- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

Lazy is good. Lazy is happy. Go on. Be lazy.
That is the advice of one Peter Axt, a researcher with the Fulda University of Applied Sciences in Germany, who announced yesterday that "aimless sloth" was the secret to health, happiness and a long life. A very long life.
He pities virtuous joggers, frantic workaholics, determined dieters. The tidiers, the cleaners, the fussers, the preeners — they are only running toward an early demise, he says.
"People who would rather laze in a hammock instead of running a marathon, or who take a midday nap instead of playing squash have a better chance of living into old age," Mr. Axt said.
His newly published study, "On the Joy of Laziness," is somewhere between Zen philosophy and an old wives tale, extolling the virtues of serenity, sleeping late and ignoring the garbage until it "builds its own eco-system."
Mr. Axt, who has already authored the books "Just Stay Young" and "Eat Yourself Slim" is convinced that humans have only been allotted so much energy. Why squander it on, say, aerobics?
"Research shows that people who run long distances into their 50s are using up energy they need for other purposes," he said. "They suffer memory loss. They risk premature senility."
And for heavens sake, sleep. Mr. Axt said that people who bolt from their beds at an early hour remain frazzled the day long. A leisurely stroll meets his approval, though, as does gentle dieting.
He offers a prescription, in fact, for the general population.
"Waste half your free time," Mr. Axt said. "Just enjoy lazing around."
Which certainly counters the advice of Danish researchers, who announced late last year that regular joggers lived up to seven years longer than their sedentary counterparts, based on a 25-year study of 20,000 energetic Danes.
British doctors, meanwhile, announced that the majority of those over 50 in the United Kingdom were "eating and sitting" their way to early graves. But it may be in the DNA.
Scottish doctors at Glasgow University have found a "laziness gene" in mutant fruit flies who were genetically disposed to be either "sitters" or "rovers." A similar pattern would probably emerge in humans, the doctors observed last year. Needless to say, "exercise profile" tests are already under way on some Scottish children.
Sleep specialists call it the "mutated Clock gene," however. After studying the snoozing habits of 4,000 persons, scientists with the European Sleep Research Society determined that night owls, insomniacs and those who felt compelled to laze through the typical workday had troubled internal clocks.
While scientists study sloth and pastors caution against it, others have turned it into a veritable cottage industry. Dozen of Web sites are devoted to such things as shameless procrastination and "slackerhood." Hungry Minds, a New York-based publishing house, offers an entire "Lazy" collection of how-to books which offer the easy road to, among other things, cooking, child-rearing, sewing, cleaning and dog training.
Yesterday, though, some message boards were abuzz over researcher Mr. Axts idea that laziness means long life.
"Does that mean the oldest people are therefore the laziest of their generation?" asked one wag. "Then the immortals do absolutely nothing, like pet rocks."

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