I have always run, but we tend to seek ways of avoiding physical work, so why bother with exercise?

One of humanity’s instinctive behaviours is to not make unnecessary physical effort. This behaviour probably comes down from when we were nomadic hunters, living had to mouth and needing to conserve what energy we had for the hunt. But this is no longer the case and so we keep inventing new ways to get things done while we can remain more or less at ease. Even the pretty sedentary activity of driving a car seems to be too much for us as self-driving vehicles are coming on the scene. Of course, one result is that with the ready availability of energy-rich foods, the availability of motorised transport and the absence of energy-sapping chores we are getting over-weight.

Exercise or work?

Many just enjoy the ‘couch potato’ status and accept becoming obese as a consequence, but others deal with it by taking regular exercise, often paying a lot of money for the privilege of using our muscles and stimulating our hearts. Of course, we could have chosen to do the chores ourselves rather than leaving them to machines, so saving the cost of the sports club and labour-saving machines. But that is not the modern way, and exercise has become a leisure activity, which is usually carried on outside of work time.

It may seem strange to some that pointless physical exercise such as walking, or running round a circuit, or lifting heavy weights repeatedly to no other purpose than it makes our muscles tired, is preferable to walking to the shops (rather than driving) or pushing a (non-motorised) lawn mower, or other physical work that has some point to it. On the face of it, it does seem illogical, but that is the choice that almost everyone makes. Sadly, such activities, although voluntarily undertaken, are often actually regarded as chores so a person’s initial enthusiasm fades, and they return to the sofa before long.

That being said, many people are passionate about their sport, and in today’s world, you can even be a professional sports person: that is, someone who does something completely pointless, such as kicking a ball about or aiming one down a hole, for their living. This has generated a huge media industry that feeds these activities to the millions sitting on their couches at home, thinking about how they really should do some exercise. In fact, now that we don’t have to hunt down a bison for dinner, it has become our main excitement in life.

Still running after all these years.

I have been a runner since childhood and am now 73 years of age and have the enormous good fortune to still be able to run a few miles over the countryside. Running is one of those sports that is, on the face of it, hard work and pointless, and even when it isn’t cold and damp outside, takes some determination to get out and do it. It’s hasn’t got the excitement of playing in a team match, the thrill of sailing a yacht or the skill of a good game of golf. For individuals such as me, nor is there any social benefit to it: you are on your own.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with running, but I do it because I get to see the world around me, I feel the better for it and, although it gets harder as I age, the fact that I CAN still run at 73 (and probably that I’m still alive at all) is down to my being a runner. I have never run a marathon, nor do I want to, I’ve never been super-fit and I’ve hardly ever won a race, but I’ve kept at it and it keeps my body working.

For most of my life, a run has been just that: five to ten kilometres of running inbetween work and the business of life. However in recent years I have started to make my runs more interesting and useful in other ways than keeping fit, and I wonder whether thinking differently about exercise, chores and work could make it easier to do, and keep doing.

Want to know more? Then look out for my follow-up blog.

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