A History of Aerobics

by Ken Hutchins

Following, I present a brief overview of the history of aerobics. And as with any historical treatment, I can only relate the information that I have within my perspective and interpretation.

I call it windedness.

I realize that such a term has little sophistication. What is more, it is not a proper word. I believe this quality to be quite appropriate for its application.

Windedness is the state of being winded. I have long searched for a crude and rather subconscious concept that might relate our primitive notions of exertion and its physical effects. It is merely natural that we notice labored breathing after only a few brief seconds of intense exertion. Labored breathing occurs before sweating (unless one is already sweating due to ambient temperature) or muscular soreness; and windedness is more obvious, especially to others, than increased pulse, temperature, and general fatigue.

In parts of our society, and before the present century, if a man was observed as winded, others concluded that he was either sick, in the midst of an emergency, or a kook. He might be decided a kook, particularly if he had elected to exert himself, so as to become winded. To wind one's self unnecessarily was considered to be impractical, dangerous, irresponsible, and foolish. Such personal resources were to be conserved for emergency exigencies only.

As a consequence, an assumption was made based on a little science and a lot of so called gut instinct. This assumption emphasizes that the state of labored breathing and the concomitant state of elevated pulse and cardiac output is the index of exercise effect. Further concluded (assumed) is that this index in some way is proportional or relational to exercise benefit. Add an emotional emphasis that cardiac output is related to life as cardiac failure is equal to death, and you have both the pseudoscience and the romantic passion to support the idea that all of your health revolves around cardiac performance. Since cardiac function is ostensibly to exchange CO2 for O2 in the lungs, hence aerobics was coined by Kenneth Cooper. [Note that aerobics (with an s) usually refers to the Cooperism; and that aerobic is an adjective usually referring to a type of metabolic pathway.]

Cooper's Description of Aerobics

In his first book, Aerobics (1968), Cooper explains that aerobics are:

. . .the foundation exercises on which any exercise program should be built. These exercises demand oxygen without producing an intolerable oxygen debt, so that they can be continued for long periods. They activate the training effect and start producing all those wonderful changes in your body.

Cooper, in his criticism of those who focus on their muscular strength—“These types, who have the right motives but the wrong approach, are stuck with the myth that muscular strength . . . means physical fitness.”—ignored skeletal muscle. He consistently overlooked the fact that oxygen utilization occurred at the skeletal muscle level and that only a rather uneventful and subservient carbon dioxide/oxygen exchange occurred at the pulmonary interface after vascular chauffeur.

Cooper then wrote, The New Aerobics (1970), Aerobics for Women, and The Aerobics Way (1977). Although one might assume that Cooper started the aerobics belief following, he merely enhanced a term and sparked a preexisting mass movement that needed only a leader and official medical acknowledgment to explode onto the scene. As one of my clients stated, books and magazines appeared, appealing to joggers, runners, women joggers, elder joggers, teenage joggers, pet joggers, and on and on. The media is saturated with it to this day. Almost any health, welfare, or special interest promotion now has its obligatory marathon or walkathon.

Even Cooper openly admits that his were not the first assertions in this direction. In his first book, he describes the Pack Test developed in the early 1940s for testing military personnel. Similar tests followed, such as the Harvard Step Test and Master's Two-Step Test. All of these tests were applied in an attempt to obtain and compare recovery heart rate values after the soldiers performed exertion. I am sure that many other physical fitness researchers were struggling with such comparisons before 1940. What amazes me is that Cooper, being a medical doctor, clung to the notion that cardiac performance is everything, long after others had far better science.

Three Components of a Scientific Discipline

To me, it appears that any scientific discipline must have three crucial components:

As I commonly state, exercise physiology is almost totally devoid of these required factors.

Working Definitions Regarding a definition, the only formal definition so far available is the one in The SuperSlow Technical Manual:

Exercise is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature, in accordance with muscle and joint function, in a clinically-controlled environment, within the constraints of safety, meaningfully loading the muscular structures to inroad their strength levels to stimulate a growth mechanism within minimum time.

