Not Quite Jack LaLanne

Got a healthy exercise program that makes you sweat?  Great!  You can skip down to the comment section and tell what you do.  Don’t have a program?  You have two choices: start one now, or plan on a shorter life, maybe seven years shorter.  Another fact:  exercise will do as much to prevent breast cancer as good diet. 

Jack LaLanne, founder of the physical fitness movement, famously stated, “I can’t die, it would ruin my image”.  It was a good line but he died the other day, at the ripe old age of 96.  Both his life and his death model the benefits of exercise: he had a long vigorous life, followed by a brief illness (pneumonia).  Jack made a good exit.  The benefits of exercise are too numerous to mention, but in sum if you exercise you not only look better, you feel better, live longer, avoid a long list of diseases, ward off dementia and depression, and have better . . . well, better everything.

More than we realize, we are the shark that dies if it stops moving.  Yet the form of our society frees us from the need to move.  The more we prosper, the more moving is an option.  Several years ago I became busy and stopped regular exercise.  There were health consequences: I gained weight and my blood pressure went up.  Concerned, I got a physical and made a plan to restore my health by natural means. 

To avoid injuries I started slowly—walking.  We live near a beach so I would walk down to the beach, then hike to the top of a nearby hill.  In the beginning it was hard.  Months passed.  One day a neighbor jogged past as I walked.  Later, when no one could see, I tried jogging up the hill.  In less than 100 yards I was out of breath, my legs turning to rubber.  Over the course of a year I jogged a little farther each time, with the goal to reach the hilltop.  A gazelle I’m not, but I’m getting better.  Later, I saw someone doing push-ups on a flat rock.  When the coast was clear I did as many as I could, just ten.  So I added push-ups to my routine, inspired by a friend who daily did his age in push-ups. 

As time passed, I expanded my workout, covering the triad of aerobic, strength, and stretching exercises.  Later I added bicycle riding on alternate days.  I lost weight.  My blood pressure came down.  There were other improvements.  After reading about the importance of sunshine as a natural source of vitamin D, I moved my workout from the morning to midday.  Some days it’s hard to get out, but it always feels good when I’m done.  And when I exercise, I want to eat better.

My wife walks with her friends for an hour each morning.  They’re very faithful in their exercise, even walking with umbrellas in inclement weather.  Her goal is 10,000 steps each day.  She wants us to add yoga next.  A son prefers to get his exercise at a gym, with a little help from a trainer.  A daughter goes to a rigorous early morning workout called “boot camp”.  Our son-in-law rides his bike 30 minutes to the train station, as part of his work commute.  Another friend prefers to do laps at the community swimming pool.  Wouldn’t ballroom dancing lessons be fun?  Jack LaLanne celebrated his 70th birthday by swimming a mile and a half—with his hands handcuffed and towing 70 boats carrying 70 people.  Yeah.  There are a lot of ways to exercise; each should find their own kind of fun. 

Please comment and share your experience with exercise.  What works for you? 

Need a reminder? Download our Healthy Change reminder card. Print and fold, then place in your kitchen or on your bathroom mirror to help you remember the Healthy Change of the week.

(photo from The NY Times, you can read more about Jack LaLanne here)

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Reader Comments (26)

I do not currently get the recommended amt of exercise. I just put down a deposit for the key to our apartments workout room which I plan on starting in the next few weeks. I often pay for after-school care for my children because they get to play outside on the playground equipment for nearly 2 hours each day. I feel this is a small way that I can contribute to their health (plus the extra 2.5 hours for myself isn't bad either)!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusannah

im a runner (just ran the st george half marathon) and training for a marathon in april. i cross train with spin class once a week and the stair stepper. its not easy being a single mom and doing it. but its about mental health as well for me.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey Loo

I have been taking a rigorous yoga class 4 mornings a week. I am drenched in sweat by the end of each class, and they are scheduled very early in the morning so there are few conflicts/excuses. I am required to be up early, so in turn I am encouraged to go to bed early -- a good thing. Getting through each class feels like an accomplishment, I can see and feel the difference in my body, and I am more relaxed throughout the day. Presently, I am nursing an unrelated injury that is keeping me from class for a few weeks, and I am truly missing both the workout and the community.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterritu

I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge.
I found your blog through your daughter Brooke's blog.
Taking care of my families health has always been something I have strived to do. But I am realizing more and more how hard it is with what we are presented at the store with so much processed foods. My husband was diagnosed with Diabetes last year (at age 28) it runs really strong in his family, his Dad has had it since he was a child. So, I even more so need to take care of him.
I love the idea of one healthy change a week, that is something everyone can do!
Anyways, thanks for sharing!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I used to have a great exercise program with wonderful friends to support me. Then, we moved and everything is different. I don't have the support base (although I've been looking), my mountain hills are gone and I'm left with a flat valley to jog on, and I now have a baby who makes going outside more difficult. My exericise routine is putting in a dvd and trying to do my best with the baby constantly needing stuff. It's not what I need, but it's what I get. So, I'm doing my best with what I have. I'm hoping things get better! :)

