It's 10 p.m. and you know exactly where your remote control is: It rests lightly in the palm of your hand, ready to take you on your nightly trip through the universe of popular entertainment. But on every channel, theres an ad for another piece of fitness equipment you have neither the time nor the energy to use.
If its not a gut cruncher, its a butt shaper or heart strainer. And if its not an ad, its an infomercial. With death-grin androids pumping away on the featured gear, pretending their fabulous physiques came from short, easy workouts on these products. All promise to be the quickest, easiest path to health and fitness.
Which brings up a couple of fundamental question:
1) Is there a fast, easy way to get healthy and fit?
2) what exactly do we even mean when we talk about health and fitness?
Put that first question to Dean Edell, MD, the commonsensical heath expert with a nationally syndicated radio show, and he quotes the minimal exercise prescription offered by the American college of Sports Medicine (ACSM): at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week. "You can get that having sex," he says. The key to sticking with it and making it effective, he adds, is that the exercise be both moderate and fun. But if you put this fitness-minimalism query to Bob Arnot, MD, resident health guru and fitness fanatic of the CBS Television Network, steam comes out his ears:
"I'm the wrong person to ask about how little exercise you need, " he fumes. "I believe in a lot of exercise a couple a day if you can. Get into it, have fun. Go buy a tricked out mountain bike and blast the hills.
Get the toys, the high-tech stuff, whatever it takes." Mention the 20-minute-a-week prescription, and Arnot counters with a much-publicized 1995 article that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine. It said that exercise must be vigorous to be life-extending. In other words, sex is great but don't call it exercise.