If we were to present this definition to a devout exercise physiologist like Cooper, he might argue over the subjective judgment of whether jogging was demanding, but he would have no argument with respect to the remaining qualifiers.

Is jogging performed in accordance with muscle and joint function? No. It is a locomotor skill that uses almost all the body's joints with a minimum of movement and in accordance with the skill of jogging.

Is jogging performed within the constraints of safety? No. It is a violent, high-force situation.

Is jogging performed in a clinically controlled environment? No. It is performed under all kinds of road, climatic, and social conditions.

Is jogging performed for the purpose of inroading the muscle's strength to stimulate a growth mechanism? No. Jogging is the opposite mind set entirely. It is performed for the purpose of avoiding muscular failure, so that it can be continued steady-state ad infinatum.

Then Cooper might argue that I had contrived my own definition to fit my ideas—this is true. I might then ask him for his definition. I doubt that he has one.

Over the past 20 years, I have read several of the definitional attempts made by the exercise physiologists. The results are mushy because as discriminating scientists, exercise physiologists are weak. They are not cut out for such work.

For example, in the March 1985 issue of The Physician and Sports Medicine, Carl J. Caspersen, Ph.D. attempts to define three terms:

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure. The energy expenditure can be measured in kcal. Physical activity in daily life can be categorized into occupational, sport, conditioning, household, or other activities. Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness. Physical fitness is a set of attributes that are either health- or skill-related. The degree to which people have these attributes can be measured with specific tests.

Caspersen actually fares pretty well—in a generalized manner—with this attempt, however, he does not discriminate on the basis of muscle/joint function, muscular loading efficiency, safety, or the imperative to place emphasis on stimulating a muscular growth mechanism. He confuses exercise with recreation. His concepts are far too loose—and therefore, so is his definition. He is trying to encompass too much. As a result the word, “exercise,” is still useless as an exacting concept for communication.

[Note that exercise is already a multi-meaning term that might indicate, dependent on context, a military maneuver, a parade, a passage practiced on a musical instrument, practice sessions performed in mathematics tutorials, and a host of other possibilities.]

He then goes on to make the physical fitness definition dependent on specific test measurements. In 1985, there were no truly valid tests to measure fitness. There are none today other that those for strength (the MedX), and the exercise physiologists are not yet prepared to appreciate a strength test as the most important and all-telling index of fitness.

Although this unsophisticated definitional attempt was published in 1985, it was the result of The Workshop on Epidemiologic and Public Health Aspects of Physical Activity and Exercise, conducted by the Centers of Disease Control on September 24-25, 1984. Ten papers were written, discussed at the workshop, revised, and then published in Public Health Reports. This demonstrates to me not merely a poor understanding of science among exercise physiologists, but also a total ignorance of their paucity by those at the CDC who should know better. This also indicates, in my opinion, that the government bureaucracy is going to impose its infinite wisdom on the rest of us, wasting infinite sums of tax dollars on an ill-defined mission.

Reliable Measuring Tools I continue to have serious doubts regarding VO2max as a reliable and appropriate index of health. Please read Keith Johnson, MD’s, explanation of this test on pages 97-114 of The Nautilus Book by Ellington Darden. It seems to be a test looking for a disease. Ted Lambrinides is a PhD in exercise physiology who disagrees with the emphasis on VO2max and aerobics notions. Richard Honey, a PhD in medical physiology, also agrees that VO2max just does not serve a purpose.

Recently, a cardiologist told me that VO2max was treated in the journals he studied as though it were, indeed, a reliable and appropriate tool for cardiac study. I contend that this undeserved and creeping notoriety is due to those renegades (Richard Honey's adjective) of physiology—the exercise physiologists.

Ted Lambrinides tells the story that several world class distance runners have shown no improvement in VO2max, although their competitive performances improved markedly over an identical span of several years. I am told that Michael Pollock and Kenneth Cooper once claimed that they could predict the outcome of marathons by testing and comparing the VO2max of the competitors—but they failed!

