Roger Marolt: Roger This
Do you ever feel guilty about not getting enough exercise? Don’t. The world may be a better place because of your personal neglect. I mean that literally. Being lazy may be the best thing you can do to help save the planet. Let’s start at the beginning. Maybe you doubt it judging from personal scale experiences, but exercising really does burn calories. The more active you are, the more calories you burn. According to the Mayo Clinic caloric calculator a very active, 6-foot, 48-year-old male weighing 185 pounds needs to consume about 3,150 calories a day. A slug version of the same man whiling away the day on the Internet requires only 2,250 calories to maintain his sloughing physique. For those too lethargic to do the math, that’s a 40 percent increase in caloric requirements for people who workout hard enough to look decent in bike shorts.For discussion’s sake I pretended to be a 24-year-old, 5-foot-8-inch girl weighing 115 pounds. The Mayo calculator confirmed that my … her caloric needs would also increase by 40 percent when she transitions from being sedentary to very active. The bottom line is that physically vigorous people need lots more food.And herein is the problem: It turns out that producing food is very bad for the planet. Utilizing another venerable source, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization estimates that about one-third of manmade greenhouse gases come from our food system. Further, Americans use up about as many resources producing food as we do in creating our shelters. Even more incredible, food production consumes about two-thirds of the resources that personal transportation does. Now let’s connect the dots, but slowly so that we don’t burn too many calories. In a moment you’ll understand why. We know that food production consumes two-thirds the amount of the resources we use for transportation. We also know that very active people burn 40 percent more calories than sedentary folks do. Therefore, by increasing caloric needs through regular vigorous exercise, your food consumption is about on par with driving a car as far as depleting our planet’s resources goes. Worse yet, if everyone in the world went on a serious physical fitness routine, the total amount of greenhouse gases produced from the food system would increase by, you guessed it, a whopping 40 percent. That would mean an overall increase in bad gas of about 8 percent from all sources combined. And you think running makes you sweat.And here’s the kicker (if you’ll pardon the expression): Multiple studies have concluded that highly active people will live an average of between 3.2 and 3.7 years longer than sofa surfers. During those platinum years exercisers will continue to use up even more resources and produce even more carbon emissions. That is potentially another 5 percent increase in the total production of greenhouse gasses. Get it? If everyone on the planet worked out, total manmade carbon emissions would skyrocket by 13 percent! Never has going to the gym hurt so badly. Look, I’m not a scientist. I just do their math for them. And, the way I figure it, running the numbers is all the running any of us should be doing. Exercise not only increases the size of your muscles, it also increases the size of your carbon footprint … as if you were on steroids! Training turns the skinny guy on the beach into the Sasquatch of environmental ruin. So jog through the woods and bicycle along country roads all you dare. Even stop for a moment to smell the lilac, but don’t flip the guy in the Hummer the bird as he goes by. Who would have thought – the chunky guy driving it might not be much worse on wearing out the planet than the skinny guy with the nice tan bounding gracefully along the shoulder wearing nothing but his Nikes and a pair of Dolphin shorts. Call it the Paradox of Fit. What is good for one man is bad for mankind. What’s healthy for your ticker is a ticking time bomb for the globe. What increases your life span might kill people in the future. You selfish bastard. Yes, they will eventually figure out a way to produce food in more environmentally friendly ways, but in the meantime you’ll continue to scarf it down after each and every training session. And, even if greenhouse gasses from the food system are eventually reduced, the physically fit will still be consuming far more of the world’s resources and producing greenhouse gasses at a much faster rate than inactive people. No matter how you slice it, good workout habits are counterproductive to Earth’s health. So the real solution, if you actually care about helping Mother Nature improve her core strength, is to be very careful about the activities you choose to do. Running is out. Biking is bad. Swimming is terrible. Hiking is a selfish thing to do. If you go skiing forget about exploding the moguls on Ridge of Bell or doing laps on The Bowl. If you want to spend a day at Snowmass, though, that will be fine. Flag football? A pick-up game of hoops in the driveway? Forget about it. Weight training? Nordic skiing? You’ve got to be kidding. Soccer should be outlawed. Lacrosse could hardly be worse. In short, everything that makes you sweat and breathe hard should be resisted. And I mean everything. We have no choice but to rethink our recreational time. In fact, thinking is a good way to spend your free time without straining. Baseball and curling are in. Bowling is fine. Croquet, botchy ball and lawn darts? You bet. Anything that keeps the pulse down helps keep carbon emissions from going up. So, here’s the thing to consider that might cramp our brains: Exercise is a luxury that comes with a big price that will potentially be paid by our children. And here’s the option that nobody wants to acknowledge: When it comes to trying to save the planet, maybe doing nothing is one of the best things we can do, after all.
Roger Marolt wonders if air-conditioned gyms are the answer to global warming. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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