Surreal BBC report I came across yesterday:
Middle-aged told to walk faster
Middle-aged people are being urged to walk faster to help stay healthy, amid concern high levels of inactivity may be harming their health.
Officials at Public Health England said the amount of activity people did started to tail off from the age of 40.
They are urging those between the ages of 40 and 60 to start doing regular brisk walks.
Just 10 minutes a day could have a major impact, reducing the risk of early death by 15%, they say.
But PHE estimates four out of every 10 40- to 60-year-olds do not even manage a brisk 10-minute walk each month.
It reminded me that in recent times, at nearly the age of 70, I’ve taken to doing a moderate amount of exercise to maintain the strength of my legs. My chosen exercise regime is knee bends. But I hate doing exercise just for the sake of it – like doing 10 or 30 knee bends in rapid succession. So I’ve found a way of fitting the knee bends into my ordinary routine.
For I noticed that whenever I make tea for myself, I have to bend down to lift the milk bottle off the bottom shelf in the refrigerator door. It’s the only place to keep it. So I now do a knee bend each time I reach down to lift it out. And another one when I put it back in. So I do two knee bends for each cup of tea I make. And with about 12 mugs of tea per day, that’s 24 knee bends per day, which is probably about right. And if I think I need more exercise, I should just make more tea. Or make tea in little teacups rather than big mugs. If I had 24 cups of tea every day, rather than 12 mugs of tea every day, I’d do 48 knee bends every day, and I’d probably have powerfully muscular legs in next to no time.
If anyone asks me now why I drink so much tea, I’ll tell them it’s to keep fit.
Along the same lines, it occurred to me that I do quite a few brisk 10-minute walks, almost every day when I go out shopping, very often for the milk for my tea habit. Well, maybe they’re not “brisk” walks, but they usually entail wandering around a supermarket carrying a shopping basket for 10 or 15 minutes.
And for some reason, in all the supermarkets I visit, the milk is always on the back wall, and you have to walk quite a long way from the entrance to get to it. And the whisky is always on the far end wall, along with the chocolate, and even further away. And if, as periodically happens in supermarkets, they move everything around, it can take twice as long to get everything. So perhaps I get plenty of exercise just by going out and shopping almost every day.
So I was toying this morning with the idea of a supermarket that would exercise its customers. Most supermarkets are on one floor, and you can push trolleys around them. My exercise supermarket – an “exermarket”? – wouldn’t have trolleys, except on the bottom level. For it would ascend fairly steeply from the front entrance to the top back wall. The whisky and chocolate would all be kept there on a sheer rock face that you’d need ropes and crampons to climb, a bit like mount Everest. People would came out of the exermarket sweating profusely. You’d see them gathering their breath on benches around the front entrance. There would probably need to be medical staff on hand to resuscitate people who were in a state of collapse, much like at marathon runs.
The whole thrust of Healthism is always to make life harder for people. It’s the exact converse of Idle Theory, which aims to make life easier for people. Healthists are trying to keep people busy. Healthists would get rid of cars, trains, buses, trolleys, elevators, escalators. People would have to walk everywhere. Or maybe walk “briskly” everywhere. Or, better still, run everywhere. And once they’d got rid of the trains and cars, they’d get rid of the roads, or allow them to revert to being undulating muddy paths. There’d be lots of good exercise to be had walking along them. The ideal Healthist town would be something like Machu Picchu: going shopping would entail a thousand foot climb.
And all this for the sake of an ideal of “health” as physical fitness.