Sunday, February 21, 2010

Working Out -- commnetary

The acerbic columnist Malcolm Berko recently ranted about health care and health insurance. He bemoaned the fact that we Americans are “becoming increasingly reluctant to take responsibility for our own actions.”

He pointed out that 74 per cent of health care costs are derived from four things: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, all of which are highly preventable. Two things play into this in a big way: nutrition and exercise. My wife insures our healthy eating habits; I am on my own for the exercise.

I have learned some things about exercise over the years. First, regular exercise requires motivation. For many years, having to pass the military annual physical test motivated me. As I got older, I could not wait until 30 days before the test to get in shape. I had to stay in shape.

The bathroom mirror also motivated me. When my image reached the disgust level, it was back to the workout regime. Of course the results were motivational. I remember an ex Marine who ran five miles a day saying he “hated the process but loved the results.” The results are worth the effort.

Age 60 brought forced retirement from the Army National Guard and there went my best motivator. For the next six years I quit working out and joined the ranks of the obese, until an accident, which led to physical therapy, got me back on track. A desire to return to normal and the need to stay healthy, knowing that I have already consumed more than my fair share of medical costs, became the new motivator.

For me to stay with a workout regime, I have to make it as convenient as possible. That means rolling out of bed and going straight to my workout. To do this, I have had many types of home exercise equipment over the years.

The cheapest was a good pair of running shoes. There was a time when I ran six miles a day, six days a week. During this time, I could eat as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted and not gain weight. It came to an end when I damaged a knee. Jogging, though enjoyable, is hard on the joints, especially as you age.

Also, in Alaska running was pretty much a summertime workout; something else was required in the winter. For several years, I had a Concept Two rowing machine, which was supposed to be the closest thing available to competitive rowing. This provided a great workout in that it worked both upper and lower body and the respiratory system. Unfortunately, it took up a lot of space and had to be left behind when moving. For a while, I had a single station weight lifting machine that I liked. It was good for bulking up muscles. Somewhere in this mix there was also a Nordic Track cross-country ski simulator, a Power Rider and a snow shovel.

After coming to Arkansas, bicycling became my primary workout. It is hard to beat bicycling. It is very aerobic, doesn’t jar your skeleton like jogging does and is good ten months out of the year. The furthest I have ridden was 150 miles over two days, from Conway to Russellville and back, for a charity fundraiser. I also rode to Batesville once on a hot, summer day, and rode back the next day. This was my introduction to heat exhaustion.

Sadly, Jonesboro is not a bicycle friendly town and bicyclists take a risk on the public streets. However, there is an active bicycle club working on making it a friendlier place for riders. I also read where a bike trail will be added to the Crowley Ridge Historic Highway. It sounds like a great ride.

Now that I am back in a workout frame of mind, I have purchased a Bowflex home gym and am working on building a Bowflex body. I have also purchased one of those gadgets to turn my bicycle into a stationary, exercise bike for winter use.

Before obtaining this equipment, I had a gym membership for $17 a month, but I had to work out in the evenings and only got in two sessions a week. It costs me $20 a month to pay for the home gym, and now I get in five or six workouts a week. (The spirits of our overworked ancestors must think we’re insane spending money on machines dedicated to making us work.)

So, Mr. Berko, I do take some responsibility for my wellbeing. By so doing, I hope to avoid getting more involved in the high cost of health care than is absolutely necessary. Aside from that, I kind of like the idea of dying healthy rather than surrounded by doctors. I invite my readers to also get involved.

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