readexerciseIn a bit of serendipity my blog piece this week mimics Blythe’s blog in asking the question of nature or nurture. Except mine is not about readers but readers who exercise. Once you have developed a love of books, how hard is it to make the commitment to get your nose out of the book and exercise? Do some individuals just enjoy activity more than others? Is it learned behavior or is it genetics? The recent evidence seems to point to learned behavior or contagious social behaviors.

The Trust for American’s Health recently released a list of how each state is doing, and it is not pretty. Along with the release of the list of the state’s ranking, I made note of something else. When Blythe went to New York for the RWA Convention she didn’t use that as an excuse to not exercise (Sandy and Lynn- no offense if you were up there sweating away too!). And guess what, Blythe is from Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity ranking.

While poverty does play a part in the same states continuing to top the list, part of the reason also seems to be that if your friends are heavy, then it more acceptable for you to be heavy. If your friends exercise and incorporate a healthy lifestyle then you are more likely to do so, too. If you haven’t read the Framingham Study then do so, because it quite interesting. In a way it helps explain more about our obesity epidemic.

You probably wonder why someone on a site that talks about books now is talking about healthy living. I could say that it is a “public service message.” But the real reason is that that our love of books can keep us sedentary. Plus if you are like me, you have made some internet friends built around your love of books. Friends influence friends and I hope to get some great feedback from those of you that are successful balancing activity and reading. And along with teaching our children to love books and reading, I believe it is just as important to remember physical activity.

If I had spent as many hours exercising as I do reading, then I wouldn’t have three different sizes of clothes in my closet now. I will be honest. If I have a choice between reading for thirty minutes or exercising for that same amount of time my natural inclination is to open that book. It is not that I hate activity. It just takes a while for the endorphins to kick in and for me to get any kind of good feeling about sweating. In the beginning it is just plain work. It is not that I don’t have the best intentions. I have started and stopped exercising more times than I can count. Usually I run, starting out barely making a mile (although now it is a ½ mile) and work my way up to three miles. This typically last three to six months and then something happens and I stop. Then it can take a year or more for me to start up again.

I am hoping to make the difficult beginning more palpable with audio books. Thanks to Lea, I have discovered that I can have best of both worlds. Yesterday I downloaded one of my favorite books, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had to Be You, and while I can’t say that I am looking forward to getting back on my elliptical machine today, I am looking forward to hearing the book.

Setting aside a certain time for exercise, incorporating it into social activities with friends, and tracking your workouts are all other ways to keep on track.
So along with teaching our children the joy of reading, I think we owe it to them and ourselves to discover the benefits of closing that book, and moving our body. And the beauty of it, as mentioned here, is “that good behaviors — like quitting smoking or staying slender or being happy — pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses.”

Are you one of those people who finds it easy to maintain a balance between activity and reading or is your idea of heaven spending the day in bed reading (I confess I love rainy/snowy days when I have the perfect excuse to do this)? If you have learned to balance the two what has worked for you? How do you get your children to put down that book, or game or turn off the television? Are audio books successful in helping you stay on track? Share your successes or struggles!

– Leigh Davis