Thursday, April 5, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #4

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance

Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health

In the space of two generations, consider how society has evolved.

Fifty or sixty years ago, many more people lived in rural settings, and had plenty of physical labor. Those who lived in the city did manual labor at shops, factories, etc. (That was back before bureaucratic stuff like OSHA and 50-pound lifting limits.)

Criminy! As recently as the early 70s, I got a job unloading 100-pound flour sacks out of a box car, and into a local bakery. (I didn't last too long in that job. Even though I only did it once a week, I discovered it took a week to recuperate, after lifting 650 or so of those things!)

There's still some hard work out there, but not nearly so much. (Much of it is done by immigrants, because us gringos are unwilling. But that's a different, much-belabored story.)

When I was a kid, there was P.E. at school... and when you came home, you played tag, kickball, cowboys and injuns, etc. Nowadays P.E. has been largely done away with, and after school kids play Nintendo, or watch TV, or yap on their cell phones.

But it goes beyond that. We conquered physical labor... now we are striving for a totally sedentary existence! Everything is remote-control, so it can be operated from the easy chair. Electric garage door for your car (with power steering, power brakes, electric fold-down seats and electric windows)... riding mower with electric start... escalators... electric knife... can opener... toothbrush...

What are we saving our strength for? (Just a rhetorical question... our strength is gone!)

When I tell my kids I used to have to get up and walk across the room to change channels on the TV, they look at me like I'm from Neptune. Nowadays there's an electric, automatic flusher on toilets!

Lack of physical exercise has caused an epidemic that we hear a lot about these days... the OBESITY epidemic.

But it's not just obesity. It's mobility and overall health, too. I regularly observe people who appear to be about my age or younger (I'm 53), who just kind of waddle about, looking as though movement is very uncomfortable and distateful. That is SCARY! (Use it or lose it!)

(If Darwin was right about that evolution thing, at this point we should slowly be evolving into humanoid-like creatures with tiny, underdeveloped legs, barely suitable for mobility... and puny girly-man arms... and hands with huge, super-strong remote-control-pushing thumbs! I'm envisioning Jabba the Hut, but with giant thumbs.)

Strangely, we've got more "leisure" time than at any period in history. And yet many people can't find the time (or perhaps it's the inclination) to do anything of a physical nature. It's so much easier to sit in the La-Z-Boy, punch the buttons on the remote, and eat Cheetos.

My employer is doing a "Physical Activity Challenge," to improve overall employee health. The "challenge" is to do 800 minutes of exercise over an 8 week period... that's 14.3 minutes per day. This "exercise" can be either moderate or vigorous, and qualified activities include brisk walking, slow cycling, gardening, or "hard work around the house." Wow! I get tired just thinking about it! I believe I'll go sit down and eat some ice cream.

Some people are concerned enough that they try to take action. They get involved in after-hours sports teams, jogging, hiking, and the like. Others join a health club, where they have access to weights, exercise machines, etc.

I've tried jogging - made my shins hurt and took time away from other pastimes. I've tried the fitness center - it was WAY too much like hamster-on-a-treadmill.

(I don't want to pick on the fitness-center people, because it's great if you can do it. But it always has seemed very odd to me to drive your car to the fitness center, change into your bike clothes, ride a stationary bicycle for an hour, take a shower and change back into your street clothes, and drive home. But the world would be boring if we all thought alike, huh?)

What if I told you there's an activity that would give you some daily quality exercise, requre very little additional time out of your schedule, and drastically reduce your transportation expenses?

Too good to be true?

NOPE! Straddle that two-wheeler!

Even if I just ride to and from work, that's 30-35 minutes of quality cardiovascular exercise. (I met the office "Physical Activity Challenge.") And that's in addition to all my OTHER good reasons for riding. If you can't remember, time for a little review.

If I drove to work every day, I figure driving, parking, and walking to the front door of the office would take about that same amount of time.

So, am I the picture of sculpted physical perfection? Are people always mistaking me for Lance Armstrong? Heck no! I'm a middle-aged fat guy! But I'd be way fatter... or dead... or forced by my doctor to give up Hershey bars (which would be worse than being dead!)... without the bike-exercise. (It's not just the chocolate. It's both a blessing and a curse to have a wife and daughters who are excellent cooks.) When I go to the doctor once a year, I'm consistently declared VERY healthy - heart rate in the low-to-mid-60s, normal blood pressure and cholesterol, blah-blah.

Physical work - it's a good thing. Bicycling is a great form of physical work, for so many reasons.


Jamie said...

Great post! I'm really enjoying this series you're writing...

I work at a hospital (not as a medical professional, I'm an IT guy) and it amazes me constantly how many ailments and injuries are the result of simply not getting any exercise. Handicapped stickers being handed out for fat people? Motorized scooters for fat people? What's wrong with this world?

db said...

I hate to sound like a super-fan, but again, I agree strongly.

Fitness is probably my biggest reason for continuing to ride to work. It's not a pleasant ride for me, and there are cold, dark mornings where I'm really tempted to just throw on some "real" clothes and drive in. But it's the reality of "Hey, I'll get a workout out of this" that puts my butt on that bike.

Sure, the other reasons for bike-commuting -- improving the air, reducing traffic, conserving petrol and other resources, reducing noise pollution -- are great. But honestly, they are not always enough to make me grab my bike.

It's the calorie count that puts me out there. After riding in, I didn't even feel guilty about grabbing a donut out of the break-room this morning. ;)

Anonymous said...

My bike computer has a calorie counter on it. I suspect most do. It's awesome! I can decide to eat something bad and just go out and burn it off!

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining and true. Darwin and Jaba reference was hilarious.