The health and fitness trend: culture or cult?

By Shelia Watson

Proponents of wellness programs say that if you keep your employees healthy, they’ll be happier and more productive. I’ve heard that some companies even register their employees for fitness events like walk-a-thons and bridge runs.

All I can say is: Boy, am I glad I don’t work in those places. From the comments I’ve heard in the past few weeks, I am apparently the only person in the Lowcountry who did not participate in the Cooper River Bridge Run. Don’t get me wrong. I love being crushed into a crowd of thousands of people and getting vertigo from running across a swaying bridge as much as the next person. I just figured I wasn’t fit enough to do it.

My concern with fitness started when my doctor told me to cut down on caffeine and chocolate. Right then I decided that health and fitness was a cult and I needed to get away from it. Besides, this is the same doctor who told me a few years ago I should learn to relax. Yeah right. He knows I have teenagers.

I have a sneaking suspicion that fitness is overrated anyway. What if I trek across the bridge to improve muscle tone only to have a heart attack when I look down from the top of the second span? A risky return on investment if you ask me.

When did being healthy and fit come into vogue? Take cooking. My personal motto is, “I cook so I don’t have to eat it raw.” And for a long time that motto worked. Then just when I managed to conquer the challenges of getting the meat and vegetables on the table at the same time, suddenly we’re supposed to start reading labels when we shop. Who’s got that kind of time? And who decided that things like tofu and sprouts were part of a healthier diet? I have a rule: No ingredients that look like something I’d weed from my garden.

The other up-and-coming fad is ergonomic exercises. I used to sit at the computer and type. Now, I’m supposed to reconfigure my chair so my feet are firmly on the floor, my monitor is at proper eye level and my wrists are supported under my keyboard. By the time I’ve done all this, I’m past deadline.

I have a better exercise I do at work these days. I work on the third floor, so several times a day I run down the steps, across the street and into Godiva Chocolates. Sometimes I don’t come back.

I have several friends who still nag me every year to run the bridge, which is one reason I’m convinced this is all a cult. Quite frankly, I have no desire to join in an activity in which the participants are never smiling.

Despite the incongruity of the health and fitness craze, I’ve decided to join the madness by organizing a bridge run more my speed, like the Ben Sawyer Bridge Run. I can make it a corporate event by having my co-workers run it with me. We’ll just have to make sure it stays open long enough for us to get over it.

Published in Charleston Regional Business Journal