Why Give a Damn:

Sitting will kill you. Americans love pills. Marrying physical activity with the ease of swallowing a pill is genius. Why would you not give a Damn?


The author of this post, Ann Garvin is an author, speaker and professor of health, stress management, research methods and media literacy.

Exercise is the pill, it just takes thirty minutes to swallow it

For years I’ve wished I was the author of that quote but it belongs to Covert Baily author of the Fit OR Fat diet books from the nineties. Decades later, I remain in love with that quote. It has the makings of the perfect tattoo, tweet or Facebook post. It is succinct, informative, and has a certain inarguable quality to it. When I read it I want to do a teen-age fist pump, shout Booyah!, possibly make a gang sign.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fantastic utility of this quote. Americans love pills, pills being the easiest and most efficient management of our ills. Marrying physical activity with the ease of swallowing a pill is genius. The quote is unspecific about what you might need in a pill, so it is both non-judgmental and discreet. It also speaks to our denial by offering only one pill not the socially unacceptable multiple pills for our several needs. And, finally, it offers time management. Thirty minutes. Who doesn’t have thirty minutes?

Americans love pills

As it turns out, eighty-five percent of the population doesn’t have thirty minutes to bust-a-move. The stats are a little better for the college educated because there is a relationship between exercise behavior and education (for various reasons), but those of us with college degrees should not congratulate ourselves too much. Because while twenty percent of college grads regularly exercise that is the exact same percentage of people who smoke cigarettes in the US.

Twenty percent of the population will pay to pursue illness while twenty-percent of people will engage in a free activity that prevents illness.

20% of the population will pay to pursue illness

When asked why, people say, time is the issue. Lack of time is what people give as the primary explanation for not moving. In response to this reasoning I knew a very thin, very fit professor who was famous for saying, and infuriatingly so I thought, “I know busy people who exercise and busy people who don’t.”

I’d just had a baby, was working as a nurse on weekends, and was enrolled in full time graduate school while working as a teaching assistant. I was stressed, forgetful, anxious, and struggling to make time to do much of anything let alone break an exercise sweat. While fuming about the unfairness of the human body to require so much maintenance especially as I was devoting my life to procreation, health, and education, I watched my neighbor prove my professor’s theory true.

I know busy people who exercise and busy people who don’t

My neighbor, a working mother, had just had her second child, even while struggling with anxiety, depression, high-blood pressure and weight gain from her first. Believing that exercise was the “pill” to each of her conditions I watched the husband pave their driveway with smooth, unblemished concrete. Then, everyday at her child’s naptime she strapped a small baby monitor transistor to her shoulder and rollerbladed up and down her driveway, hard, for thirty minutes. Every day. Even in the rain.

Seriously, entrepreneurs, world savers, big thinkers, dream makers, I’m talking to you. I know busy people who exercise and busy people who don’t. C’mon, exercise is the pill it just takes thirty minutes to swallow it.

About the author

Ann Garvin

Ann Garvin

Ann is an author, speaker and educator. As professor of health, stress management, research methods and media literacy at University of Wisconsin Whitewater, she has worked extensively in psychometrics, statistics and psychology. Ann is the author of On Maggie’s Watch & The Dog Year (Berkley Penguin, 2014).