Do I Really Have to Eco-exercise?

The curious term “eco-exercise” recently caught my attention while glancing through one of those “please-use-our-hospital” newsletters that regularly arrive in my mailbox under the pretense of sincerely having an interest in my health.

Intrigued by the possibility that this “eco-exercise” might offer a wellness strategy to help me avoid ever having to use that medical facility, which is the real reason I read these freebie publications anyway, I discovered it means “you also collect litter you find along the way” while engaging in your favorite physical activity.

The article noted that the only equipment required in addition to your normal workout gear is environmental awareness, motivation and "a trash bag (perhaps a biodegradable one)."

Say what?

I can’t even figure out how to work out with an i-Pod: How could I ever learn to exercise with a bag? It also bothered me that the required “eco-exercise” equipment didn’t include plastic gloves and one of those litter pick-up pole devices. Surely a hospital magazine doesn’t expect eco-exercisers to endanger their health by handling trash covered with nasty germs or other disgusting substances? (Unless they’re hoping to increase their patient population?)

In any case, I do want to help save the planet. Perhaps I needed to give more consideration to the eco-exercise concept championed by eco-runner Sam Huber. (link After all, I have some environmental awareness, occasionally I can find some motivation and I own workout gear. Perfect.

But then I began to ponder how best to integrate this “eco-exercise” concept into my current exercise routine.

I could already visualize problems because a great deal of the physical activity in my household involves walking a rather small dog. If I fill a trash bag with litter along the route, won’t the neighbors talk? I can just hear one of them saying: "What the heck is she feeding that dog? That's a huge poop bag for an 18-pound animal."

I also frequently exercise at a local gym, but I am NOT going to pick up litter while on the treadmill, elliptical machine or the recumbent bike because I’d probably fall off in the process. Besides, they pay people to do that and even give them cute shirts with the gym’s name on them.

I also do Zumba (think Latin aerobics), but there's no trash in the dance studio and even if there was, there’d be the risk of knocking out one of my classmates unconscious with a half-filled trash bag during our enthusiastic Zumba moves.

Although the article specifically cited eco-runners, that won't be me because I gave up my dream of running a 5K when I realized I really hate running. Even so, I can’t imagine my marathoner friends taking time to scoop up trash when training to run 26 miles. Not going to happen.

When running didn’t work out for me, I contemplated adding kayaking to my exercise repertoire but if I have to pick up sodden litter and debris from the waterways, would that be enough extra weight to sink the boat? Also, experience indicates I'll need both hands and every bit of concentration to keep from tipping over. And if I fail, you better believe that retrieving a trash bag isn't going to be my highest priority (unless it doubles as a life preserver).

I've also recently tried mountain hiking (calling it climbing would imply far more effort than I’m willing to expend) but if I have to use every bit of concentration to keep from slipping down a mountain or being murdered by a wild animal or psycho killer along a lonely trail, I don’t think I’ll have much time to be on the lookout for litter.

On the other hand, maybe a plastic bag filled with heavy trash could double as protection against wild animals -- or a cushion if my butt is about to kiss the mountain. That way, even if my bottom and dignity take a hit, I can still be proud of my contribution to the environment.

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