You know what they say… “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone“. I was thinking about this the other day when I was lamenting those who got close to pulling the trigger on a life changing program this year, but didn’t quite get there. It struck me that one’s decision to start exercising or not, is quite similar to Pascal’s Wager if you have ever heard of it. He was a 17th century French philosopher and mathematician who had some interesting ideas around decision making and the risk/reward ratios of believing or not believing in God. It posits that the risk of not believing, which at the time was believed to be eternal damnation (and I guess is still believed by some), was just too big a downside to not believe. Now, the question of ‘choosing’ or pretending to believe aside, this was a pretty good argument and one that I see as very similar to the quandary most people have around exercising. Have you ever heard someone defending their reason for not exercising or being healthy with lines like ‘well my grandpa smoked all his life, he didn’t get cancer and lived to 92‘ or ‘my overweight aunt never exercised or ate well and she lived to the ripe old age of 99‘?
So let’s look at it plainly. What do you risk by exercising your whole life and eating healthy foods, even if by some small chance it was in your cards that you too could have lived to the ripe old age of ninety something without actually doing anything remotely exercise or health like? I know, I know, you would have ‘missed out’ on the great taste of junk food, the joy of drinking too much, the thrill of having smoke fill your lungs, the excitement of sitting on the couch endlessly and watching your favourite TV show night after night, the relief of never getting out of breath or feeling your muscles work and basically never having to push yourself into an uncomfortable position where you might fail (don’t make me quote Michael Jordan here about what percentage of shots you make…. that you never take!). Of course though, there is the upside when you actually do decide and make it happen – the beautiful skin, muscular or even sexy legs, the multiple options you have on how physical you can make your holidays with nothing ever being too hard, never losing a running race to your kids, that is, until the inevitable (they too get fit because you showed them how!) and being more optimistic than most and fun to be around (fit people have been shown to be more likely to be happy and optimistic)….. Should i go on?
When you think about it as Pascal did and weigh up the possible consequences of the wrong choice, when it comes to exercise in your life, then it is clear what you must do. It is simply logic and hey, if I can’t get you with emotion, maybe you’re just a numbers guy and this makes pure sense to you and you won’t risk it.
Sure, there may be no guarantees either way in life, but when the side effects of something chosen has so many positives for those brave enough to take it on (this life time exercise gig definitely ain’t always easy) then it really is a no-brainer.
Merry Christmas folks! It’s not too late to finish the year on the right note.