VO2max is now documented to be almost completely genetic and can vary only slightly due to training effect (exactly what Keith Johnson asserted). A Klissouras, V. was the first name on “Heredibility of Adaptive Variation” in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Vol.31, No. 3 pp. 338-344, 1971) as well as “Genetic Limits of Functional Adaptability” in Int. Z Angew Physiology (Vol. 30, pp. 85-94, 1972). In these papers, and over 20 years ago, Klissouras documented that VO2max is 93.4% genetically determined in males and 95.9% genetically determined in males and females together. The fact that we can expect only a 4-6% improvement due to environmental control strongly suggests that VO2max, if a reliable test, is not an appropriate test to study human health.

It seems that the old saw applies: If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. Without the oxygen uptake test, the exercise physiologists would have virtually no tools to work with, no studies to perform, and no job. They might then be forced to consider more seriously the importance of the muscles.

I have often noticed that many exercise physiologists, when confronted with a criticism that a measuring tool does not work, reply that this particular tool is used because it is the only tool they have. I hear this often regarding the Cybex muscle testing equipment. Is not this cheating? Do you steal money, because you do not have any? Do you copy another student's report, because you did not do yours? Should researchers publish data they know is worthless, because they do not have anything else to publish? This seems to go in hand with the fact that the greatest proportion of fraudulent or poorly conducted research performed in the last 10-15 years has been performed in the biomedical fields. I am sure that the exercise physiologists have done more than any other group to bias that proportion in the wrong direction. They simply do not have the science to support what they publish.

Statistical Standards Regarding research studies with good statistical controls, most exercise physiology research is performed with too few subjects, over too short a time to be statistically valid. For more on this subject, please read the January 1993 issue of The Exercise Standard.

Also elaborated in the January 1993 issue of The Exercise Standard is the historical basis of exercise physiology. Briefly: exercise physiology arose 50-60 years ago from joggers who did not possess the bodies to play football. The quintessential water boy was slightly more academically bent than his more brutish teammates, and he hung around the university setting to eventually establish a niche where he could make a living and pursue his interest in running. This water boy formed a subdepartment within the physical education department, perverted a tool originally designed to measure VO2min to determine basal metabolism in comatose patients, and performed reams of worthless research to erect a specialty he called exercise physiology. In my opinion, he should have named it the running club. Today’s exercise physiologist is not a proper physiologist that came down through the classical science track. He is of jock mentality, culturing, values, and often a nondiscriminator. He is an exercise physiologist because he could not succeed with the hard-science curriculum. Most of the medical and paramedical professionals that encounter him are not aware of these deficiencies.

Back to Basic Biology

Another major biological discrepancy is the argument of functional ability. I have already touched on this subject, but let us elaborate somewhat. The heart and lungs are vitally important. However, as Arthur Jones has taught us, these organs are merely subservient to the muscles. (Please read Chapter #10 on Functional Ability in The SuperSlow Technical Manual.) They exist to deliver nutrients to and waste away from working muscles.

The heart and lungs perform a vital function without which we would die. They do not, however, perform any direct work of moving the body—movement without which we are little more than vegetables. To those who plead, “Well, is not the heart a muscle, too? Does not it need exercise, too?” I say, “Yes, and have you ever seen a human heart taken out of the body. It does not have any arms, hands or feet. It does not seem to be able to go anywhere or do anything. It just vibrates.” To work the heart better, you must find a way to better work the skeletal muscles. Whether your goal is stronger muscles, stronger bones, improved vascularity, or heightened metabolic efficiency—all are addressed when you find the best method to strengthen the muscles. All the rest will follow in a more or less proportional order. Biologically, this is only logical.

Should we not recognize that we possess information in classical biology that is far more meaningful from which to extropolate conclusions than the inconsistent conclusions generated with invalid measuring tools, poor statistical controls, and a total lack of working definitions by the exercise physiologists?

Have you ever wondered why we place so much emphasis on the heart? There are several other organs that are necessary for life: liver, kidneys, pancreas. Why have we not developed a romantic fervor for these? Of course, failure of the heart is responsible for more death than failure of any other organ. Heart failure alone accounts for more than 50% of all mortality.

