Exercise as pathology?

I posted this the other day:

“I just read an article about screen time and kids, and it made mention of four hours daily being moderate use. How is four hours of TV/gaming/etc moderate??”

When I was in therapy, one of the things my therapist was trying to drill down into was whether I was obsessed with exercise.

I was, at the time, working out pretty hard at least six days per week, lifting weights and triathlon training (swimming, biking—usually spin class, and running).

I spent 60 to 90 minutes daily, between warming up, exercising, cooling down, foam rolling, and stretching.

How can less than two hours of exercise daily be potentially obsessive exercise, but four hours on a phone, computer, gaming system, or TV be moderate?

The cultural pieces in place that make that possible are problematic.

We normalize lying around. We normalize communication via type instead of face to face.* We pathologize movement and exercise.

Going on a tangent from that: we normalize fast food, dessert, sugary drinks, giant portions, and malign healthy eating and appropriate portions.

(Yes, I understand that obsessive exercise can be part of an eating disorder. What disorder includes “I get home from work and sit and watch TV all evening”?)

I’m frustrated by our cultural norms in this realm.

That said … I understand as well as anyone how easy it is to lose an hour to the phone. I’ve made conscious decisions to write instead of surf (today is post #185!). I make more time to read and play ukulele and garden instead of surf. But it’s a decision; the default is to sit around. Daily exercise is a priority. (Rest days have a way of building themselves in nowadays; life is different than it was in therapy days.)

Find something else to do that makes you happy.** Help your kids find other stuff to do that makes them happy.*** (It’d be great if there was some overlap in there…)

Help make four hours of Candy Crush more pathological than four hours on the trail. We’ll all be better for it.


*As a socially anxious introvert, I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have to type instead of talk … but the best connections are in person. Over the phone is second best. This isn’t to say that all of the connecting I do with people online doesn’t count, because it absolutely does. But we need to be able to talk to people.

**I recognize that some hobbies involve “screen time.” I’m blogging on a computer right now. People do photo editing or make silly videos or create apps or a whole list of things that require screen time to do. I think of “screen time” more as not doing something useful. Playing a game. Watching TV. Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest. The stuff we do to avoid doing other things. The stuff we do in place of meaningful things.

And yes, many of us use screen time to relax, and I have no issue with that. But I don’t think we’d all be so tired and stressed out if the daily hours we spend on not-productive screens was all relaxing.

***Talking about kid screen time is dicey and people get really defensive really quickly. Sometimes, your kid is sick and watches TV all day. Sometimes, your kid is home and you didn’t expect them to be but you need to work from home so they need to be occupied and TV is the closest thing you have to a guarantee. But these are periodic things that pop up, not a matter of daily living.

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