long as there is a purpose to getting on the bike. Just going out for a ride is pointless and stupid. Using the bike to bring a book back to the Hopewell Library to avoid the hefty late fees of ten cents a day is excellent natural exercise. So is touring the Hopewell roads looking for roadkill to incorporate into a hearty stew.
Commuting to work or school by bike is an almost perfect form of natural exercise as is running for the train or from the parking lot to the workplace when running late. Running for the bus would be included if there were such a thing as reasonable bus service in the area.
Jogging, that slow-motion movement that mimics the tortoise from Aesop’s fable, is stupid exercise unless one is escaping from a lion or a bear. Jogging is bad for the knees, for the back, and for the feet. It’s good for the manufacturers of expensive sneakers.
Burying the cat in the backyard, or anywhere else, is sound natural exercise. Paying an exorbitant sum to the vet to dispose of the feline carcass surprisingly involves no exercise at all but is a demonstration of weak financial judgment.
As you formulate your resolutions for the New Year, keep in mind how exactly you want to benefit your physical well-being. Be natural or be stupid.
Robin Schore lives in Titusville.