Exercise Could Save Your Life

Exhausted AND alive

Exercise can save your life – in many ways. I want to share with you a remarkable story I just read in a book written by Keith Johnsgard.


The story is about a middle-aged American guy named Sam who was depressed, lonely and unemployed.

Sam’s doctor had warned him for a long time that he was in a risk for having a fatal heart attack because of his obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

Tired and hopeless, one day Sam decided he had no reason to go on living.

Because he didn’t want his parents or the insurance company to suspect he had committed suicide, he coined a plan to end his life without anyone knowing. Because he lived in a mountainous area, it occurred to him that if he would run up a nearby steep climb called Coyote Hill, he will surely die of heart attack.

On one early morning Sam puts his plan into action.

He put on sweats and got to the foot of the hill and proceeded to run it up with all his might. At some point he actually blacked out, only to regain consciousness some time later.  Sam wasn’t that easily derailed from his plan, so he repeated the attempt on three consecutive mornings, always with the same consequence.

On the fifth day he came to the conclusion he didn’t want to die anymore.

The story doesn’t end here. Something had stirred up in Sam and he decided to go on walking the hills. Some time later, after his fitness has improved,  he took on running and became a part of a new tribe, that of serious runners.

The book says:

One day Sam came to the realization that he had yet to meet a depressed runner. He would later learn that, like the rest of us, members of the tribe sometimes went through periods of stress and mild depression that they typically treated with running. — Still later Sam would learn that long-standing tribal wisdom, matter-of-factly stated, that no depression could withstand a ten-mile run. (p. 26, emphasis mine)

Still later Sam also decided to dump his computer, because he felt that “….technology got in the way of his experiencing the world, other people and himself. (p. 28).


I think there’s great wisdom in this story. I’ve come to the conclusion that the more time I spend at the computer, the more miserable I feel.

I can’t really imagine giving up my internet connection, but to feel well and happy, I need to limit my computer time and do something concrete with my body every single day. And I do need a tribe too.