The greatest volume of metabolism occurs in skeletal muscle. Metabolic activity occurs in all tissues to varying degrees, though greatly facilitated by the liver. It is also noteworthy that heat production is the true measure of relative metabolic activity, and that the skeletal musculature produces the most heat. It would be disadvantageous for the liver to produce excessive heat as this would cause a great heat dissipation problem.

By the way, the most purely aerobic metabolic activity occurs when sleeping. This indicates that although metabolism increases with greater effort, the proportion of aerobic metabolism actually decreases.

While we are caught up in the worship of metabolism, I wish to reiterate what I have stated on many occasions. Note that the phrase, exercise physiology, as well as the titles of many exercise physiology textbooks, are tantamount to begging a question. These phrases imply that physiology is the basis of exercise. Every competent physiologist knows that this is false. Certainly, we are interested in physiology—that is, to improve it by finding its mechanisms. But physiology is what comes out the end of the equation or process. It is not the basis. The basis of exercise is mechanical physics. Mechanical physics is what we must learn to manipulate to meaningfully and safely load working muscles. The exercise physiologists, therefore, have the proverbial cart before the horse. And this confusion of premise with conclusion is their fundamental deficiency.

Reciprocal Approaches

Through aerobics activity, a majority of the body is active simultaneously and steady-state, although the percentage of muscle active in any one area is low.

Through proper strength training performed in a way that little or no rest is permitted between successive exercises, the percentage of active muscle mass is much greater, although involving somewhat isolated parts of the body as opposed to all of it simultaneously.

So proper strength training, i.e., SuperSlow, is the reciprocal effect of aerobics. In this way, the extreme metabolic loading that Arthur Jones demonstrated in the 1975 West Point Project is possible. With such an approach, elevated heart rate, output, and cardiac demands are maximized and sustained to a greater extent than what Cooper ever experienced with his programs. According to a videotaped presentation by Arthur Jones (circa 1984), Cooper’s own people took the data back to Kenneth Cooper, and Cooper refused to look at it.

Once it was demonstrated that strength training could produce exercise effects that exceeded those of steady-state activities, the question still remained as to the practicality and necessity of such extremes as were imposed at West Point. The heart rates were maintained at 205-225 beats/minute during the first several 30-40- minute workouts. Of course, this was research, research demonstrating the possible. A more moderate-intensity program might be developed for the general public that produced almost-as-good results.

At West Point, Arthur trained subjects who incurred dramatic shock and temporary debility from 40 minutes of high-intensity training. Within less than six weeks, these subjects were able to perform 60% more work in 25% less time—more than double the apparent metabolic load—without experiencing shock. Although most of the test data was poorly standardized and not worthy of publishing—(most exercise physiologists would have published it anyway). Arthur merely states that the Nautilus group decreased their time in the 2-mile run by 88 seconds, while the control group decreased only 20 seconds. Regardless of Arthur's poor attention to detail in training protocol and form, and regardless that this was before the advent SuperSlow Protocol, what Arthur could not truly document at West Point still remains as a glaring exception to the contentions of aerobics-based exercise physiologists and their blind acceptance of questionable measuring tools.

Irving Dardik

Irving Dardik, MD, former vascular surgeon, contends that, “The basic concept of aerobics conditioning is wrong.” He also contends that the best way to train the vascular system is to build flexibility into its response by using short bouts of elevation followed by sudden recovery, then demanding activity again.

Dardik visited Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries in the early 1970s. This was before my formal association with Nautilus. He concluded that the methods we used then, and still use today with Super Slow Protocol, were the ideal way to condition the vascular system. Dardik also strongly suggested that it should be instrumental in sensitizing insulin receptor sites for diabetics. The interest in the diabetes issue has since waned. I consider this misfortunate.

[All of this is notwithstanding the supposed ethical improprieties that Dardik was more recently accused of.]

More Definitional Confusion

Another definitional problem I have with Cooper's aerobics is his notion of exercise intensity. In aerobics jargon, intensity is assessed as a percentage of maximum heart rate. In Nautilus/Arthur Jones/SuperSlow usage, intensity is indicated by the degree of momentary effort—independent of maximum heart rate. In other words, heart rate may not always react in parallel to intensity by the latter usage. It is important that you know what I mean when I use the word, “intensity”—and that it means something else when used in a quote from Cooper, Hurley, Sheehan, Fixx, or Dill.

