I can remember my grandmother beginning to opt out of more demanding hikes and beach visits as she approached her 90s. I now know 20-somethings and 30-somethings (in fact, I’ve even seen peers of my young children) who have to do the same. Low physical fitness and capacity doesn’t NET you a decrease in effort. It NETS you an increase in effort to do basic living, such that you keep living less and a smaller and smaller existence with increasing restrictions.
Most beneficial practices for health and fitness actually take far less effort than the deleterious ones. I have experimented with a variety of fasting methods for the past 30 years, all of which take less time and decision-making budget than standard American eating or dieting. I used to skip school lunches and pocket the money. I used to visit amusement parks and simply drink water all day.
The Spring and Summer of 2018 I experimented with an exercise program which took up no more than 27 minutes per week. In the attached photo from 2018, keep in mind the ONLY exercise I had done for months was a set of pull-ups in between appointments on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. TOTAL. I’d average 12 sets each one of those days, each set lasting no more than 45 seconds. That was it. Granted, they were all about 30 reps; so I was logging around 360 pull-ups each of those days, over a thousand per week. Still, though, the total training time was 27 minutes per week.
The idea that being healthy and fit takes more time, effort, and money is demonstrably untrue. Active self-sabotage or “apathetic” go-with-the-flow takes far more energy, both on the front end (quantifiable daily practices) and the backend (palpable health consequences). The “effort” people reference is a delusion. The effort to be healthy and fit is provably same or less. What they mean is “unfamiliar.”
I can and I do regularly walk people through how to spend less time and money on productive foods than unproductive foods. Precision Nutrition was circulating an infographic several years ago to this effect. That’s just the simple direct transactional analysis.
But when we get into ripple effect, it’s not even close. The time, money, and energy people spend on recreation which worsens them is 10 times greater than what people who improve health prospects spend.
The fitness industry as a global whole commands billions of dollars. That’s true. About 81 billion at last check. That’s everything combined. Meanwhile, the number one fast food chain? 125 billion by itself. Tobacco company revenue in 2018? 125 billion. The electronic gaming market? 137 billion. Pharma? TRILLIONS. Even the porn industry is over 100 billion, dwarfing the measly 81 billion of fitness industry revenue. Cybercrime and Dark Web? TRILLIONS.
It’s pretty plain to see that humans don’t have an effort problem. We are putting in plenty of effort. We have a familiarity and belief problem. We believe that we aren’t putting lots of effort into worsening. It’s become so familiar to collaborate with deterioration that we don’t even acknowledge the hard work we put into getting worse. Improvement might be a few minute commitment a few days per week. Worsening is a 24 hour-a-day job.
The effort at change, therefore, must be placed on calling out your false narratives and delusions. People will tell me they “couldn’t” make a healthy choice at a work event or party. Really? There were no proteins, no veggies, and no water? Even if so, I’m not totally shocked. But remember: you could just NOT EAT.
It may be unfamiliar. But it takes LESS effort to do good. It takes less effort to withhold oneself from sabotage. It takes less effort to be healthy and fit once we let go of our made-up stories.
We can start by putting less effort into maintaining our delusion that it takes more effort.