Sunday, July 29, 2012

London Olympic Games serve up helping of healthy hope to couch potatoes

Watching the Olympics could make even the most dedicated sofa surfer stand up and start moving. Even if it’s only to give your favorite athlete or Olympic team a standing ovation.

I got off my duff this afternoon to ride my bike for about 45 minutes as I do most every day.  But the international athletic theater that is the Olympiad sets a great personal health example for all of us.

The sculpted physiques and exceptional endurance and flexibility demonstrate what the human body can achieve through relentless effort. General Electric has a riveting Olympic ad campaign called “GE Works” that graphically depicts how these  gold-medal anatomies actually perform and function.

As for me, my body would be classified fat and fit.

I’ve been exercising daily for over 15 years. Working from home has afforded me the luxury of speed walking and bicycling at lunch most days. In the winter, I add some bike or elliptical time at the gym most evenings. All that to hold the line on the battle of the bulge. I’ll never win the war, but the more I exercise the more battles I win.

Living and working in American communities that encourage driving doesn’t help. My neighbors, Hassan and Souha Jaber, of Dearborn, Michigan just returned from a vacation where they got a little more exercise than expected. They spent an enchanting week in Amalfi, Italy. The historic fishing town featured unforgettable vistas off the incredibly blue Mediterranean Sea and lots of climbing and walking. The Jabers rented a villa that was more affordable than the local hotel. It came with a 265-foot stone stairway.

“I was wheezing the first time I climbed the stairs up to the villa,” Hassan said. “I saw 85-year-old locals climbing the same stairs with no trouble and smiling at us as we struggled up the steps.”

Hassan came home looking slim, tanned and refreshed. He said the food in Italy was simple, delicious and natural. Herbs grew everywhere. Much is made of the Mediterranean diet and heart health. Perhaps we’re not talking enough about the role of exercise in the equation.

This week, August 1st, marks my 25th anniversary as a self-employed entrepreneur. I’ve paid my own health insurance for all those years, with the highest premiums reaching $2,000 per month, plus deductibles and copays. I’ve always understood that I’m responsible for my well being in every way. Last year, I sailed through a routine heart stress test. I scorched the treadmill without working up a sweat.

Although I know I won’t get even a bronze medal for my efforts, I’m earning the ultimate reward. No matter how long I live, every day I exercise is a little better than it would be otherwise. And I won’t feel quite so guilty while I’m savoring my wife’s homemade chocolate ice cream and watching the gymnastics competition in London on TV.

Enjoy the Olympics, and to honor the athletes, give the couch a 30-minute break each day.

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