We Sell Exercise Wrong

I used to weigh four hundred pounds.

I didn’t get there instantly, but I was fat from the age of nine, long before being fat at that age was common. I am not going to talk about diet here, although diet is tremendously important. There are a lot of people who can talk to you about diet that know a ton more than I do.

I’m going to talk about motivation. And as my bona fides, you need to know that I lost 120 pounds last year at the age of 49. After a debilitating foot accident that left me bed-ridden for 8 weeks, I lost nearly all the muscle in my legs that had been keeping me on my feet at 400 pounds. I either had to lose weight or decide to live out my days in bed, getting bigger and closer to death.

So I lost 120 pounds, via a combination of diet and walking. Endless walking. Starting at 250 steps a day, I progressed week after week until I was walking five miles a day. And it was hard, but after awhile, I discovered something no one had ever told me about losing weight and exercising.

It makes everything easier. Everything. And we do it a disservice by not selling it to people that way. Instead, we choose two main paths to convince people they should exercise more — sex and death.

Sex is the one corporations use to sell exercise. The pitch is that if you come in to their place and do their thing, you will become one of the beautiful people and enjoy all the benefits we all know they enjoy.

Death is the one doctors use to sell exercise. If you don’t do a hundred and fifty minutes of exercise, you’ll get sick and die.

And neither is an effective way to sell exercise. Sex doesn’t work, not for most people, because we all know, deep down, that not only do the people in the ads functionally not exist — they’re a creation of cgi and photoshop and make up and brutal weight cuts to film that five seconds of video — but that even if we worked out for a million years, we’d still be a little funnily shaped and a little awkward. Most of us know we aren’t rock stars, and we don’t have rock stars within us, and that’s okay.

Death doesn’t work, either. Because humans are terrible at doing something for a future moment that may never come. Every person on the planet knows the feeling of thinking “I should do this thing that will benefit me twenty years from now, but fuck it, candy/drugs/risky sex/fossil fuels/etc.” Exercise isn’t fun, and its health payoffs are hard to notice on short timescales.

But there’s a thing I know now, and I wonder why no one used it to sell me on exercise, because it’s a thing we all want, and most of us want it way more than sex or a long life.

Exercise makes life easier. In every imaginable way. That’s it, that’s the pitch. Every day your life will be a little easier than it was before. And the more you do it, the easier it all gets. Walking to the car, carrying groceries, standing — every thing you do all day gets about 10% easier. And maybe you’ll use that 10% to do more, but maybe you’ll just use it to have a little break from busting your ass every day.

So that’s my pitch. Exercise more, because it makes life easier. And it does it on a short time scale. You’ll notice within two weeks if you’re doing something strenuous like weight lifting, and within a month or so if you’re just walking every day. You’ll spend less time finding a close parking spot, less time feeling like you’re going to drop your bags, less time feeling burned out and tired going up a set of stairs.

It’s not about the end of you life or getting laid or being pretty. It’s about creating an easier time for yourself on a day to day basis. So go do some and feel better now.

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