Images like this abound on facebook and lately have started to irk me. Bear in mind that I’m not exactly a friend of fat people, but these are exactly the kind of naive tropes that wind up gaining critical mass while being based in delusion (like “the four hour work week” or the need to spend “10 000 hours to master a skill.”)
For our purposes, a standard day on earth has 24 hours, thus we find 4% by dividing 1 over 24. Except that we learn very little of practical value, because we don’t really have control over all 24 of those hours, thus it is a useless denominator for activity selection purposes. The first thing thing we must do is determine the relevant denominator.
Assume that the average person sleeps about 8 hours out of every day (denom = 16). We will pretend that everyone is employed and works a typical 40 hour workweek just to keep this tidy. That means that on a given weekday, another 8 hours disappear for work (denom = 8). Now, assume that the average person spends an hour between morning pre-work routines and evening pre-sleep routines (a rather gross underestimate of time spent on showers, shaving, brushing teeth, relevant make-up, clothing selection, etc…; denom = 6.5) Now, assume that two meals are consumed daily outside the hours of work, at 30 minutes each in total duration, for another hour of the clock (denom = 5.5). This is excessively conservative since preparation, cooking and cleaning up after meals would assuredly add another hour at least. Now take a look at the relative time of that hour of exercise ; all of a sudden, an hour actually represents close to 20% of a person’s “discretionary” time. What’s more, we haven’t factored in any travel time to and from work or the gym, any errands or activities, family commitments overtime or anything else that would shrink the denominator even further (I’m going to leave it at 5 in an effort to be extremely charitable).
We haven’t even begun to address the fact that most people don’t exercise properly or efficiently. Nor have we dealt with the fact that diet plays a far larger role in the health of an average person. The fact is, banal, universally prescriptive statements don’t actually help people. We aren’t all students or part-time workers with excessive amounts of free time to burn. Just because I make time for a workout doesn’t mean everyone can, and people need to think about that a bit more.