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)