I have never been "in shape". Sure, at various times in my life, I've been skinny, but, despite what lots of people want to make you think, skinny doesn't necessarily mean you're healthy.
In elementary school, my lifelong dislike of participation in sports really bloomed and was joined by an ankle problem diagnosed as "tendonitis". Looking back, I believe that it was probably mostly me not wanting to exercise and blowing a little pain out of proportion.
Regardless, when the other kids were running, I spent 6th grade walking instead during gym class and getting even less exercise at recess.
In junior high and high school, my dislike of exercise continued. I played a couple of seasons of basketball, and spent most of that time doing physical, hard work on farms. However, in all of those pursuits, my goal was to get them over with as soon as possible.
Up through 10th grade, every so often, seemingly randomly, we'd be asked to do the physical fitness assessment with no real preparation beforehand. Thus, while I ran a mile a couple of times a year, I never did so easily and never in any sort of reasonable timeframe.
In college, the closest I came to exercise was riding my bike to and from class (entirely because parking was too difficult), or walking around campus in my work study job doing desktop support for faculty and students.
I've gained weight, lost it, gained it again, been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. and am coming up on my 35th birthday. I clearly need to improve my health or start facing the fact that I'm going to live a shorter life than I want.
So, I'm attempting for the Nth time to get healthy, but with a slightly different approach than in the past. Rather than just assuming that things like "lose some weight" are the right thing to do first, I am trying to do things rationally and aim for the low-hanging fruit.
When I went looking for studies and numbers to make those decisions, I found that the level of discussion of risk factors for dying early isn't in line with how those factors actually line up in order of risk.
There's a lot of digging to come up with what I did and a lot more for me to do yet that may revise this plan, but I'm working on the few that are the evidence in front of me says will deliver the greatest reduction in my early death and can be acted on immediately.
The first thing I'm tackling is to get physically fit. When I read through the literature, it's clear that a fat person who is physically fit is much less likely to die early than one who's not physically fit. Plus, the studies also make it fairly clear that virtually no one loses and keeps weight off without exercise.
So, the beginning of this long journey is to get physically fit. But, doing what?
Basically, I hate pretty much all forms of exercise. So, I approached this logically as well. Anthropologists say that before human beings invented stone tools, our primary biological advantages consisted of 2 things: our ability to strategize and our ability to walk and run all day long and wear out our target prey.
If there's one physical activity that human beings seem built for, it's walking and running. It also seems to be the very definition of "physically fit" to be able to run reasonable distances and for reasonable amounts of time. This is confirmed by the fact that the US military uses a 3 mile run (along with a couple of other things) to determine physical fitness for officers and enlisted alike right up until retirement at 62+.
As such, it strikes me as a reasonable metric as a goal. So, I'm aiming to hit and maintain the minimum for my age. I'm starting with the running part.
I started by using the plan at Couch to 5K and am actually up to running 1.5 miles at a time over 20 minutes. For a bit in the first few weeks, my shins hurt (even on my off days), but other than that, despite my current weight of 262 pounds, my knees don't hurt, etc. at all.
I believe this is due in large part to learning some proper form and no longer landing on my heels when running. See this video for the difference.
At any rate, there are a few other things I'm doing on this journey toward living better, and hopefully, I'll share more of them soon. In the mean time, I keep increasing my running time aiming at that 3 mile distance in reasonable time.