Early Contests between Aerobics and Nautilus

Cooper's aerobics idea has been criticized by mainstream medicine since its inception. During the early 1970s, however, it gained a foothold in exercise physiology and cardiovascular rehabilitation. With the Nautilus West Point Project in 1975, the aerobics mentality began to encounter severe opposition—primarily due to the growing popularity of Nautilus commercial facilities that employed Nautilus followers who asserted principles opposite to aerobics. To counter this, exercise physiologists produced studies showing the Nautilus circuit to be useless for cardiovascular improvements.

With only casual introspection, a good researcher should question the inconsistency that an intense Nautilus circuit, assumably the most brutal form of manual labor ever devised, could stimulate the body to produce such large increases in strength, flexibility, and performance endurance and apparently do nothing positive for the vascular system. Perhaps the testing tools did not work. Perhaps they did not measure what was appropriate to measure. But to be sure, many exercise physiologist forgot or never knew the adage: Absence of Evidence is No Evidence of Absence.

The first of the most prominent Nautilus detractors was Ben Hurley, who published a study in 1984. Hurley's work demonstrated that;

. . . Maximal oxygen uptake did not change significantly . . . there were no changes in the hemodynamic response . . . These findings indicate, therefore, that high-intensity [Nautilus definition], variable resistance strength training produces no adaptive improvement in cardiovascular function.

Then came the 1985 Wake Forest Study by Stephen Messier and Mary Dill. It showed the opposite conclusions of Hurley:

It was concluded that for a training period of short duration, Nautilus circuit weight training appears to be an equally effective alternative to standard free weight (strength) and aerobic (endurance) training program for untrained individuals.

We at Nautilus were disappointed with both of these studies. Neither involved adequate subject numbers to be statistically significant. The researchers did not question the reliability of VO2max testing. Furthermore, the Wake Forest team used a Cybex® II, certainly known to be an invalid tool, to assess changes in strength.

Desertion from the Aerobics Ranks

Covert Bailey's Fit or Fat television program has been viewed by millions of his loyal fans. I and other Guild members have long recognized that Bailey is misguided on the issue of exercise. His routine arguments have, at least, focused on the importance of muscle, but his understanding of how to obtain muscle is primitive. He asserts aerobics notions, not an emphasis on strength training. I am told that, most recently, he is saying progressively less regarding aerobics philosophy. I now wonder if he will follow suit with Cooper or claim a revolutionary insight into the arguments promoting strength training that we have evolved, developed, and espoused for many years.

Others, even some avid runners within Cooper's movement, have voiced concern that the aerobics mentality was possibly misdirected. Almost 15 years ago, the late George Sheehan, MD, Cardiologist, made a statement during a panel discussion to the effect that:

We are going to have to admit that we run because we enjoy it and are addicted to it—not because we are cardiologists.

Sheehan wrote the column, Running Wild, in The Physician and Sports medicine. He was certainly a freethinker when it came to his running. Following are some insightful quotes from Dr. Sheehan on Fitness:

You might suspect from the emphasis on cardiopulmonary fitness today that training involves mostly the heart and lungs. Guess again. No matter what you have been told, running primarily trains and conditions the muscles; the other organs merely assist in realizing this functional potential. Almost all the improvement in performance occurs because of circulatory changes in the muscles and changes in the muscle cells, the engines that transform chemical energy into mechanical energy.

At those times in the past when I viewed the body as a machine rather than a function of the unified self, I pictured the heart as the engine. The heart is all noise and movement, with an independent existence. It idles even when I am at rest, and when I exert myself it dominates my senses. I can feel and hear it; I can even see it on the EKG monitor during my stress test.

But the heart, for all its evident activity, is not my engine. The muscle is. . . .

I can see why I thought it was the heart that did all those things. The term aerobic exercise, for one thing. It is scientifically correct; the muscle performs best with an adequate supply of oxygen. But the word, aerobic made me think of heart and lungs. It emphasizes the organs that supply the oxygen, not the muscle that uses it.

