Lloyd Garver: Do a push-up, go to jail
After reading this, you should never step out of the shower, look at yourself in the mirror and be disappointed by what you see. If somebody teases you about not being in great physical shape, I've got something you can tell them. And the next time you're with someone whose eyes drift over to look at a person with a "perfect" body, you can just smile about what you know and what they don't. Researchers at the University of Arkansas have determined that those with the best bodies aren't necessarily the best people.
This study that appears in The Social Science Journal found that most people who entered prison were physically, even athletically, fit. Of course, not every criminal studied was in perfect shape. There were some who were underweight and some who were overweight. But between 62 and 73 percent of the prison population was made up of hard-body athletic types. And those who were physically fit were the most likely to be imprisoned for violent crimes.
So if you are bemoaning that the person you are with doesn't look like a swimsuit model, cut it out. At least he or she isn't as likely to knock over a bank as that neighbor of yours who works out every day and only eats low-fat yogurt.
I understand that the study only involves 5,000 Arkansas inmates, and it would be unwise for scientists to generalize from this. That's one of the beauties of not being a scientist -- I can generalize if I want to.
The results of this study should be taught in every school in the land. In recent years, we've been told over and over again how dangerous it is for people -- especially children -- to try to model themselves after the few individuals who have almost perfect bodies. Now kids and grownups don't have to see those with centerfold physiques as role models. They can view them as people who might be more likely to mug a 90-year-old World War II veteran than those of us who are a little too thin or a little too heavy.
I don't know about you, but I've always been suspicious of people who have really good bodies. Anyone who devotes that much time to looking good isn't spending enough time doing other things. If researchers did another survey, don't you think they'd find that those who have "six-pack" abs don't do as much volunteer work as those of us with "no-packs?" How many valedictorians are at their ideal weight? Can you name a Nobel Prize winner who was also known for having perfect calves? I rest my case.
This study is a triumph for every person who doesn't have a gym membership, for anyone who ever took an extra piece of cake instead of an extra lap around the track, and for all the men and women whose exercise bikes long ago became a convenient place to hang their clothes. This study isn't only saying that the rest of us are as good as those who have muscles in places where we just have places. It's saying that we might be better than they are -- or at least less violent.
Instead of going for the chiseled or the silicone look, maybe this will encourage men and women to start choosing a mate or a date with bony knees or a double chin. Perhaps employers will start recruiting people whose waists enter the room before their faces. In fact, I look forward to the headline someday that will proclaim the large number of people who are suing companies for not hiring them because they're too good looking.
Obviously, more research is necessary. (And if I know our government, it will probably be spending billions on it before you can say, "bridge to nowhere.") Is there a causal relationship between the number of situps people can do and whether or not they end up wearing a number? Or is it just a coincidence that those with hard muscles are the ones doing hard time? After all, there's another explanation for all this: maybe those who are out of shape are just too lazy to get out there and commit crimes.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and listen to his podcasts at iTunes.