Commendably, today (August 31, 2005), as the southern part of the Unites States is reeling from the devastation left by hurricane Katrina, US President George W. Bush opted to cut short his vacation in order to tend to business. It’s good to know that he views an emergency that has left hundreds of thousands of the people he serves homeless overnight of sufficient gravity to warrant leaving the ranch and get to work.
Not long ago, on a running list I subscribe to, someone pointed to a news article where the author was critical of the President for insisting on taking the time in his schedule to run and lift weights. The journalist expressed concern that as a head of government perhaps his priorities were misplaced. He asked hypothetically whether it would be appropriate for the President to be training for an Ironman?
In fact, the governor of New Mexico did that very thing while in office not too many years ago, and did well in it.
It seems many persons classify physical exercise with recreation, sports, and other leisure time activities, something that is fine if you have nothing but time to burn, but strictly optional for so-called busy people.
It is indeed a question of the value one attaches to the activities that get priority. The intrinsically lazy will use all manner of excuse to avoid physical exercise. Sometimes those excuses seem entirely reasonable. “The country is being invaded by Martians and it’s MY PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to do something about it.” “My mother’s funeral is today.” “It’s too hot out.” “My dog is not feeling well.” “There’s a NASCAR race on TV that I can’t miss.” People draw the line at different levels, and they do what they have to do based on those rules, whether stated or implicit.
Tied in with the need to exercise are the need to sleep and eat properly. Sometimes it’s necessary to lose sleep, or to eat less than ideally. In most cases we adjust over time, because we have a measure of built-in resiliency. It also must be admitted that resiliency is enhanced by a good state of baseline health and fitness. The ability of a few superathletes to run 300 miles in three days or across the country in 70 days or less bears testimony to that hypothesis.
But it’s also true that a person who has gone for a long period without sleep or proper nutrition is not going to be in optimal condition to perform the task to which he or she assigns a higher priority. Would anyone want a political leader who has gone 48 hours without sleep to be the one to make a decision about whether to launch nuclear weapons while in that condition? (I’ve also heard recently that Mr. Bush insists on getting eight hours of sleep a night, but I don’t know if it’s true. If it is, I would not fault him for it.)
We are human beings with basic built-in physical needs. If we ignore them, eventually we suffer.
As for Mr. Bush, politics aside, one message is clear: If a man that busy can make room for taking care of his physical health, then surely many people who do not do so while claiming that they’re “too busy” should be able to do it.
- Exercise in the morning ‘promotes better sleep’ (time4sleep.co.uk)