So, too, with the stated goal of cardiopulmonary fitness. It is evident now that the primary aim of an exercise program is muscular fitness. One becomes an athlete because of the athletic things that are happening in the muscle.

Another major distraction has been the use of maximal oxygen uptake as the best measure of fitness Not only does the name suggest that the heart and lungs are the organs at issue, but the test result actually changes very little with major improvements in fitness. Maximal oxygen uptake operates within limits preset by heredity. We can ordinarily improve it by only about 20 percent.

What is most disturbing is that although Sheehan's Running Wild articles are slated to be reprinted in an upcoming issue of Runner's World Magazine, I expect his insights to fall on deaf ears. Why has aerobics carried on as if Sheehan never raised such doubts? This is yet another mystery that I believe we will unravel in the section on mass movements.

I prefer Ellington Darden’s inner beauty hypothesis mentioned in the previous article. Remar Sutton corroborates this somewhat in his book, Body Worry (1987). Therein, Sutton writes:

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, for instance, doesn’t really care about any of my muscles except for my heart. A quiet slender man with a Texas-dry sense of humor and a great sense of mission when it comes to God, aerobics, and preventive medicine.

On page 19 of The Complete Book of Running (1977), author Jim Fix writes:

In rereading William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience not long ago, I was struck by how similar runner’s language was to that of many of the mystics whose mind James explores. And is it pure accident that as mentioned earlier, more races are held on Sunday mornings than at any other time? Probably so. Yet it is not difficult to find explicit references to the religious qualities of running. A thirty-year-old runner in Arizona, Coreen Nasenbeny, told me of having become a “true convert” to running in 1976. Then she added: “And I don’t think I’m far off in equating my experience with a conversion.”

It might not count for much to admit that, in terms of a legitimate science, aerobics is dead. Yet it lives and will carry on with the passion inspired by the delusions of hope with which we humans are so gifted.

Kenneth Cooper’s Latest Exploits

Recently, Kenneth Cooper has, tantamountedly, recanted. Of course, he has disguised this fact with his artful diplomacy. In an interview in the November 1994 issue of CBI (Club Business International), he now admits that high-intensity exercise (running more than 30 miles or engaging in more than five hours of sustained exercise activity per week) is detrimental. He claims that it produces an excess of free radicals and higher rate of cancer and other diseases. He states that aerobic fitness and health may not go hand in hand:

If your goal is aerobic fitness, then you should exercise at 65-80% of your predicted maximal heart rate. If, on the other hand, your goal is only to maximize health and longevity benefits, you should exercise below that level—something I never thought I'd say.

Cooper then turns this negative into a diplomatic positive by solving the problem he created for us with his new foray into fringe medicine—the antioxidant movement. Antioxidants are claimed by some to be the new panacea against free radicals. As I understand the situation, most nutrition science authorities find the research into antioxidants interesting and potentially promising, but are not ready to confer on antioxidants the importance that they are a major missing element of health in our food supply. Cooper may emerge as correct on this last subject. This will be a first for him.

From this point, he goes on to publicize his 30-minute nationally televised “wellness assessment” program due to air early next year. He continues to then ostensibly argue the inner beauty issue, stating, “Today's health and fitness facilities can't afford to stick to the same old physique-oriented philosophy.”

Cooper’s new book, The Antioxidant Revolution is a travesty of science. I have not read it, but with only a cursory scanning, I have found myriads of incorrect statements and inconsistencies.

On page 96, he cautions against overtraining and then, on page 100, recommends: “Do flexibility and strength exercises at least two to three times a week, preferably on your off days, when you aren’t doing your endurance work.”

On page 100, he recommends freely varying the routine, while simultaneously underscoring systematic procession. This page is a morass of confusion from more perspectives than I believe worth detailing. What is important here is the observation that the confusion is not just the reader’s. Cooper is confused and is unable to systematically design an exercise program.

On page 99, he emphasizes the requirement for strength training as protection against osteoporosis and to maintain basic functionality. Then on page 203, he says that it is possible to achieve all the benefits of exercise from running, walking, or dance aerobics.

