I just read a shocking statistic provided by the University of California, Los Angeles, in an article about rural elders having high risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
"One in five rural elders do not participate in either moderate or vigorous physical activity in their leisure time."
Gasp! No vigorous physical activity in leisure time. I was shocked.
So I called my friend Hortensia Supergranny, who spent a lifetime working in a factory and now, at 94, is retired and spends a lot of time baking cakes and pies for local fund-raising events. When she's not baking, she's knitting winter clothing for low-income children or helping neighbors who can't do chores themselves. Every afternoon at 4, she sits down for a cup of tea.
"Hortensia," I asked, "How many minutes of vigorous physical activity did you get yesterday? For instance, did you go to Senior Lacrosse or play Touch Football or anything? The University of California seems to think that's how you should spend your leisure time if you want to be healthy."
"Well, gosh," she answered. "I'd hate to be unhealthy. But after I fisished the Times crossword early yesterday morning, I baked 10 pies and 3 cakes and then motored over to Fritzie's house, cooked dinner for him and did a few loads of laundry. I don't know when I'd have time for the lacrosse."
"Well, you could cut out the cup of tea," I suggested. "The University of California thinks we need to use our leisure time wisely, with lots of vigorous physical activity."
"Vigorous physical activity in our leisure time?" Hortensia responded. "Have you looked up the term leisure lately?"
"Well, no," I had to admit. "I always thought it had something to do with vigorous physical activity. But I suppose with your experience with crosswords, you probably consult the dictionary more often than I do."
"I did have to look up a new word in 1976," she admitted. "Not since then. But sorry, I've got to go. The cakes are coming out of the oven and I'm in charge at the school fund-raiser in a few minutes. Gotta go."
She hung up, and I found a dictionary and looked up the work leisure. According to Webster, it means "freedom provided by the cessation of activities." I guess the University of California doesn't know that. Maybe they don't have time to consult dictionaries because they're spending so much time in vigorous physical activity. Or maybe they sold all their dictionaries at yard sales when the state had so many budget problems.
Maybe we should change the name of when we're not employed from leisure time to forced labor. Or we could have Leisure Police going around making sure rural elders were getting enough vigorous physical activity when they weren't working.
In the meantime, now that we know how important it is, everyone should urge Granny to get out on the football field every day instead of lounging around drinking tea!