Fitness Kills

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and feminist icon, is famous for telling women to be more aggressive – to “lean in” at work. Her husband, Dave Goldberg, was a less successful and famous silicon valley executive.

She has got the taut look of monied people who have personal trainers on staff. He had the fat look of guys who have lunch at their desks. But he was apparently trying to do something about it and it killed him

On a family vacation to a posh Puerto Vallarta resort, instead of splashing in the pool, passing time at the swim-up bar, or frolicking in the waves of the Bahía de Banderas, Goldberg was at the gym on the treadmill. Apparently he leaned the wrong way, was shot off the machine, cracked his skull and died at the age of 47.

You’d think this would fall into the freak accident category, but no. Turns out in 2012, 460,000 people showed up at hospitals for injuries sustained using exercise equipment. Of those, 32,000 were severe enough to require hospitalization or, as in the case of Goldberg, were fatalities. A whopping 66 percent of exercise machine injuries involve treadmills.

Not a surprise, really. If you’ve even done a lazy dogtrot next to someone who’s got the thing cranked up to nine and is running flat out as if pursued by the hounds of hell, you know that one misstep and they’d be rocketed backwards at 20 miles an hour, bouncing their cranium off the handholds, the treadmill bed and the floor in that order.

Experts also warn that many exercise zealots try to multitask while sprinting. They watch TV, often exercise or stock ticker channels to amp them up further. They talk on the phone or even try to text, all while running full tilt. Not surprisingly, your distracted tread miller is likely to become your down-for-the-count tread miller.

We have all had the experience of having to dodge some fool talking or texting while driving as they drift from lane to lane or stop for green and go on red. The same loonies may not be a major hazard to others at the gym, but they are apparently all too likely to do themselves some damage.

Is exercise really worth the risk? Okay, if your doctor tells you to move it or you’ll die, you may want to give it a try. But if your condition is that dire, he probably doesn’t intend for you to enter the Iron Man competition or do the treadmill marathon.

Fitness proselytizers claim your daily jogging, weights, bands, stretches, laps, hour on the rowing machine, the elliptical, the stationary bike and on and on is adding years to your life. Maybe, but which year? The years after 80, when you’re increasingly feeble or sinking into senility? And what’s the cost?

An hour a day of exercise, plus the dressing and undressing, showering, driving to the gym and back adds up to a month per year of your life – minimum. That’s a year of your life every twelve years. Do that for thirty or forty years and you’ve invested three or four good years up front in the prime of life to get back five or six bad ones at the end, in a wheelchair or a nursing home. Bad trade.

And that doesn’t take into account the shin splints, bunions, dislocations, strains, sprains, aches, pains, the knee injuries, the wear and tear to the joints, nor the tendon and ligament tweaks. In retrospect, if Dave Goldberg could have a do-over, wouldn’t he rather have fifteen or twenty years of fat, happy unfitness than be dead at 47 at the hands of some machine on which he was trying to get in shape?

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