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterneenee

I LOVE a good zumba class. It's the most fun I ever have in a work out. I'm planning to do a sprint triathlon at the end of the summer, hopefully. As soon as the weather is nice I'll be out biking, running and swimming.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

love love love Jazzercize. ccc

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercristie

i've found that i get a lot more cardio exercise with a plan in place - not just going for a half hour or so. so now i'm training for my first 5k. it's slow going - i have hamster lungs and have never been a runner - but at the end of each day's allotted minutes of running and walking, i feel like i've really accomplished something and am super proud of myself. so now i'm doing my cardio three days a week, and going to yoga twice a week. my husband and i try to go to the gym six days a week, so that sixth day (if we make it) is some lighter cardio to keep loosened up and lots of abdominal work and other strength training.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

I definitely exercise more regularly when I have a race to train for. I run mostly, 3 or 4 times a week. I have trouble doing it when I'm not training for anything. It's a habit I need to build better. Other than that, I'm on the lookout for a more affordable yoga class. I love doing it, especially since it stretches out all those muscles after a hard run. Boot camp is an awesome way to go though. If I had the money, I'd do that for sure.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachael C

Exercise has always been my downfall. It's pretty difficult being a Young Single Adult, trying to date and get my eternal progression on, working a desk Job, and finding time to squeeze in exercise.

My solution was to start walking, as I live next to a golfcourse with nice paths. Only problem is that the weather changed back to cold, and it's pretty horrible to be out in.

So, any ideas on what I could do with such limited time and resources?

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGdub

I have been doing Cool Running's Couch to 5K program (and blogging about it). I worked through it last year, and accomplished a long-time goal of finishing a 5K race back in July. I fell off the horse for a little while, and so now I'm working through it again, hoping to get back in 5K shape and improve my time on my next race. Blogging about it has given me a support network and accountability to all the people who read. I've never been a runner, and I've always felt that it's something I couldn't do, so seeing myself doing it and enjoying it is such a great satisfaction!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Haha... I love your stealth-exercise story. I hide too when I'm trying something new and difficult!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolli

Gdub, how do you get to work? I started to walk half the way to my office in the mornings (chose another bus route with bad connections from where I lived so that I wouldn't be tempted to hop on too early) and felt so much better that it became almost addictive after a month or so, then I started getting off a couple of bus stops earlier on my way home, and before I knew it I walked 30 minutes each way almost every day and had so much more energy. An mp3 player with a play list with a good beat helped me keep the pace, I actually had several walking play lists depending on my mood and how quick I needed to get to work. I usually walked quick enough to feel my heart pump harder and my breathing getting a bit more laboured, but nor fast enough to get sweaty (at least not in the morning), but that depends on how easyily you start sweating. The only thing you really need for commuting by foot is a pair of good shoes, a good coat (a core tex jacket is a great investment, if you can afford it) and a comfortable bag (which doesn't have to be a back pack as long as it doesn't hurt your back). I never used trainers as I don't like them, during the summer months I'd walk in anything from hiking sandals to strappy sandals or ballerinas with extra gel cushions (maybe you can keep a pair of office shoes at the office if you prefer walking in sneakers?).

I have also periodically used a pedometer to make sure that I get a minuimum of 10,000 steps every day, a simple one won't cost you much, one with memory for at least a couple of days is a bit more expensive, but much more motivating as you can compete with yourself in the amount of steps you take every day. The one I have right now also registers how far you have walked and how many calories you have burned as well as average and top speed, which are fun features and help with motivation, but by no means necessary.

Never using the elevator/escalator for less than 4 floors also helped immensely and is the cheapest cardio you can get. Going out dancing also gives you a lot of fun and sociable excersize (just don't get stuck at the bar or add too many liquid calories), drop in dance classes are actually good for a date night, you get to know each other and sneak in some excersize at the same time :) As for the dreary winter weather, I'm not sure if you have a mall close by and what it looks like, but I had a 90+ year old neighbour who used to go on her daily walks in the local mall when the weather was bad, one really awful (weather wise) day I took her advice and went for a walk in the mall, adding the rule that I had to go up or down every stair or escalator I saw (I was after all 70 years younger than her) and got a pretty good work out in combination with a couple of push up's and crunches at home.

