Why Go To The Gym?
If Oscars were awarded for acting, this year Emma Thompson would have received one for her lead role in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. This achingly poignant film is about a widow in late middle-age who hires a young male sex worker in order to experience for the first time in her life a little of what sex has to offer. The script is deft, the direction unobtrusive, and the two characters inhabit their roles magnificently. There is, however, one interesting moment that reveals the nature not of the characters but of the script-writer. Thompson’s character Nancy is devouring the sight of the shirtless Leo and then tries to distance herself from her desire by commenting that it’s rather superficial of Leo to take such good care of his body. He agrees, but explains it by saying that his clients like it.
In other words, the script-writer made the common mistake of thinking that gym-going is just a narcissistic activity and exercise is merely a way to achieve better looks. In fact, the script-writer could not have been more wrong. Over the last thirty years a large body of empirical evidence has accumulated to show that regular weight-bearing exercise has major benefits.
Unfortunately, very few people, even today, venture inside a gym. The vast majority of those who do, never make it a habit. Most people sign up in a moment of post-Christmas remorse and then quickly abandon any attempt to look after themselves because it’s always easier to do nothing and just make excuses than to make positive lasting changes. Those who do form a habit of gym-going, however, discover an important truth. While it’s likely many people start by focusing on some trivial benefit — losing weight for their summer vacation, trying to spot-reduce some body-part they want to alter, or trying to enhance one individual feature — those who persist learn that regular exercise initiates a cascade of highly beneficial effects.
Strange as it may seem to those who’ve given the matter no thought whatsoever, the human body is not evolved to thrive by sitting slumped on the sofa gawping at a flickering screen while cramming endless quantities of slop down one’s throat. For 99.9999% of our evolutionary history, we humans have needed to be active in order to…