Does Canada Need a National “Stop to Smell the Flowers” Day?

Yesterday, I was quoted in the media regarding a private members bill introduced by MP John Weston calling for municipalities to provide cheap access to fitness centres, as considering this idea rather ‘simplistic’.

Not that I don’t think Canadians should be more active or that we must not do all we can to reduce the epidemic of sedentariness.

I just don’t believe that a) this needs to happen at fitness centres and b) that this is necessarily a bill that should be offered as a solution to the obesity problem.

If anything, these type of proposals do little else but perpetuate the myth that a bit of more physical activity will reduce body weights or prevent weight gain.

Rather, with, for example, the emerging evidence on the role of sleep deprivation on metabolism and body weight, we may as well be calling for a national “Let’s All Sleep In Late” day or (even better) a national “Let’s All Stop To Smell The Flowers” Day.

The point is not that I am against exercise or don’t believe in its benefits. The point is that it will take more than getting more Canadians into fitness centres to combat obesity.

Not that we should be stopping anyone from getting more active. MP Weston apparently is a sports buff himself, has three kids who are sports buffs, and a wife who is a personal fitness trainer – great for them, but hardly a model for the Canadians that I see in my practice.

It is certainly not the monetary cost of visiting a fitness centre stopping them – if anything, it is lack of time, low self-esteem, poor body image, depression, sheer exhaustion after a stressful day, and perhaps far too little restorative sleep.

The last thing they need is yet one more obligation (read: visit to a fitness centre) in their already busy and overscheduled days.

If they did have the extra hour or so to actually dedicate to going to a fitness centre my advice would probably be to rather get an extra hour of sleep or perhaps just an extra hour of mindful relaxation – read a book, go for a walk, play an instrument, paint a picture, or just take the time to have a meaningful conversation with your kid or partner – or, perhaps, just pause to smell the flowers.

The problem is not that Canadians are too lazy or too cheap to pay for fitness centres – the problem is that too many Canadians are too busy, too stressed, too short of time, too exhausted, spend too much time in their cars, and are too caught up in everything else that makes a healthy lifestyle virtually impossible.

As I’ve said before, changing your lifestyle is more about changing your ‘life’ than your ‘style’.

Perhaps a life in which there is actually time to stop and smell the flowers will do more to prevent and better manage your weight than any workout that I’ve ever heard of.

Edmonton, Alberta

photo credit: bikesandwich via photopin cc