If you don't mind looking a bit funny, nordic walking is really good and pretty cheap excersize, and I have seen training video's on utube etc. that only use your own body weight and park benches/tables (I am actually tempted by this kind of training, but have yet to try it out).

Since you have a still sitting job, I'd recommend some back excersizes every day. I have a book with four 15 minute back excersize programmes which I do on a 2 week rotating scheme every morning. You can even do several of them in sequence if you like. Once you get into the habit it's really quite easy, I have also had much fewer back and shoulder issues since I started (which was my main motivation) and as an added bonus, I could feel the waist bands on my skirts and trousers getting looser after a couple of weeks.

Wow! This did turn into quite an novel, but as I'm still time and money challenged, and don't like running (speed walking is fine), it is actually something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about, experimenting with and practizing.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMims


my cousin was pretty much in the same situation a couple of years ago, and she said that a good baby carrier was a God send for her since she could go out for a brisk walk every day, which lovered her cortisol levels, making her a better mother as she was less stressed out, and the baby was nestled to her and happy. As an added bonus she got a really strong back and abs from carriyng the baby, the clever thing is, that when your baby grows, you gradually increase the weight and resistance, so your back and abdomen gradually get stronger and stronger. She also said the baby slept much better. There are many different types of carriers out there, my cousin started with a moby like carrying shawl (a big piece of cloth that you tie around your body, nice and snug for her daughter, who was born in November). They look a bit intimidating in the beginning and have a learning curve, but there are many tutorials on utube. When her daughter was 5 or 6 months she got a more structured carrier like beco or ergo. These are quite expensive, but you can find them cheaper on ebay and craig's list and places like that. You can also find mei tai type carriers and carrying shawls made by stay at home mothers etc. on places like etsy.

There might also be stroller excersize groups in your area, where you can also meet other mothers, they usually cost money though (don't know if that's an issue for you or not) and you need a decent stroller and usually some excersize tubes or similar.

Hope that gives you some inspiration, being fit does after all not only benefit you, but also your child (who reallly won't complain if you have more energy, are less stressed, are healthier, and hopefully live longer).

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMims

I exercise in the morning after I get my two youngest off to school. I try to mix it up, confuse my body. Some mornings it is intense cardio, other mornings it is a good yoga session, some mornings it is strength training. During the day, I do not live a sedentary lifestyle, I am cleaning, playing with and chasing my kids around the house. In the evenings, after the children are put to bed, my husband and I will exercise together. It is usually circuit training, something that really tires us, pushes our bodies to the limit. It is nice to have someone who is there to push you and motivate you along. We have many choices to make throughout the day, but when one good choice comes, it usually is followed up by another, and that sends us to bed feeling very satisfied with what we've done with our bodies that day.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermindy


sadly the public transit is almost non-existant in my neck of the woods, so I have to drive twenty minutes to and from work.

The suggestion for walking around the mall might be something I could implement until the weather gets warmer. I'll have to figure out where I can fit that in.

One of the huge problems about this area is that almost NO buildings have more than one story, so "taking the stairs" isn't really an option.

As for exercises or stretching at work: I do take time to stretch and take breaks to go walking around.

Anyhow, thanks for the ideas. I'll test some of this out.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGdub

Angela, I'm doing the Couch to 5k program too, but I am starting it at a very low fitness level and have found I've had to extend my week 1 just to get comfortable with jogging at all. It's also been frustrating because of all the snow and ice we've been having. Not to mention it's freezing cold...not great for the lungs. Enough excuses though. I think I'm going to start some aerobics dvds and the stair stepper (I have one at home) when I can't go out and run. I look forward to checking out your blog!

Anyone else have experience with Couch to 5k or tips for beginner runners?

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKrysten

For beginning runners, I would suggest finding a buddy to run with. That will motivate you to go out more, run further, and run faster. If you can't find a buddy, which sometimes is the case, I would definitely get out your iPod/mp3 player and put together an awesome running playlist. Sometimes I get out the door simply because I'm excited to run with my favorite tunes in my ears.

I would also suggest setting small goals. Decide before you run that you want to be out for 30 minutes or to run/walk one mile. Even if you're walking, get that distance in! It'll feel better the next time when you realize you did better than before. And don't worry if you have a bad run where you feel like crud, everyone has those.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachael C

I love this post. My husband and I have had a bet to workout six days a week since July and we are still going strong. It is great motivation to get outside and get moving!

Our bet is outlined here

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I like to go the the gym when my husband is available to watch the kids. If not, I use our Netflix subscription to do yoga and pilates videos online. Wonderful post. I am trying to improve our family eating this year. I look forward to reading this blog.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAstyn

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