Imagine you're two miles into your morning fitness walk, striding purposefully along a hilly, country road. The Shuffle is cranking some kick-ass music, your new Reeboks fit great, you're loving the muscle definition you're starting to see on your outer thigh and the bandana wrapped around your forehead is soaked with sweat. So is your t-shirt.
You've startled one deer, rescued one turtle [by moving it to the edge of the road] and seen one dead snake. You decide to press on, and do the long [6.6 miles] loop instead of the four-mile one.
A quarter-mile further along, at the top of a steep hill, you see a man pounding nails into a fence. You've heard that a new family is moving into the area, from Kentucky, and that they're Amish. This man certainly qualifies, so you introduce yourself and welcome him and his family to the neighborhood.
He says to be sure and say hello to his daughter and her friend, who are on the other side of the house. Digging a garden.
Diet-Blog mentioned 'incidental exercise' a couple days ago. Magazine articles push us to park our cars farther away from the door or, better yet, walk or bike to our destinations. [Jonathan is the King of Biking.] Websites offer a variety of exercise routines, while gyms abound, enticing us with free training sessions and extended memberships and the latest and greatest new fitness equipment. And the news stories, online and in print, overwhelm us with reasons for the 'obesity epidemic,' topmost of which is our modern, convenient, effortless lifestyle.
I walked on down the road and saw the girls. They were wearing the plain, long skirts of the Amish, with scarves covering their hair. One was barefoot, as Amish children frequently are; the other was wearing black stockings and sturdy shoes. And they were, indeed, digging a garden. With hoes. In what used to be a lawn. And they hadn't put Round-up down to kill the grass first.
They were very friendly, probably 15 or 16 years old, polite and industrious. And of course we had a little conversation about how I was walking for fitness, while they were, um, digging a garden … from scratch!
I had more than four more miles to walk, thinking about intentional activity and incidental exercise and modern conveniences. One of the Diet-Blog commenters opined that engineers, who create all our labor-saving devices, must be among the most unfit of all professions. [I didn't say that; someone else did, and not exactly like I just said it.]
So did I come back home and find something useful to do?
Only if you count sitting on my ass knitting.