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The Path Of Most Resistance

Posted September 27, 2005

Take the Path Of Most Resistance
This is the campaign tagline for a prominent West Coast HMO, exhorting people to get out there and exercise. The words conjure a mountaineer, or a triathlete. Instead, we see a pair of stockinged legs in high heels, walking up a flight of stairs.

Is it so difficult to convince people to exercise that we have to remind them to use the stairs? Psst. Buddy. Take the stairs. You won't even notice the dozens of calories you're burning. And you might actually have a chance to meet that torsoless lady from Human Resources who's always bounding up the stairwell.

The HMO is Kaiser Permanente, whose name does nothing to inspire me to lose weight. Kaiser suggests German food how about another helping of that potato salad? And Permanente, of course, is forever. You'll always be fat. The name combines high calorie food and fatalism in a way that can never promote health. They should rename themselves after Speedy Gonzalez.

The campaign may not work as well as Kaiser intends, as in many office buildings the stairs are impossible to find. We don't trust stair dwellers. You idiot, why did you just climb five flights of stairs and sweat through your new Armani shirt when the elevator is right there? In a hotel in Anchorage, I insisted on taking the stairs up to my room. The staircase was unmarked, or it might have said something as benign as "Danger" or "For Evacuation Only." Everytime I opened the door from the staircase into the lobby, the hotel staff looked at me as if I were a terrorist.

But if staircase jogging should take off, it may lead to an entire decathlon of office-related exertions. Aeron jousting. The modem toss. The post chorizo burrito fifty yard bathroom dash.

Until that day, what is needed to get Homo Sapien Slothus to exercise is a direct appeal to primal urges.

Get Off Your Fat Ass Before You Die
We need motivation to exercise, and chasing after the secretary with the nice gams who's sprinting up the stairs isn't motivation enough. Who is a better personal trainer than the cold creeping hand of Death? The billboard might depict a man clutching his chest. A little tingling in the arms. Did you feel that? Was it heartburn? Run for your life, pal.

As everyone knows, you can't spell exercise without sex. Perhaps this is the most direct route to physical fitness, and this slogan has a simple but elegant ring to it, a call to action like the patented Just Do It. Our self-appointed obscenity watchdogs may not approve, but we need to ask them if they're willing to let foul language get in the way of our good health.
Hunt Mastodon
A serious problem for Homo sapiens is that we've never quite adapted from our post hunter-gatherer and agrarian lifestyles, to where we are now, which is now best defined as the Gawker/Slacker period. Back in the day, when we were busy preventing Cro Magnon man from buying real estate in our neighborhood, we stayed fit. If you didn't hunt, you would die, and no matter how much Wooly Mammoth Big Mac you ate, eventually you had to hunt again. And if you think it's difficult to catch a King Salmon (average of thirty human hours to catch a single fish, spent idling away on boat drinking beer), just try to imagine being part of a team of spear-laden sprinters going after the Mastodon. No repetitive stress disorders there, or any need to burn off extra calories, but very little chance the entire hunting party would return home. The Mastodon has been in decline for several thousand years, and the only people who ever seem to encounter one are teams of Russian scientists looking for something else. If you can't find any local Mastodon packs to implement your new weightloss program, you might try elephants. And if there are no elephants in your area, you can always hunt Republicans.



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