How Daily Exercise Became the Last Great Indulgence
Observations from a reluctant exerciser, in a pandemic
I have always been a sporadic exerciser. And, yes, that’s euphemistic. My periods of regular exercise historically come in fits and starts, then disappear as quickly as they arrive — replaced with dark chocolate and binge-watching.
In fact, years ago, I pitched and was hired to write a “reluctant exerciser” column for a popular women’s magazine, which wound up being a bit more reluctant than the editors had hoped. Sure enough, the stories quickly became about what lipgloss and cute headbands to wear while hiking, instead of about climbing mountains.
Most of the times when I’ve successfully maintained an exercise habit, it was at home: “Buns of Steel” (on VHS) in college, Tae Bo videos in my early twenties, runs around my residential Los Angeles neighborhood in my later twenties. There was a period of meeting my mother every Sunday at a local yoga studio, but that ritual also included the lure of brunch.
According to studies and anecdotal evidence, how we all approach movement has shifted dramatically since Covid-19 arrived.
Once I moved back to New York from L.A., naturally, I started walking quite a bit. And, when motivated, there were Core Fusion and yoga DVDs to turn to. The one exception was when — after a miscarriage and right before a book tour — I decided that I refused to be both sad and out of shape so I managed to haul myself to regular barre classes with an impossibly energetic teacher who told mercifully distracting stories during the hardest parts.
But, for a long stretch after having my second child, exercise became something I aspired to but rarely enacted. Who had time or energy? Between getting dressed, walking to a studio, taking a class and, finally, walking home, I would sacrifice three hours of my already truncated workday.
Then the pandemic struck. And everything about all of our schedules changed. According to multiple studies, how we all approach movement has shifted dramatically since Covid-19 arrived. A University College of London study that followed adult exercise habits before, during…