We all know that staying fit and healthy at any age requires self-discipline. Pushing back from the table, getting up from the couch, and moving forward with meaningful exercise are keys to success.
Exercise, to be effective, needs to be more than an occasional amble to the mailbox or even around the block.
I used to run, which I never enjoyed much, but it was a relatively quick way to work up a sweat and get a decent workout.
It was almost a relief when my left hip wore out and I had it replaced back in 2006: the orthopedist told me to lay off anything that puts a high impact on the hip joints, which rules out even a slow jog.
I could still do it, but at the risk of needing revision surgery, which I’d rather avoid. Running was relegated to my dreams, where it generally feels pretty good.
The right hip gave out and was replaced in 2015, but that didn’t slow me down much. Susan and I enjoy hiking, especially in the mountains, and regularly hit nearby trails or take brisk four-mile walks through a couple of subdivisions – but we don’t always have that much time.
My favorite go-to, then, is an elliptical walker that the Biblical Recorder staff and directors gave me as a parting gift when I “retired” in 2007. With occasional repairs, it’s still going strong.
By cranking the resistance as high as it will go and keeping a pace around four miles per hour, I can get a sweaty full-body workout and burn more than 500 calories and still leave time for a shower within an hour.
The problem with exercising on an elliptical walker, though, is that it’s incredibly boring by itself, so I have a small TV to keep me entertained while exercising.
Lately, I’ve been watching a series called “Earth at Night: In Color.” It uses high-tech cameras that can turn moonlight into virtual daylight, and it follows the lives of animals that are primarily nocturnal. A recurring subplot focuses on the night-time dance of predators and prey.
The first episode of season two, filmed in Zimbabwe, tracks a family group of elephants on a long migration to find water. Led by the oldest and wisest female, the group sticks together for both protection and guidance, as the younger elephants commit to memory the tracks and trails that lead to water.
The elephants aren’t alone, of course. There are packs of lions out there, for whom a baby elephant could provide meals for days. When the lions attack an infant, whose mother had become separated from the group while nursing, it seems all is lost: the mother elephant can’t protect the baby from every side.
Like the cavalry, though, the rest of the group hears her frightened trumpeting, turns around, and rumbles back onto the scene, scattering the lions.
Elephant families look after one another.
The second episode follows a young puma in the mountains of Patagonia, where she learns to hunt herds of wild guanacos, the ancestors of llamas. The technique involves pushing the herd uphill in the darkness, singling out a young one, and giving chase.
When the attack comes, the rest of the herd scatters. Strength in numbers means nothing to guanacos, whose survival depends on individual speed and elusiveness. It’s every guanaco for itself.
A third episode focuses on a mob (that’s the term for a family group) of kangaroos in southeastern Australia. The kangaroos are often threatened by wild dogs known as dingoes, who hunt in packs and try to single out smaller or weaker victims.
In one encounter, when the dingoes are detected, most of the family scatters (at up to 37 miles per hour), but an old male, at more than 200 pounds, stands his ground, fending off the dingoes until the rest can escape and the danger is past.
The films are both entertaining and educational, but also thought-provoking. The elephants and lead kangaroo call to mind the human animals who look after each other and do what is best for the community, even at the cost of inconvenience or risk.
And there are other humans who think only of themselves. Rather than caring for the people around them, they willingly put others at risk through reckless driving, careless drinking, refusing vaccinations, or any number of other behaviors in which self-gratification trumps community care.
It’s a shame when elephants and kangaroos understand “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” but so many humans don’t.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.