Because you follow the guidelines of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, you spend a minimum of five to ten minutes a day warming up, ten to twelve minutes in slow stretching, and five to ten minutes cooling down-in addition to your two twenty-minute sessions each week lifting weights to improve muscular strength, three thirty-minute sessions of weight training for muscular endurance, and at least three twenty-minute bouts of aerobic activities-choose among brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing, cross-country skiing, or games like racquetball and handball. That comes to at least forty-five minutes a day, spent merely to recreate the physical activity that, at least according to myth, came naturally in a healthier, primitive world. Here, too, you can save time, with the help of technology. Specialized machines promise to deliver concentrated workouts in just minutes. Brisk walking is, in itself, too slow. There is something out-of-kilter, anyway, about exercise as an organized use of time. As you head off for the eternal horizon on your treadmill, you must be aware that this march is almost by definition a waste of time, made possible by the luxury of time, made necessary by the disappearance of backbreaking labor from the daily routine. If you aren't puzzled by this paradox, perhaps you have never had to fight the weird impulse to fast-forward through the boring parts of the Jane Fonda video.

  • The American Council on Exercise suggests some strategies and gadgets to battle boredom.