So, the dumpster fire that is the 2020 election is awful for mental health. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of all sorts of rants, rage, and meltdowns. This is compounded by the fact that many of us are frustrated being stuck in our homes due to the imminent end of humanity due to the Black Plague of Hubei Province. But I’ve discovered election season can have the opposite effect on physical health.
One example is how I chose to drop off my vote. Florida allows mail in votes, but I was a little leery of dropping into the mail. Now, I’m not some nut who thinks massive voter fraud is in the works. But there is an easy way to guarantee that there are no problems with my vote. I jumped on my bike and rode down to the local elections office and dropped the ballot off in person. That was a thirty minute ride each way. My patriotic exercise burned off about 600 calories.
On the way back, I saw various activists and volunteers engaged in their assorted electioneering type stuff: Holding signs, chanting assorted pre-chewed slogans, and so forth. And you know what I didn’t see? Fat people. The crowds of various volunteers seemed universally skinny. I’m not saying they had the bodies of Greek gods or anything, but I certainly didn’t see any giant, sloppy blobs of flesh. It occurred to me, some of these exercises in democracy are also just generally good exercise. Getting out the vote requires you to leave the house and move around.
Even if all one does is cast their own vote, it can burn off some excess. For example, if you’re one of the suckers who stood in line to vote, you’re burning calories. I made that mistake when I first moved to Florida and voted early in the 2008 election. I stood in a rather ridiculous line on a Saturday. For FIVE HOURS. When I finally voted and saw the option to have my ballot mailed to me, I checked “Yes”. I would’ve checked “HELL YES!” if it was an option.
As irritating as it was at the time, I now know that standing for five hours burned 600-1,000 calories. The actual burn from standing in a line varies a bit, depending on how much moving around you do. So as intolerably dull as it was, it was actually good for me. If we all burned that much every day, we could eat almost anything we wanted.
And the chumps like me waiting in the seemingly interminable line weren’t the only ones getting a side benefit for our health. As I stood in line, there were various candidates and activists trying to engage with the voters and get their vote. That’s how long the line was. You’re not supposed to campaign with 100 feet of a polling place. But the line was so long that there was plenty of room for campaigners outside of that radius. They could happily harass those of us who were just there to vote without getting fined or arrested or whatever. And they had clearly been there longer than I had and stayed longer than I did. Which is probably why there was not a single fattie among them.
These hardcore campaign pavement pounding types burn lots of calories. Take these clipboard toting people who keep knocking on your door. People who walk throughout the neighborhood going to every house trying to explain why Bob Jones and Joe Blow are the perfect choice for property appraiser and dogcatcher. I realize they’re irritating (less so than Jehovah’s Witnesses, but still irritating) but imagine how much they burn off. Walking for five hours burns 1,500 calories. And they obviously spend most of the time walking, given the number of doors that get slammed in their faces.
And these aren’t the only people that lose weight while annoying you. Inevitably, crowds of this or that politician’s supporters congregate near the corners of major intersections. You know, the really busy ones where they’re most likely to hold up traffic. I’m sure they think that this “increases visibility”, but if you slow people down on their commute, I don’t see how that wins you their political support. And there’s the off chance that one of them will get flattened by a semi, so it generally doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Having said that, just standing there can burn 100 – 200 calories per hour. And they do it for hours. If they’re holding signs, the encumbrance actually burns a little more. And if they’re spinning the signs they’ll burn a lot more. And yes, I’ve seen this happening. It seemed a bit strange, since normally a sign spinner is advertising things like pizza or transmission service. Using it for politics seems undignified. But then, politics in general have seemed undignified for quite a while.
And then there’s the people who go to hours-long political events. Not only do they often wait in interminable lines just to get in, but spend hours milling around while this or that candidate spews carefully polished talking points. Or just randomly riffs about this and that. And milling about may not be the best exercise, but it’s better than planting your posterior on a couch and watching the same candidate bloviate through a television screen.
People who go to major campaign events and mill about cheering at candidates also burn 100 – 200 calories per hour. Sure, you might be spreading the Scourge of Wuhan all around, but at least you’re keeping the fat off the waistline. And I guess obesity is statistically worse than the ‘Rona. And by that I mean, more likely to kill you. Still, it never hurts to mask up. Trust me, it doesn’t make you a wimp.
And since this rather complicated election is inevitably devolving into a courtroom brawl, the result has been lots of people in the streets yelling at each other. Waving signs, marching around, and yelling unimaginative slogans like “Hey, hey, ho, ho [FILL IN THE BLANK] has to go!”. Since this is basically just walking, it can burn a good 200 – 250 an hour. And it also clears the sinuses if you get tear gassed or pepper sprayed.
And if you’re one of the more rambunctious protestors who likes to put on makeshift body armor and hit people, that’s great exercise. Fighting burns about 250 calories in fifteen minutes. The downside, of course, is that people might get hurt, killed, or arrested. And the country might plunge into a fratricidal civil war. So I don’t recommend this. If you want to burn calories while fighting, go join an MMA club. Still, I don’t remember the last time I saw a fat anarchist. All of the pugilism may explain that. Although I’ve seen more than a few mugshots of battered and bruised anarchists. So there’s a downside to getting carried away.
So, getting involved in the election burns off things. Just don’t burn anything other than calories. I didn’t find an entry for “arson” in Cronometer, but I doubt lighting fires is good exercise. And it also results in death and arrest and so forth. The same goes for breaking windows. Besides, this sort of thing can hardly be called patriotism.
But the more positive activities of electioneering are actually a good way to stay healthy. So get out and get involved. Even if you’re unthrilled with your options, which is all too common, getting out in the street in election season can keep the pounds off. I’ve noted before that getting in shape is really patriotic. So go do that. Besides, a little exercise is a good way to calm the mind. If we all did that, maybe we could tamp down some of this excess crazy in the air.
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