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Unfair to blame the victim for not working hard enough to get better

How many of you have made a resolution, New Year’s or otherwise, to get some more exercise, lose a little weight and, perhaps, tone those abs? Your doctor gives you a kick in the butt because your BMI puts you in the “obese” category and your cholesterol is high.

You might come to the realization on your own that getting winded from climbing one flight of stairs isn’t a good sign.

Health may not be the issue. Vanity might have driven the resolution. It’s high stakes. With BMI and cholesterol, it’s life or death. If it’s vanity, well, body image is one of the most powerful motivators.

It’s easy. C’mon now. Take half of the three hours a day you spend in front of the television to go for a brisk walk. If toning is what you want, you can leave the television on and do a few sit ups, push ups and leg raises.

Losing weight is the easiest of all, just eat less. It really is easy, isn’t it? Of course it is.

A few years ago, I bought a gym membership but actually showed up less than six times during the year. Yes, I paid over $100 per workout.

I’ve since managed to find a workout partner and have gotten my butt into the gym on a regular basis for the last 14 months.

I might have the toned ribbing of a Greek god for all you can see through the layer of fat. See, I weigh more today than I did 14 months ago.

Have I built that much muscle? No. I eat more, rationalizing that my exercise gives me that luxury.

I don’t beat myself up, though. It’s not as easy as I suggested. I’m not the only one who struggles with getting appropriate exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. I’m in the majority, not the minority.

A quick Internet search will tell you that more than 60 per cent of Canadians have an unhealthy weight.

Some people are able to motivate themselves to make healthy eating choices and to get appropriate exercise. Most of us are not. Those of us who struggle shouldn’t be blamed, in my view.

Expect to be blamed, though, if you have been injured in a car crash and you fail to diligently follow through with a prescribed stretching and strengthening program.

It’s the classic “cure of last resort” for the treatment of crash injuries, after the gamut of “passive” therapies such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care and massage therapy have run their course.

As difficult as it is for most of us, not suffering chronic injuries, to follow through with an exercise program, it’s even harder if you are suffering from the chronic symptoms of car crash injuries. Aside from the pain, weeks, months and years of pain and stiffness leads to low mood and correspondingly low motivation.

The law says that if you are claiming compensation for injuries, you have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to recover from your injuries. Insurance companies defending personal injury claims will look for any excuse to avoid their legal responsibility because that is their job. If an injured victim hasn’t participated diligently in an exercise program, the victim will be blamed for not getting better.

Is that fair? I say that blaming an injured victim for his or her failure to follow through with an exercise regime that the majority of our population is unable to follow through with is horribly unfair.

I say that when considering whether or not an injured victim has satisfied his or her legal obligation to take reasonable steps to recover, the reality that most people would not be able to diligently follow through with an exercise or weight loss program should be taken into account and the victim ought not to be blamed.

Of course, I push my clients to make sure they follow through with recommended exercise programs to try to avoid the unfair accusations altogether, but some are simply unable to make it happen.

Some are like me.

Published December 12, 2010 in the Kelowna Capital News