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The Case Against Exercise

By Scott E. Roeben

We have been the victims of a conspiracy. No, this particular conspiracy does not involve the military hiding an alien spacecraft in Area 51. (For the record, the spacecraft is actually kept in Area 52, located next to Area 51, but which has more closet space.) Amazingly, this conspiracy hasn’t even been identified as a conspiracy, yet it threatens the health and longevity of every human being on Earth.

Of all the hoaxes perpetuated upon humankind, the most destructive is the one that puts forth the ludicrous claim that exercise is a good and positive thing.

exercise1.jpg (16118 bytes)Unlike some hoaxes, this one has not been disseminated by members of the lunatic fringe. In fact, some of our most respected celebrities are part of this hoax. Suzanne Sommers, Jack LaLane, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Simmons are all guilty of promoting the supposed benefits of exercise. Oh, and Jane Fonda, but I said "respected," so she doesn’t really count.

It’s time someone stood up and shouted from the rooftops, at least during the hours when that didn’t violate any city ordinances, that exercise is detrimental to health, that it threatens wellbeing, that it can kill. How do we know? Well, if it weren’t true, would it be italicized? I think not.

But if you seek more evidence, let us explore this subject further.

All our lives we’ve been brainwashed into thinking exercise promotes better health and a longer life. The simple truth is that exercise has caused more human suffering than the combined effects of plagues, wars and Kathie Lee Gifford’s singing. This is the big secret. And who is keeping the big secret? Just about everyone.

Entire industries have sprung up around perpetuating the exercise myth. The medical community has been a major culprit, working in concert with the infomercial industry, to convince us that we should be "active," that we should have "buns of steel." I, for one, would not care to have buns of steel, especially near one of those giant magnets you see at junkyards.

Yes, for years the hazards of exercise have been kept from us. But from here on out, we’re not going to take this lying down. Or, perhaps, that’s exactly how we should take this. Lying down, that is. Because only when we’re lying down—in a state of inertia—can we fully fend off the ill effects of exercise.

And what, specifically, are the ill effects of exercise? First, let’s talk about injuries.

Exercise—and sports requiring activity strikingly similar to exercise—are the source of an astonishing array of injuries and ailments. Some of the typical injuries brought about by exercise are abrasions, lacerations, Achilles tendonitis, tendon ruptures, adhesive capsulitis, sprains, fractures, arthritis, athlete's foot, blisters, bursitis, calf strain, cartilage disorders, clavicle injuries, concussions, cramps, groin pulls, hamstring tears, heel spurs, herniated discs, Impingement Syndrome, ligament injuries, metatarsal stress fractures, mitral valve prolapses, Osgood-Schlatter Disease, overpronation, turf toe, water intoxication and whiplash. The list goes on and on.

Yes, exercise is great for us. Like swallowing mercury is good for us. Like copulating with scorpions is good for us. Or like electing a moron President is good for us. No, exercise is the opposite of good. In fact, you might say exercise is like electing a moron as President. You may not realize how much damage it can do until it’s too late.

In our mistaken belief that exercise has health benefits, we’ve apparently lost our ability to reason. Let’s use logic to make a comparison between the human body and, say, a car. The more you drive a car, the more it depreciates. It wears out, it falls apart and components become worn or broken. Well, our bodies are like cars. Cars don’t "get into better shape" the more they are used. The same is true of our bodies. Let’s say we take two identical cars—the first we put in a warehouse, covered by a tarp. The other, we drive—day after day, week after week. Say we drive the second car for 30 years. Now, at the end of the 30 years, what if we compare the car we drove to the car in the warehouse? Dramatic difference. This simple analogy alone should be enough to dispel the exercise myth. Exercise damages us, causing decay and decline. Being sedentary conserves precious energy, protecting bones and muscles by not exposing them to the potentially disastrous effects of "movement" or "activity." To punctuate the point, this excerpt from a source which we now can’t recall, but it makes the point nonetheless:

Athletes, amateur and professional, are more susceptible to emotional, traumatic and degenerative diseases than the classic "couch potato." The rationale is simple—the more you use something, the higher maintenance it requires and the greater chance of it breaking if it's not constantly repaired.

Exercise has other detrimental effects we don’t entirely understand. For example, there is a good deal of evidence that exercise actually makes people stupid. That’s right. It’s easy to find examples of this. Take, for example, professional athletes. They, arguably, do the lion’s share of exercise in our society. That being the case, let’s take a moment to hear some actual quotes from a few of these athletes:

"I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first." (New Orleans Saint George Rogers)

"Left hand, right hand, it doesn't matter. I'm amphibious." (Charles Shackleford, NCSU basketball player)

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father." (Golfer Greg Norman)

On his coach: "He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings." (Torrin Polk, University of Houston)

"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein." (Joe Theismann)

On whether he had visited the Parthenon during his visit to Greece: "I can't really remember the names of the clubs we went to." (Shaquille O'Neal)

So, not only does exercise threaten our welfare physically, it’s evident it diminishes our mental capability as well. If you value your IQ, avoid exercise at all cost.

runner.jpg (17094 bytes)Because you are likely to have been brainwashed by those deeply invested in keeping you exercising (and in danger), it’s likely you are still not convinced. Here, then, are a few more facts about exercise that have been culled from reputable publications.

