When You Avoid Exercising as Much as I Do

12 · 03 · 20

I know it’s eventually going to catch up with me, but for now I am continuing to avoid daily cardiovascular exercise. My doctor has suggested that even walking around the block for 15 minutes a day would be a good start. What a pitiful suggestion when the real recommendation is 45 minutes per day, four to five days per week, where your heart rate substantially increases and you can tell by the energy you’re putting into it that your heart is getting the needed exercise to stay healthy.

Walking around the block is not bad but it’s not good enough for me to look forward to it. Recently, my doctor revised her recommendation: I should get in three hours of walking each week. It’s not just the physical exercise, she reminds me, but also what being outdoors and in the sunlight do for your state of mind. But that’s more walking around the neighborhood than I’m realistically going to do.

Put me on a stationary bike, and I count the minutes until I’m done. I calculate the percentage of the session that I’ve completed. I check my pulse rate, riding speed, equivalent distance cycled, and the time completed at that point. Over and over. It’s more tolerable if I can crank up some classic rock and roll that sings of the joys of movin’ on down the highway. But I’m still computing the percentage of time left, including and then not including my five-minute cool-down. I kept the bike in my office for a year so that I’d see it and remember to exercise. I did all right for a few weeks, then it sat. When I redoubled my efforts, I think I rode it twice more. I replaced it with plants and office furniture.

Time for EXERCISE (all caps) is on my e-calendar for five days per week. I have it shown in red, which is my color for anything related to health care. But unless my calendar is open on a device near me, that time goes breezing by while I write or cook or clean the kitchen. I’ve yet to figure out how to get it to chime when it’s a few minutes before the start of exercising.

My Fitbit tells me that I usually get in 0.7 miles when grocery shopping and over a mile when I wander through Costco, trying to find cases of carbonated water that I swear used to be near other beverages. I don’t think we actually get to count those miles when giving ourselves a gold star for 45 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise. (I think we should get credit for agility training, though, especially in those normally crowded warehouse stores.)

The exercise that I truly love, I probably love because I don’t think of it as exercise: hiking in natural areas. For the past year, I’ve toned down the strenuousness of the walks but lengthened the distance, simply because I don’t want the walks to end. Walking on the levee trails near the shoreline of the nearby bay guarantees that I’ll see many species of birds. Which species predominate depends on the season. Right now, there’s a peregrine falcon that has my attention. The mallards, teals, northern shovelers, American coots, white pelicans, and egrets (both great and snowy)—even the turkey vultures and bold ravens—brighten my day. I don’t think about the time remaining because a walk along the levees takes however long it takes.

While I enjoy those walks when a friend can join me, I also cherish my solo levee-trail walks. Even the same trails are a pleasure each time I visit because my other friends—those beautiful birds—keep me captivated.

Tomorrow will be sunny with temperatures that will make a brisk walk a good option. And although I will probably continue to avoid exercise, I will be in my happy place and will, coincidentally, be improving my health without thinking about exercising at all.

Patricia

Patricia is the author of a wide range of essays that span narrative, persuasive, and informational approaches. She believes that most writing benefits from an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on knowledge acquired over decades of diverse learning endeavors.

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