Due to the problem in my left chest I described last week, I’m avoiding unnecessary physical activity.
Well, not quite. I’m ‘cheating’ a little with physical activity, which isn’t strictly necessary.
(I’m lucky that I don’t depend on physical labor to pay my bills.)
I live in a culture in which ‘exercise’ is a ‘virtue’ as long as it’s not for low-prestige jobs. (Meanwhile, the physical work, for example, people who pick crops on farms, is devalued, though we eat the literal fruits of their labor). People reinforce the message that getting more exercise is virtuous, whereas not exercising is a weakness we often fall into due to our relatable flaws. We conflate health with morality, and getting more exercise is ‘healthy.’
It’s weird to be in a situation where avoiding exercise is what’s best for my physical health. That slipping in some exercise just for pleasure feels like ‘cheating.’
I feel the difference. When I avoid physical activity for a long stretch of time, my chest feels almost normal. If I weren’t paying close attention, I wouldn’t notice anything off. But when I make my muscles do something vigorous… it’s a gamble. Occasionally even walking to another room is enough to set off discomfort in my left chest (it is still ‘discomfort’ rather than ‘pain’ thank goodness). That fades fast, thank goodness.
Sometimes, I can get away with a 15 minute walk with only a slight increase in the intensity of… whatever is happening in my left chest. But after walking about 20 minutes one time, I felt a substantial increase in the oddness of my left chest. It lasted for over and hour after I stopped walking.
My heart—my literal, anatomical, beating heart—is warning me to not exercise.
I’m used to being a physically active person. The endorphin rush is a major part of how I keep myself in good cheer. Beyond that, it’s part of how I see myself, as someone with energy who can get up and do something physically demanding when I want to.
I hope this is temporary.
I’m tempted to push past my limits, to exercise as much as I feel like. I can. I can ignore the weirdness in my chest and exercise as much as I please. That’s what I did when I was in denial. But that’s bad for my physical health in the long term.
I need to heal from whatever this is first. If this is myocarditis—which I believe it is—a sedentary lifestyle (plus a low-sodium diet and abstinence from alcohol) is what I need until my heart recovers.
Meanwhile, conventional chatter continues online… people joke about how they should eat less and exercise more for the good of their ‘health’ and they keep putting it off.
Is this what it’s like to be old and frail? To have a body which no longer does what it once did, to be restricted to fewer choices to extend the life which is left?
When I walk, I savor it more. What I once considered a mindless errand is now a treat, for it gives me permission to exercise. If I keep the walk short, and if I walk slowly, I’ll feel okay afterwards—most of the time. Slowing down, appreciating every step, has made me wonder again about my surroundings.