It was once commented to me that one never saw a happy jogger. At face value, the comment was easy to accept. How many times had I passed runners whose expression seemed, at best, a grimace and, at worst, an expression of severe pain? Why would anyone endure such discomfort with enthusiasm?
One of the few benefits of the Covid-19 lockdown has been that those working from home have had more time for exercise. Leaving the house at 6.15-6.30 to drive to school, the roads used to be mostly deserted, the only people around were those heading off for their day’s work. In recent months, however, more and more people have emerged from their houses to make the most of the early morning hours. They have been walking, cycling, exercising their dogs, and not a few have been running.
So it was that one morning last week, I passed a group of three men who were running along with enthusiasm, they seemed to be exchanging a story or a joke and laughing aloud at what had passed between them. It was a scene that would have confounded a suggestion that one never saw a happy jogger.
The men would probably have been surprised at my suggestion that their morning run might have been anything other than a happy time, they might reasonably have pointed to the scientific evidence that connected physical exercise with happiness.
Since the schools returned last September, the constant refrain in Personal, Social and Health Education lessons has been that exercise is important to good mental health. Children have been repeatedly urged to set aside their smart phones, to put down the consoles of their X-boxes and their Play Stations, to switch off the television box sets, and to go outside. Of course, most of those in most need of exercise still spend most of their spare time attached to electronic devices. One student insists that he cannot sleep without his smartphone.
To talk of endorphins and dopamine seems pointless, to talk of generating happiness seems to fall on deaf ears. There seems a process of natural selection taking place, those who take care of their physical health are those who enjoy good mental health and are those who are making most progress in their much disrupted education.
If students fail to achieve, there will be blame placed on the schools, but there need to be questions about attitudes to learning and attitudes to lifestyles. The jolly jogger points towards those who will succeed.