Baking: The only worry-free workout

Special to The Times

My usual walking routine is to trek briskly for at least an hour a day, up and down the neighborhood hills. I find this to be the perfect way to ward off osteoporosis and scare away extra pounds. It’s also good for my mental health. As my feet pound the pavement, I think about everything and anything and, sometimes, nothing at all.

But as the recent wildfires ravaged Southern California, walking outside became impossible. Even when the air seemed to clear, experts warned that lingering microscopic ash particulates could get lodged in the lungs. Worried that exercising outdoors would do more harm than good, I headed to the neighborhood gym to walk on the treadmill.

Then came the news that a gym could be a good place to pick up a dangerous drug-resistant staph infection.

The next time I went to the fitness center, I dutifully cleaned off the treadmill with an antibacterial wipe. Later, I read that overuse of antibacterial products had actually helped create the super staph bug. In other words, I had just made the gym, and the world at large, a more hazardous place.

I began to sweat -- not from exercise, but from anxiety. Because stress is bad for your health, I went to the movies to relax. The theater was crowded, and I got one of the last seats -- next to a woman who had a terrible cold. I leaned as far away as possible, sorry I hadn’t brought along my antismoke face mask.

The film itself was a pleasant diversion, except for the fact that the main character’s wife had died of cancer four years before the story began. This got me thinking about all the routine medical checkups I needed to schedule.

On a more positive note, the extended family in the movie began its day with a cute and sassy aerobics routine on the front lawn.

Now there’s an idea! Maybe I could organize a cute and sassy aerobics class in my living room. On second thought, I don’t think my homeowners association would allow it.

Finally, I had a lightbulb moment as I envisioned the perfect workout.

I went home and did a deep knee bend, as I lifted a 20-pound weight -- also known as my electric mixer. I put the mixer on the counter, plugged it in and then stretched, stretched, stretched -- reaching for the butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour and baking soda. I jogged in place while the beaters turned the ingredients into a golden dough.

Then I added lots and lots of chocolate chips, because I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that chocolate is now considered a health food.

As the cookies baked in the oven, the kitchen filled with a wonderful aroma. I inhaled and exhaled, using the deep-breathing technique I’d once learned in a yoga class. And I began to feel much better.


Emily Dwass is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.