Charles Nevin: The remote control is the route to fitness

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The Independent Online

Sometimes, as we know, bad news can come without any warning, without so much as the famous cloud no bigger than a man's hand in those clear blue skies we once used so to enjoy. Other revelations fall into the categories of expected, suspected, mislaid in the memory or banished from it for inconvenience or unpleasantness. And here one thinks of recent events demonstrating that shares can go down as well as up.

There are, sadly, too, many other examples. The frailty of your team's back four. The bank statement. The parking ticket. The exam results. The non-existence of the last biscuit, an ironed shirt, a charged mobile telephone, enough time, research, clean socks or an excuse that is convincing but doesn't involve food poisoning or bereavement. What you promised. The disappointment when something that seemed too good to be true isn't.

A preponderance of cases of that last, I notice, seems to apply to the area of personal appetite and maintenance, mostly to do with the supposedly benevolent or harmless effect of certain indulgences, mostly featuring the presence of sugared or fermented substances.

And then there's exercise. Were you, for instance, happily following the Government recommendations that 30 minutes a day of gentle exercise - the flick of a feather duster on tip toes, say, or the brisk walk to the fridge and back - is enough to improve your health?

You were? Then cease the regular jaw flexing and receptacle lifting for a moment, and digest the suggested upgrading in a new report - jogging and twice-weekly weight training sessions.

But not to despair. Chin up. And repeat vigorously, 250 times, to the theme from Rocky. Only joking. There are other ways of exercise far superior to the jog or the juggle with weights in the gym. And cooler. The problem with jogging is that you can't do it ironically. And those gyms. If only they had one without the mirrors and the fit people.

Exercise that is just an exercise is so unimaginative. Games, while more exciting, also present the possibility of losing. But even the most cursory look around the world provides plenty of post-modern inspiration for win-win physical stimulation.

In the Serbian town of Kragujevac, Mr Tomislav Radovanovic, for one, has spent the last five years building a new house using 13,500 plastic bottles; not only an excellent workout, but a green solution to the housing shortage as well. Equally admirable but less tiring (in a way) has been the 1,500-mile journey down the Yangtze on an inner tube undertaken by Mr Cheng Yanhua to promote the Olympic spirit.

Here in Britain, there's Mr Jeff Dornan, 70, left, from Ormskirk, the "Rollerblading Grandad" currently storming cyberspace. An opportunity, at the very least, for meals on wheels in reverse, I should have said; it would also have a dramatic effect on line dancing and the post office queue.

Because the least painful solution to exercise, I suggest, is to employ and adapt many of our usual activities. At the double, on your head, across the tarmac, could help with all this lost baggage. And what about a "no frills" airline with no seats?

Staying at home? Throw away your television remote, stand on the other side of the room and wait for another celebrity embarked on a journey to appear. Or leave your car unlocked. Follow the market? Let your press-ups shadow the FTSE 100. Radio listener? A star jump every time Radio 4 plays the same trailer. See? And this just in: an overweight condition for one in six of us is genetic, so exercise is useless, Louisiana State University study finds. Cheers.

Stoning the crows is not on

Despite depressing examples elsewhere, some manners are improving. In the past week there have been apologies to Fijian missionaries for eating them and to the Irish for behaviour falling just short from the descendants of Pacific headhunters and Vikings, and another from the BBC to a Vulcan. I offer my support by apologising to Pete, my milkman, for failing to settle up before he went on holiday. Perhaps we could now turn to unjustified slurs on other species. I have mentioned the Neanderthals, who, besides being far brighter than previously advertised, disappeared in suspicious circumstances. You also saw that the much maligned crow is proving to be worryingly clever, using all manner of tools; I leave you with news that a Mr Barnes of Norfolk is touring Britain with a troupe of performing sheep.

* The director of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, I note, has a 20 per cent "gut feeling" that we're living in a computer simulation. The theory, if I follow, is that future humans have invented virtual ancestors, us. It's a concept that reconciles religion, science and pointlessness; and it certainly helps to explain the repetition, plus a lot of other stuff, if you visualise a teenager with a mouse. All the same, you do have to admire the programmer, as some of the more outre sequences, away from the humdrum and horror, are certainly far beyond our puny imaginings.

Large phenomena, like the Elvis and Diana things, for example. But smaller, equally remarkable things are happening all the time, too: one thinks of Mr John Stolarczyk, 56, putting the 200 exhibits in his internet carrot museum on display in a garden near Harrogate.

The most currently bogglingly delightful, though, is Shane Warne seeking to come off Hampshire's overseas (and non-EU) players register by applying for German nationality through his mother. Game on!

c.nevin@independent.co.uk

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