What Owning a Car Can Teach You about Taking Care of Your Health

There’s a 1966 short animated film entitled “What on Earth! The Automobile Inherits the Planet”, that pokes fun at our obsession with cars. It imagines how aliens, visiting our planet for the first time, would naturally assume that cars are the dominant form of life on earth. We maintain them, take them everywhere we go, and are constantly engaged in traffic management.

Half a century later, the average car owner still devotes considerable energy, time, and resources to the upkeep of their vehicle. In contrast, many people don’t exert the same effort towards taking good care of their own health. But if you know more about car maintenance than healthy living, you might be surprised to find that the former has some lessons to offer in the latter area.

The right energy matters

A car is a mechanical system. Despite the increasing array of features in modern automobiles, it’s relatively easy to understand how it works. And you can learn to drive one without ever knowing the mechanisms involved.

On the other hand, the body is a complicated system we’re all born with. We eventually forget the baby steps and awkward adjustments that come with growing into our bodies and learning how to use them. For most adults who don’t play professional sports, physical activity becomes a rapidly fading skill.

But on some basic level, both are similar systems. They require energy for mechanical output; cars need fuel to run, people need food to think and move about. And just as engines need to use the recommended motor oil to avoid premature wear and tear, people need to observe proper nutrition to avoid early disease or injury. What goes on under the hood matters, both to your car and to your body.

man driving

Act on warning signs

One of the most vital lessons every driver has to absorb and apply each day is paying attention to their vehicle. From the moment you turn the ignition and pull out of the driveway, you can hear your car humming, feel its gears shifting, and sense the condition of the road. You’ll instinctively notice when something doesn’t sound or feel right. And that’s when you stop and take a closer look, or have it inspected by a mechanic.

How many people could say the same about their bodies? When you spend hours working at a desk, do you take your bodily complaints seriously? Or do you just dismiss them as a temporary flare-up of pain in your back, wrists, or neck?

You can’t ignore what your body is telling you, any more than a driver can dismiss the warning signs from their vehicle. If you feel something’s not right, don’t wait until it becomes a real injury or long-term illness. Talking to a doctor ahead of time can mean a corrective program of physical therapy, instead of heading to the O.R. or a lifetime of taking maintenance meds.

Take full ownership

What do you value above all else in a car? If you’re operating or renting a chauffeur-driven private car, you have good reason to put a premium on comfort and aesthetics. But if you fit the more conventional profile of an owner, your car is probably one of your most prized possessions. Until you buy a home, it might be the most expensive purchase you make.

Thus, the average owner rightfully prioritizes the care and maintenance of their vehicle. They want to maximize the durability and performance efficiency of the car because economic factors matter. When you’re paying off a loan each month for several years, you want to get the most value out of your purchase.

And you don’t do that in fits and spurts. Every time you get behind the wheel, you choose to practice safe driving. You know that reckless behavior, driving while drunk or fatigued, or getting distracted by your mobile device is dangerous. You adhere to the maintenance milestones.

Somehow, a lot of people don’t view their bodies in the same way. They think that they can get away with consuming junk food and empty calories on a daily basis. They engage in unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse or sedentary living. And they think that it’s possible to suddenly turn things around in a matter of months or weeks by suddenly hitting the gym or following a crash diet.

Take ownership of your body in the same way that a sensible car owner maintains their car. Each day, make a choice to eat healthy food, abstain from unhealthy practices, and be more physically active. Because there’s one big difference between owning a vehicle and managing your health: you can always buy a new car.

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