2009.08.19 Late to bed, late to rise

Written by David Green.

By COLLEN LEDDY

“Time” magazine had the most amazing cover story in the Aug. 17, 2009, issue. I don’t usually read “Time,” but the headline just grabbed me and sucked me in...kind of like Zingerman’s brownies do when I spy a bag of them sitting on the little shelf in front of the bread counter.

Zingerman’s brownies cost 30% more than they did last year, but still, suckers like me buy them. Fortunately, Stair Public Library subscribes to “Time” so I’m not tempted to shell out five bucks for a single issue. But I’m still taken in enough to check out the magazine based on the cover story.

“The Myth About Exercise” the headline read, and there wasn’t even an exclamation point. I inserted one myself when I read it. I think I might even have added a “Wow!” when I saw the cover.

And, I was surely internally patting myself on the back, suddenly feeling not just not guilty, but fairly virtuous for not having exercised much this summer.

“Yes! It’s just like the news about chocolate,” I thought.

It’s always exciting when one of your vices turns out to be good for your teeth, blood pressure and cholesterol levels—and full of anti-oxidants to boot.

“I can justify not exercising, right along with justifying eating chocolate! Could life get any better?” I thought.

I could only imagine how thrilling it was going to be to read this story, to find out that it’s all a myth, that I didn’t need to exercise, that I could go to bed at night without feeling guilty about another day without exercise.

There are no excuses for my exercise-less summer. It’s been relatively cool. Our last child isn’t getting married. The Summer Reading Program went smoothly. We didn’t travel much at all. We haven’t had any injuries. I just don’t know what it was that kept David and me from donning our walking shoes and hitting the road.

But this “exercise” article dovetailed nicely with our sedentary summer. Or, I assumed it was going to until I read the subtitle—“Of course it’s good for you, but it won’t make you lose weight. Why it’s what you eat that really counts.”

Oh, no, is this “Myth About Exercise” article just going to tell me I shouldn’t be eating chocolate? Because it’s obvious this article is going to be about not eating the cupcake with mile-high frosting pictured on the cover and the gigantic sugarcoated doughnut a model is using as an exercise ball on the inside pages.

You can read the whole four-page article, or you could just read most of the last paragraph:

“In short, it’s what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight. You should exercise to improve your health, but be warned: fiery spurts of vigorous exercise could lead to weight gain.”

The reason? Heavy exercise makes you hungry and you end up eating more, without losing all that much weight. I’ve noticed that during my eras of heavy exercise.

Now I’m thinking water will be the next myth-debunking cover story. When I follow that sage advice to drink eight glasses of water a day, I end up in the bathroom eight times more often than I normally would have. I’m guessing scientists will next advise that we don’t really need to drink that much water in a day. When they discover that staying up to all hours of the night and getting up late the next day are beneficial life patterns, I’ll really be sitting pretty.

I have found surefire ways to lose weight over the past 10 years or so. The first involves a dying mother, the second a major project (Barn Again!) and the third involves marrying off two kids in one summer—all of these simply make you forget to eat. You don’t have to think about losing weight or count calories; it just melts off with no work of your own.

I don’t recommend any of these methods, but it’s amazing how the pounds just drop off. There’s a bad side effect, though: gray hair gets grayer. Stress may drop the pounds—for me at least—but it also brings on the gray hair big time. I figure my gray hair is just an indicator that I’m doomed to a short life.

However, I’ve just read the funniest thing. I picked up “AARP” magazine by mistake, thinking it was “Time” (early onset Alzheimer’s?) and was flipping through it looking for the exercise story.

Instead, I found an article about the long living people of Ikaria, a Greek island that’s been identified as a Blue Zone (places where a high proportion of natives live past 90).

Check out this excerpt: “Ikarians go to bed well after midnight, sleep late, and take daily naps.”

Well, heck, if I only have to add daily naps to my lifestyle, there may be hope for me yet.

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