The Fitness Upside to a Down Economy

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This past week, the New York Times published an article on how a small, but growing, number of freaked out Wall Street-types was seeking refuge in the gym or taking up a new sport. The executives listed more free time from layoffs, a heightened need to control something in their lives, and a desire to check out for an hour and run on a treadmill.

I know where they’re coming from. In one of the more nasty recessions in the early 90’s, I got back into cycling because I couldn’t find a regular job for months, had a bunch of free time, and riding a bike cost me nothing except some new shorts, shoes, and tires.

Sure I was freaked out, but instead of running around and chasing every dollar I could find 18 hours a day, I decided to go ride and do something that felt good and provided a daily reinforcement that I was doing something productive—namely losing 20-pounds and spinning faster and faster every week.

And my experience is one reason I'm a bit tweaked from this New York Times story. It really doesn't address the option of chucking the gym all together and going for a run, hike, or bike ride. As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), something weird happens to media people in New York, namely that they can't fathom getting a workout on anything other than a treadmill with a bank of HDTVs in front of them. People! Get outside! You'll be reminded that the world's still a pretty nice place instead of being reminded of the economic collapse streaming in from MSNBC during your elliptical session.

This downturn also reminded me of something I’ve heard from many climbers over they years. When I asked them where their love of the outdoors came from, they told me that “Their family didn’t have much money, so vacation was ‘load up the station wagon, head to the mountains, and camp for a long weekend’.”

I suspect we’ll see a return to these types of family adventures, and that’s not bad. It means more people will discover/re-discover the beauty of the outdoors and the wonder of nature and develop a connection to the planet’s wild places. I suspect we’ll see more tents and less RVs in our parks. And who knows, maybe these people will be inspired to start climbing, mountain-biking, or lace-up their boots and go backpacking. It’s sure cheaper than a gym membership or an all-expenses paid ski vacation.