Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Think I'm Jogging, I Think I'm Jogging....

So I'm sitting here at my desk with an aching back, caused by the simple activity of climbing a ladder and spending 30 minutes with my arms stretched over my head wrestling with an outdated and possibly dangerous light fixture. I lost the wrestling match, I might add, and that was before the back pain started.

So, let's just say exercise of any sort is not my forte. Oh, I know it's important. It won't make me lose weight but it would make me less prone to bizarre back injuries, if nothing else.

So I was very interested in this NPR story recently about exercise, and the perception of exercise.

According to this Harvard psychologist, Ellen Langer, who has become one of my favorite people in the world, if we think we're exercising, it can have the same effect of really exercising, more or less. Langer did a study of hotel maids and how they perceived their activity levels. Now, I'd hate to be a hotel maid. They have to stay on their feet all day, doing hard work and getting lots of exercise. Yet most of those Langer studied reported that they did not get any exercise--because their idea of exercise was jogging or doing some kind of gym-torture. And their bodies didn't reflect the level of activity that they are, in fact, doing just as part of their jobs.

So Langer took half the maids and told them how much exercise they actually were getting, and the informed half had a loss of weight, blood pressure, etc. The placebo effect in action. "Hence, the theoretical possibility," the article says, "that one might be able to sit around eating chocolate and still lose weight."

So, if I sit here with my giant pepperoni pizza and think about how much exercise I'm getting by lifting the slice to my mouth, chewing, swallowing and digesting, it pretty much nullifies the damage, right?

Well, okay, it probably sounds too good to be true, and there have been some negative nancies at Duke and the University of Texas who have pooh-poohed the whole idea.

Still, I think I'll go and have a daydream about powerwalking up Mount Everest. I feel a sweat coming on.

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