The Economics of a Smaller Butt

Exercise is good for us. It lowers our chances of contracting some heinous and hard-to-pronouce disease, it gives us energy and even improves our sex lives. So why aren’t we all high-tailing it to the gym?

Because we are busy. And tired. And because there are too many reality TV shows to watch instead.

Economists would call this bad intertemporal decision-making (deciding something today that has consequences in the future). No pilates today, clogged aterties tomorrow. Too many Negronis tonight, not enough synapses firing in the future.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the brilliant Happiness Project (the book just came out in paperback), has a solution: Exercise a little. Don’t suit up for the marathon or aspire to swim the perimeter of Manhattan every Tuesday. Just get up and do something. She’s thinking at the margin – weighing the costs and benefits of incremental change. It’s hard to get out of bed to bike to Staten Island if you live in Queens. It’s easy to get out of bed to run around the block (well, easier). 

We like her at-the-margin thinking. And her plan could also result in a smaller butt.

Posted in commitment, free time

7 Responses to The Economics of a Smaller Butt

  1. Renars says:

    And when you go out just to run around the block, it will be much easier from time to time to extend it to two or three blocks and train even more.

  2. kharris says:

    Please, please, please don’t use the expression “at the margin” when you mean “a little bit”. You may actually have been thinking about some marginal aspect of exercising a little bit, but maybe not, ’cause it doesn’t show. I can think of perfectly good reasons to discuss marginality in exercise, but unless you do, are you really doing anything that different from the pseudo-speak substitution of “marginal” for “small”? Please…?

  3. Jen says:

    I have two things to say about this. First, if you make your goal to just get up and exercise for 5 or 10 minutes, and tell yourself that if you are tired after that much time you can stop, you may just keep going. Getting up off the couch is sometimes the hardest part. Second, some people have had a lot of success with making a rule that they do not allow themselves to watch [insert trashy TV show here] unless they are on the treadmill, or whatever. Plenty of gyms these days have TVs at every treadmill, or maybe you have one in your basement or can download this show on your ipod. Makes the time go by faster, because man, the treadmill is boring!

    • Lenore says:

      Jen, America’s Next Great Restaurant is NOT a trashy show.

      • Jen says:

        Maybe not (never seen it, so I can’t say…) but Real Housewives is, and so are many of the other reality shows! But there’s nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure, especially if it gets you through 45 minutes of otherwise boring exercise.

  4. Japanman says:

    The best way to get through 20 minutes on the exercise bike or treadmill? Freakonomics Radio download!!! Now that I’ve caught up with all the old ones, I need to find something else. I find that talkies are a better distraction than music and easier to enjoy with all the background music and mechanical noises that my earbuds don’t block.

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