Exercise, for better or worse?

October, 2017


For the last 40 years I have exercised almost every day (roughly 350 days a year). I have either jogged for half an hour or spent an hour walking or using the stationery bike. I have also done stretches and lifted light weights for another half-hour or so.

At about the same time I started exercising at age 33, I also switched to what they call the Mediterranean diet, which is low in saturated fat, high in carbohydrates, and has lots of olive oil. I have very little red meat, lots of fish and skinless chicken.

I started taking supplements about the same time, and have done so regularly since.

I have studied meditation with four different teachers, and spent a lot of time sitting.

During this time, I have blown two disks in my back, had hernia surgery, become very sensitive to cold, gained 40 pounds, had high blood pressure, experienced the joys of an enlarged prostate gland, suffered with an increase in my agoraphobia and (recently) been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, slowing my exercise walking speed (as well as many other things) by about 25%.

Was the exercise a waste of time? When I ask my doctors that question they say “Think of how much worse it would be if you hadn’t exercised.”

I find scant comfort in that. I see men my age jogging like I used to. Many of them tell me they take no meds (I take eight). I could be in a lot better condition.

I know we have to play the cards we are dealt, but really. I’ve done a lot of work to take care of myself. It’s not unreasonable to expect better results.

The only thing that stops me from throwing in the towel and spending my exercise time eating and drinking is the fact that I almost always feel better when I have finished for the day. I may feel like shit when I start out (and often do), I may be in pain while I am walking (that’s become common), but when I am done, I feel energized and relaxed. It makes (almost) every mile worth the effort.

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