Brian Viner: Keep fit by laughing all the way to the bank

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In celebrity circles in California there is a hot new way of keeping fit. It is called recess training, recess being the American word for playtime. The concept is wonderfully simple. Children burn off a fantastic number of calories by running around, so by replicating their playground games adults, too, can get great exercise, using muscle groups otherwise under-employed.

In celebrity circles in California there is a hot new way of keeping fit. It is called recess training, recess being the American word for playtime. The concept is wonderfully simple. Children burn off a fantastic number of calories by running around, so by replicating their playground games adults, too, can get great exercise, using muscle groups otherwise under-employed.

Jennifer Lopez and Cindy Crawford are but two of the stars said to have fallen for – sorry, to favour – this idea, which, inevitably, has now crossed the Atlantic.

Here it has been renamed circuit circus, and involves souped-up games of stuck-in-the-mud, musical bumps, hopscotch and leapfrog. If they introduce catch-a-girl, kiss-a-girl, or better still kiss, command, dare, truth or promise (which my wife, who obviously went to an inferior primary school, insists on calling truth, dare, kiss or promise), then I might be persuaded to enrol.

The possibilities are truly exciting. Those who prefer a gentle workout could play conkers, marbles, or even have a session of Simon Says, while those who wish for something a little more active could play British Bulldog, or enjoy a game of "donkey" against the back of an ersatz bikeshed. And those in pursuit of genuine exhilaration as well as basic cardiovascular exercise could play hide-and-seek, or better still run up to a man pretending to be the school caretaker, call him "smelly bum" and then scarper.

All this would yield considerable psychological as well as physical benefits. For more than 30 years I have felt guilty about not showing Lynn Kershaw mine, even though she showed me hers. By replicating school playtime, ostensibly in the name of keeping fit, dozens of deep psychological scars might be erased. Recess training can help us to get emotionally as well as aerobically fit; moreover, it offers an innocent regression to childhood at a time when an adult view of the world is filled with horror and foreboding. As with those novelty restaurants where captains of industry go to eat spotted dick and custard served by busty women in school uniforms, the experience could be soothing or even cathartic.

The other possibility, of course, is that recess training is a load of old flapdoodle. Like dieticians, exercise gurus are under unremitting commercial pressure to come up with new ideas, and, in California, the battier the idea, the more chance it has of catching on.

If people have enough time to fill, it's amazing what they'll spend their money on. Once, in Beverly Hills, I met a woman who made a lucrative living specialising in pubic topiary. Her appointments book was packed. She did hearts for Valentine's Day, four-leaf clovers for St Patrick's Day and, in the case of a client who wanted to give her car-obsessed husband a birthday treat, a Mercedes Benz emblem. A good job he wasn't an Audi driver, I've often thought.

The more I hear about recess training, the more I wonder whether someone, somewhere might just be laughing uproariously all the way to the bank, pausing on the way to watch a group of sweaty adults enjoying an enthusiastic game of musical bumps. The brilliance of it, though, is that it has a veneer of logic. Children have more energy than grown-ups. They are more flexible. They sleep more soundly. They only eat when they're hungry. They have more fun. So instead of getting them to be more like us, why don't we become more like them? Heaven knows, a game of stuck-in-the-mud sounds more enjoyable than 30 minutes on a treadmill.

And Americans, of course, have the added incentive of a widely-admired president to emulate. Embracing the concept of recess training and losing themselves in games of tag, leapfrog and musical bumps is one more way of expressing solidarity with the Cowboys-and- Indians rhetoric coming out of the Oval Office.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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