On pages 111-116, Cooper shows diagrams of 16 strength exercises. Three of these—leg curl, leg extension, pull-downs—actually illustrate improper form. One—lunges—should not be shown to anyone. Of course, Cooper is a Johnny-come-lately to strength training, and has always appeared to be disinterested. It is not surprising, then, that he really does not know much about the subject.

And by the standards of SuperSlow Protocol, Cooper—since the essence of exercise is strength training and he is not educated on proper strength training—is, therefore, not an expert on exercise. Perhaps, he is an expert on running, but not on exercise!

A Serious Medical Problem

Cooper's aerobics movement has been good and bad, depending on your perspective. It has caused a tremendous quantity and degree of morbidity—morbidity which will inevitably result in less-active life styles and accelerated vascular decay. From a vascular standpoint, many injured runners will be worse off for their running than if they had never heard of the aerobics notions. This is my opinion based on my understanding of the vascular problems encountered by paraplegics and other prematurely debilitated patients.

In the U.S, we sustain approximately 20 million injuries each year due to exercise, recreation, and fitness activities. This number represents more casualties—if you will—each year than the U.S. has sustained in all wars to date. This injury count represents only those bad enough to seek medical consultation. These so consulted are the source of the statistical gathering, and do not account for the many additional injuries that go unreported. We do not, for instance, have a means to account for a jogger who sprains his ankle and limps around for several weeks, but chooses not to go to his doctor. Much of this morbidity, perhaps most of it, is sustained, in whole or in part, because the injured was pursuing enhanced health because of the aerobics ideal.

In James Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running (1977), page 75:

. . . At a recent gathering of marathon runners one observer looked around the room and said in disbelief, ”some of you people look like chickens that are only fit to make soup out of.” He was right . . . Dr. Alan Clark, the same physician cited in Chapter 2 . . . told me that after six months on a running program, “friends would approach my wife in private and speak with a concerned air about my gaunt appearance and ask how long I had been ill. Her explanation—that I was a long -distance runner—would leave them scratching their heads.

This behavior is healthy? It is not the archetype that the general public should emulate. However, William Glasser, MD, believes that we should introduce everyone to jogging. In his 1976 book, Positive Addiction, Glasser insists that jogging is the best positive addiction. Accordingly, he states its mental health benefits: “If it were up to me to suggest a positive addiction for anyone no matter what his present state of strength, from the weakest addict to the strongest among us, I would suggest running.”

Glasser's colleagues are now beginning to have second thoughts. According to a November 26, 1990 newspaper article by Robert Brody, psychologist William Morgan found that addicted runners keep on hitting the road, even at the risk of compromising physical health, family relationships, and jobs. Compulsive exercisers tolerate no interruption of exercise regimen and cannot make time for family and friends. Conversation is dominated by exercise. Family and friends get fed up with the topic. Compulsive exercisers suffer a decline in competence at work, lose interest in sex and hobbies, turn to bizarre diets, and ignore medical advice to discontinue because of injuries.

While it appears to be true that by jogging, anxiety and stress may be reduced and relieved, the compulsion to jog often expresses a horrible reciprocal relationship if exercise is then missed. Is this a positive addiction as Glasser asserts, or is it just another expression of general compulsive behavior that is ultimately destructive to one's entire health picture?

There is a fine line BETWEEN the discipline required to become competent and confident with an endeavor AND going overboard with compulsiveness. I am an example of that. To become a good trumpet player, I said “no” to everything else in my life for three years. I avoided any and all distractions.

To be successful at Calculus, at piano playing, at computer programming, at becoming a doctor, at anything, requires tremendous focus. It requires a degree of obsession. And once success is obtained, it is all too easy to permit obsession to be carried to uncontrolled degrees.

It seems that once a hard-sought discipline is indeed attained, then it is difficult to moderate. Likewise, there is a fine line between someone who acquires the self-control to count their calories and one who becomes fanatical to the point of anorexia. Such compulsive behavior—even healthy degrees of discipline—are often carried to the point of disturbing others. My family and friends were weary of my incessant practice and talk of music. They were then quite proud of my performances and came to overlook my obsessiveness. If you observe other people with unusual talents, you see similar trends.