If you push the body too hard, you increase free radicals and cause oxidative damage to body cells. At some point, someone who understands physiology will explain exactly what that means. For now, just know that we would not include this information if it did not support our position. Probably.

Urinary incontinence affects many female athletes who engage in high-impact exercise. Why aren’t more women pissed about the exercise conspiracy?

Between 1990 and 1996, injuries from active sports increased by 54% in people age 65 and older.

Compulsive exercise may cause anxiety or depression. (Especially among those who have to watch fat people exercising in those body-hugging Spandex outfits.)

The average life span of London residents in the middle of the 19th century was 27 years. For members of the working class, that number dropped to 22 years. ("Work," of course, tends to require physical movement, otherwise known as "exercise." The upshot? Exercise and die early.)

A recent study looked at members of health clubs, and found people who do intense workouts infrequently—once a week or less—are at greater risk for a heart attack.

An estimated 1.5 million heart attacks occur every year. Of these, 75,000 (or about 5%) occur after heavy exertion, leading to 25,000 deaths.

According to Kenneth Copper, who started the aerobics craze, exercising too much may increase the risk of getting cancer and heart disease. Copper noticed many of his friends who were long distance runners had passed away from cancer or heart disease. Cooper and his staff conducted a study to see if there was a possible correlation between running and health problems. They discovered outdoor runners are exposed to all kinds of free radicals or pollutants from the air they breathe while running.

Eating disorders among young female athletes is estimated at 15% to 62%.

Some types of exercise can damage the inner ear, causing dizziness, ringing in the ear, motion sickness or loss of high-frequency hearing. The thought of exercise has always made me nauseous—now I see there’s a medical basis for this reaction.

Overheating, or hyperthermia, can be a brought about by exercise. Overheating can cause mild to life-threatening conditions.

About half of people who participate in high impact aerobics experience minor injuries at least once a year. People under the age of 18 experience minor minor injuries. And their counterparts who work in coal mines experience minor minor miner injuries. But we digress.

High impact sports in younger people may cause long-term degenerative joint disease. And, yes, that giggling you hear is the sound of those same young people reading the word "joint" aloud.

rugby.jpg (20382 bytes)More than 10 million sports injuries are treated each year in the USA. Of course, golf injuries are not included in this number, as golf essentially consists of strolling around in loud pants—as much a sport as falling down a well.

Iron depletion and anemia are often a problem in women who exercise frequently, even at moderate intensity. And by "moderate intensity," we mean any activity requiring more physical effort than nagging, which is not so much a sport for many women as it is a "lifestyle."

Females who exercise compulsively may disrupt the hormones in their bodies, which may change their menstrual cycles. I believe my hormones have been disrupted in this very manner. When I was young, I was quite active. I have not had a menstrual cycle. Ever. Case closed.

One final detrimental aspect of exercise: it is perhaps the greatest cause of sweat. That’s right, exercise is one of the primary sources of perspiration—second only to being caught in bed with your girlfriend’s best friend, not that this would ever, ever happen. Really.

No, nothing good has ever come of sweating.

Who first put forth the profoundly misguided idea that sweating is somehow a good thing? You hear all the time that sweating "helps us release toxins." What a load of what experts refer to as "hooey." What is a toxin, anyway, and why should we be so anxious to get rid of them? What if toxins are like those tacky lamps we keep in the basement, and then one day we dust them off and take them to the "Antique Roadshow" and some man in a bow tie tells us our lamps are worth $1.6 million dollars at auction? Well, how eager are we to get rid of our toxins now, huh?

What, exactly, is the appeal of sweating? Birds are so much against it that they don’t have sweat glands. How this relates to the topic at hand, I have no idea, but let me get back to you on that.

Truth be told, we sweat enough even without exercise. An average man on an average day excretes two and a half quarts of sweat. That’s right, the world has plenty of sweat, so there’s no need to make more. And from the same source which I still can’t recall, but which is, I assure you, a source:

When we perspire, we sweat out more than just water to cool an overheated body; we sweat out more than electrolytes—we sweat out all 72 of the essential minerals. If we don't consciously replace them, we're inviting disaster.

So, the case against exercise is overwhelming.

Yes, there are those who will continue to urge you to exercise. These people are either ignorant or have sold their souls to the devil. And you know damn well the devil isn’t wasting any time on exercise. He’s got better things to do, like stirring up trouble in the Middle East, or collecting royalty payments for lending his name to all that "Devil’s Island" merchandise.

Whether it’s the sports drink manufacturers, the sports apparel companies, the exercise equipment makers, the fitness gurus, the jockstrap models or the Dancersize Nazis, please remember that your fitness isn’t their greatest concern. If it were, they would tell you to sit down, take your shoes off and relax. Instead, they want you to move, to exert yourself, risking injury or even death.

Don’t cave in to their insidious con game. Instead, just sit there. Cancel your gym membership. (But remember to avoid too much movement while picking up the phone.) Throw away your running shoes and your jai alai ball-catcher-basket-thingy. Conserve your energy. Save yourself.

To paraphrase the slogan of Nike, the company perhaps most guilty of encouraging people to risk life and limb, "Just do…nothing."


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Scott Roeben, 2001. All rights reserved.