We offer free consultations in my office for people interested in coming into any of our programs? Free—why? Because there is something that I must let people know before they get involved in weight loss or any of the other reasons people come into us. THERE IS NO EASY PATH TO GOOD HEALTH. Presuming a person has weight to lose, blood pressure to lower, diabetes or prediabetes to reverse or cholesterol to lower, it’s all possible. But, I have no easy solutions. I have no magic wand or magic pill to use. What my staff and I do have is good education on eating and exercise based on the latest science has to offer, motivational techniques and eventually, a path to good health, low stress and a happier life.
But when we put in all this effort and time to change our lifestyle habits, what is it we are actually achieving? That is what Yechezkel asked me this past week when he came to sign up for our 10 week program to better health. Yechezkel is 44 years old. Over the last 8 years he has gained 12 kilo and is starting to have health consequences. He is pre-diabetic and his blood pressure, which was always normal is creeping up. He is at a level of low fitness as he is an avreich who is learning all day and has very little movement in his life with no formal exercise. But to his credit, he realized that he needs to make some changes. And so I explained the following to Yechezkel.
Changing habits and behaviors is the way to achieve good health. But with that being said, is this really some mystic formula that automatically brings us 120 years and great quality of life? Not exactly. But when we do inculcate good heathy behaviors into our everyday life, we do cut the odds of illness and disease substantially. So when you start walking briskly 6 days a week, build some muscle twice a week and change to healthier eating (and as a consequence, you will lose some weight) you improve your likelihood of a better life. Let’s take a closer look at what decades of research has shown us about just making exercise a priority in our lives.
- If you are pre-diabetic or have a history of diabetes in your family and you exercise, you cut down the odds of getting diabetes by 58%!
- All and all, a study followed 10,000 alumni from Harvard University showed that the risk of premature death went down 23% for exercisers.
- Do you have osteoarthritis? If you’re older and have some of those aches and pains, particularly in your knee and you start walking 6 days a week, your pain and disability can be reduced by up to 47%. That right—without painkillers. So if you do that, your reliance on medicine for pain reduction becomes substantially less.
- We are all trying not to get Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise is one of the way we can increase the odds against getting that. Even if someone already has the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia and they exercise they can slow progress by 50%–that is a very significant number.
- For people with anxiety, you can reduce your anxiety by 48%
- For depressed people moderate exercise relieves symptoms in 30% of patients and for those who could be more intense in their workouts, 47% got out of their depressive state.
- Do you suffer from fatigue? Exercise is the primary treatment for that too.
- Most of all, the strongest predictor of death is plain and simple, low cardo-respiratory fitness.
So how much time and effort do I have to put in? Is this a case of the more the better? Well, yes—and no. If you can walk every day for 30-35 minutes briskly, you will get all of the benefit we mentioned above and maybe more. Up to an hour is still highly beneficial but after that the benefits become less and less. But the minimum to aim for is 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Aerobic exercise is where oxygen is used as your main source of energy. So that means things like walking, jogging, swimming, biking, rowing or jumping rope will give you the benefit you need. Walking is usually the easiest and just make sure you have a good pair of shoes for it. It might be ideal to walk 30-35 minutes straight but studies have shown that even walking briskly in 10 minutes bouts is very valuable. Make your walk to davening or the Makolet part of that daily routine. You take a longer way around. This way, you don’t even have to set aside designated times.
A few more walking tips! People who have been sedentary must start slowly and build up gradually. It is essential that before you begin a walking program, you visit your doctor for a complete medical evaluation. Once you have the approval of your physician, you can begin.
Start at a comfortable pace, walking as though you are slightly late for an appointment. If you are a beginner, start off slowly and gradually build up to the 30 minutes we have mentioned. Maintain good posture while you are walking and look straight ahead. Swinging your arms will increase your caloric burn greatly, but make sure your arms are going in a forward direction and not crossing in front of you. A good, sturdy pair of proper walking shoes is essential. If you don’t have proper shoes or your shoes are worn out, you probably will suffer some type of discomfort or pain and even injury in the lower extremities. Typically, shoes need to be replaced about every 650-800 kiilometers of walking. For most people who walk a lot, 5-6 months is tops to hold on to shoes.
Walking is a way to get in your exercise, spend time with a friend or family member, and it can easily be worked into your daily routine. A good way to make walking part of your daily routine is to make a set time to walk with a friend or friends daily. Enjoy the company!
Make sure to take precautions in these summer months to start early in the day or do your walking toward the evening hours. In the winter, if you want to brave the cold, dress appropriately. Gloves and warm sweat clothes are a good idea. Either a hood or ski hat will help you retain your body heat, which escapes through your head. Be careful to stay hydrated even though it’s cold. If you want to work out in the rain, be sure to wear waterproof exercise wear.
To avoid boredom or monotony, take an mp3 player with you and listen to music or a shiur. Changing your walking course from time to time is also a good idea. For many, this is just a time to let you mind relax. Remember to drink plenty of water before and after your walk.
Remember, this is all about increasing the odds of good health. Nothing is full-proof but the evidence is quite pronounced that exercise and good eating will better your health and that translates into a better quality of life—at any age!
Yechezkel has only been at our program for 6 weeks now. Some weight has come off, his blood pressure is back down and in another 2 weeks, he will go get another blood test so we can see if we can keep him off diabetes medication. It’s not magic, it’s hard work and effort. Incorporate healthy habits into your life and up your odd to “add hours to our day, days to your year and years to our life”.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.