Admittedly, such trends in us are often destructive. Action makes us feel good about ourselves, even if such action is counterproductive to our objectives. Last year, I observed a woman training at Lincoln Fitness Center. She was known to train very intensely. On morning last January, she entered the gym and turned off all the fans before she began her workout. I strongly objected for her benefit, as well as for the benefit of others training in the room. In response, she became intractable, arguing that she was cold. I then suggested that she was ill and that she should not be exercising, producing excessive heat that her already compromised system was trying to rid itself. She scoffed at my remarks and continued her workout. Thereafter, I did not see Gail again for over two weeks. She had been extremely ill. She coughed for another three weeks.

More on Stress and Relaxation

I once heard Ellington Darden combat a stock notion that I had deemed inarguable. A sales representative for a whirlpool company was making a call at Nautilus Sports/Medical. The rep was to be interviewed by Ellington as I listened on. Ell presented our attitude toward public whirlpools as a breeding pot for bacteria. The salesman then argued that whirlpools and like products were otherwise in the public interest, because Americans were so stressed and under tension. What they generally needed most was to learn to relax, and he asserted that the whirlpool was the ideal method to attain this relaxation.

Hearing this argument, I could not begin to object. I did not believe that Ellington could either, his sanitation argument notwithstanding. Then Ellington surprised me with a direct confrontation to the representative's argument:

But you are incorrect. Americans do not need to learn to relax. They need to learn to contract. And after they contract, they will relax!

David Landau approached a similar problem from another angle. He spotted a client on a computerized stair climber and asked her why she was so engaged. She stated that she was doing this to burn calories in an effort to reduce fat. After David explained to her the principles of fat loss, she stopped and expressed gratefulness that such torture was no longer necessary.

A few days later, David again found her on the stairclimber, and he asked her why. She then stated that she did it to work her heart. After David then explained the principles of functional ability and the poor substantiation of aerobics philosophy, she thanked him and quit again.

Several days later, she was back on the stair climber. David asked why so this time, and she responded that she did it to relieve stress. He told that she now might have a good reason to perform the stairs, but also asked if she enjoyed it. At first, she answered affirmatively, but then he asked her to compare its enjoyment to other activity: reading a book, shooting pool with her boyfriend, throwing darts at the pub, touring the art museum, or playing the arcades with a much more sophisticated graphics display than what any stairclimber can offer. She then admitted, “This is silly. I am not wasting another minute on this thing.”

Something Positive

Contrary to my general disgust with the aerobics philosophy, it, indeed, does have a real, yet more disgusting, benefit: your viral immunity. I suppose that one of the best ways to keep your immune system current is to breathe and spray saliva and sling sweat all over your friends as you dance in an aerobics class—real brotherhood in a day dominated by the fear (perhaps unjustified) of AIDS.

This reminds me of my father's story about the gorilla in the Houston Zoo during the 1940s. The gorilla was one of the few then to be found in a public zoo and was a popular site, except for the fact that it spit on all visitors with uncanny accuracy. The animal died about 1948 and was autopsied to discover the cause of death to be tuberculosis. Saliva is a proven carrier of disease.


I suppose that I have not stated anything herein as proof of my contentions. I can only corroborate my accusations, my complaints, and my suspicions. They are only my beliefs and opinions; however, I must caution you that the aerobics concepts are also only the beliefs and opinions of other persons, persons who have been permitted to ignore formally acknowledged scientific method and who have been permitted to gain prominence as though legitimate scientists.

“I will not, but you may live long enough that when you purchase a pair of jogging shoes you see a government-mandated warning on the shoebox that reads, ‘Running may be hazardous to your health.’"—Arthur Jones

It is neither the intention of the Super Slow Exercise Guild nor any of the writers for The Exercise Standard to condemn an activity performed purposefully for its recreational value. For example, we do not condemn running as a pasttime, unless it is also promoted to others as good exercise and beneficial for health. Running is not healthy. But neither are many things we enjoy doing.—K.H.

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