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The need to exercise is now an obsession

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New Year, new resolutions, with scores of people up and down the country determined to fight the flab. But why this current mania for exercise, doing things that necessitate running around, risking life and limb?

Nurses are at the forefront of health promotion and I will, if asked by my patients, of course encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

But this causes much soul-searching. What about all the reports of footballers with torn ligaments, athletes crippled by arthritis and joggers dropping dead with heart attacks?

And what about the thousands of people who, despite being looked upon with some disdain by the rest of the population, like being ‘large’ and see no rational reason to change their lifestyle? Their viewpoint is seldom heard.

Exercise is repetitive and unending. Once you stop, the flab returns. All you get is an obsession with your body and the delusion that you can live forever. Coming to terms with oneself and finding out who one is and where one is going comes from within, not from running around.

Perhaps those who are not swept along by the fitness frenzy should restrict themselves to nothing more strenuous than turning the pages of the crossword book – mental agility will, after all, ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

We are all followers of fashion in some way and exercising is a fashion, a transitory fad. So, if you must do something physical, instead of worrying whether your teenagers are smoking, why not exercise by looking under their mattress to see how many chocolate bar wrappers you can find? Or buy a pedometer to check how many steps you take from the lounge to the fridge to check out the next snack. It’s a great way to stretch the legs.

Steven Pack, community psychiatric nurse, Somerset

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