Running trail or the easy chair Answer is clear

Just back from a few days on the Florida Panhandle. It rained half the time we were there and even when the sun finally did come out, it was very chilly. Didn’t matter to us. We were happy in all the different weathers.

Becky and I were relaxed because we were on vacation. The world is more tolerable, more interesting and more fun when you are relaxed.

Of course, we brought our running shoes with us. Running is our exercise of choice. Some people walk or ride bikes; some go to the gym or play sports. There are many recreations and activities that get the heart beating hard. The fact is, the type of activity doesn’t matter as much as the activity itself.

Becky and I choose running for a variety of reasons. It’s inexpensive; all you need is a good pair of shoes and a road or trail. It’s a chance to be outside and enjoy the open air. Maybe most importantly, we enjoy it. Even on those days when we have to drag ourselves outside, we end the run feeling happy that we overcame our lethargy.

We are blessed and thankful to have knees that still work, more or less. We’re not fast, but we continue to plug along.

Running is what we do to ward off the looming shadow of advancing years. It is our way of taking care of ourselves. When we can no longer lace up our running shoes, we will do something else. Becky and I agree: Our choices are either to keep moving or to surrender to the sedentary life, the lure of the easy chair.

We have read enough to know where that lifestyle leads. We can’t unlearn what we know about the relationship between exercise and aging.

Periodically Runner’s World Magazine publishes articles on aging and running. A few months back, author Wes Judd showed that corporations and bio-technology firms have long understood the desire people have to do what they can to avoid or at least deter the aging process. The anti-aging industry is a multi-billion dollar project, always looking for a pill or procedure to reverse the effects of growing old. He argues that perhaps we already have such a “magic bullet.” It’s called running.

The author cites several studies to prove his point. The first is a major study published in March in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. This research shows hitting the road regularly can add a full three years to a runner’s life. Another paper, this one by a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona who studies the evolutionary history of exercise, postulates a complicated theory which says we evolved as runners and this genetically minimized our chances of developing Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases. Because we modern Homo sapiens don’t run or engage in other exercise nearly as much, our risks for these diseases has risen.

It has long been known that running controls weight, strengthens your heart and lungs and builds muscle. The author reminds us of the additional social, emotional and mental benefits of running.

One evening as I was flipping through the TV in the Florida room where we relaxed, I landed on a program, Russia Today. Curious, I listened as the newsreader related that two-thirds of Americans were so out of shape they would not be acceptable for military service. It came across, at least to me, as having an attitude of smug superiority. “Ha! Look at those weak Americans,” it seemed to be saying.

Was this propaganda? Russian fake news? Turns out it was not. A news story just a few days later confirmed that an estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight with nearly 30 percent of children under age 20 falling into this category.

Now I am convinced. I’m more dedicated than ever. Running is not only good for my health, it’s the patriotic thing to do.