Thursday, August 23, 2012


Does doing something good balance something not so good?  That is an interesting question.  We could ponder that about people's reputations.  We could ponder that with respect to personal spiritual lives.  We could ponder that with respect to what needs to be done to achieve eternal salvation.  I avoid the word debate, because I'm not sure there is much to debate when it comes to numbers two and three on the list above.  Those either are or are not.  Each person has a set of beliefs.  Each religion/philosophy has a set of teachings.  They may differ.  They are what they are.

What is interesting to think about, however, is whether doing something good with respect to your health and fitness can offset something not so good.  Does all my running allow me to not worry about eating eggs or using salt?  Does all my running give me the opportunity to order the largest caramel mocha latte I can find?  Does all my running offset the fact that I spend most of my day at work sitting at a desk when it comes to other health risks?

I like to think that the answer is yes in all cases.  The last time I had my blood pressure taken it was pretty low.  The last time I had my cholesterol measured it was pretty low.  My weight in comparison with my height puts me right in the middle of the so-called "normal" range based on BMI.

However, when all is said and done, despite all the exercise I do and calories I burn there is more to health.  Do I get enough sleep?  Even if I can afford more cholesterol is that a good thing?  Even if I know I am sweating out salts, is taking in more a good thing (I used to be like a "teetotaler" when it came to salt but am not any more--although I am still cautious.)  And most of all, since my day is dominated by my job and even when I bring work home it mostly involves sitting at a computer, how does that all add up?

Well, what caught my attention today was a piece in the Wall Street Journal.  In this piece, the author is being taught how to make the workplace healthier.  One of his colleagues is told that even his triathlon training is now enough to avoid the perils of sitting at work.  What is interesting to me would be to dig a little deeper.  I'm not sure that this implies that the person who trains for triathlons but also sits for eight hours a day at work has the same risk as someone who is physically unfit and also sits all day at work.  Or, if instead, what this means is that the change in risk that occurs from sitting at work is just the same for the triathlete as for anyone else.  It is just that the triathlete should (in theory) start out with a lower risk--at least when it comes to cardiac disease.  I think that the correct interpretation would be the latter.

So, what does that say about tradeoffs?  It says that one can offset the other.  Where would the overall risk end up?  That is an empirical question.  Certainly I think that my running lowers my risk of cardiac disease and my sitting at my desk increases it.  The key--and this is where it ties back into spirituality for me--is that I can't let down my guard if I want to maximize my health and minimize my risk.  And in the same way, I think that spiritual fulfillment ultimately requires that I don't let down my guard and that I give my full focus to my spiritual life just as much as I give my full focus to my physical well being.

Neither is an easy task.  Both can lead to a more complete sense of well-being.   

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