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Kick-starting the exercise habit

Chuck, I’m tired of trying to exercise and constantly failing. Any advice? – Amy M., Middletown, Pa.

Comedian Joan Rivers once said, “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

That’s funny. Unfortunately, exercise has become one of those negative words in society like taxes or politics. But I’m hoping to help you see it in a completely different light.

In previous articles, I’ve started detailing the essentials to build a better you. The primary information comes from a great nutritional source, Dr. Don Colbert’s “The Seven Pillars of Health.” I already addressed the first three pillars – water, sleep and eating living foods.

Now we come to Pillar No. 4: exercise, or what Colbert refers to as “stirring the waters” because we’re made mostly of water and because we all know that stagnant water can cause fungus and disease.

Colbert gives a list of proven physical benefits of daily “stirring the waters.” It reduces the risk of cancer, prevents heart attacks and heart disease, improves lymphatic flow, lowers stress, promotes weight loss, decreases appetite, increases perspiration (which eliminates toxins), slows down the aging process, builds strong bones and muscles, improves your digestion, reduces depression, improves memory retention and reaction time, slows Alzheimer’s disease, may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, increases lung capacity, alleviates pain and increases energy levels.

I don’t want to oversimplify exercise, but it is basically whatever gets your heart pumping and uses major muscle groups. Physical employment, playing with your kids, walking your dogs, working in the yard, dancing, biking, hiking, etc., are all good. Make sure to check with your health practitioner about what exercise is best for you.

Even America’s Founding Fathers (some of my heroes) often worked hard, hiked and walked lots. Thomas Jefferson was a huge advocate of walking and spoke about others who were, as well.

At 43 years old, Jefferson wrote: “Of all the exercises walking is best. … No one knows, till he tries, how easily a habit of walking is acquired. A person who never walked three miles will in the course of a month become able to walk 15 or 20 without fatigue. I have known some great walkers and had particular accounts of many more; and I never knew or heard of one who was not healthy and long lived. This species of exercise therefore is much to be advised.”

And when he couldn’t walk great distances any longer at 76 years old, Jefferson jumped on his horse.

“I enjoy good health; too feeble, indeed, to walk much, but riding without fatigue six or eight miles a day, and sometimes 30 or 40,” he wrote.

Brisk walking is also one of Colbert’s favorite recommended activities. If there is one universal exercise, walking has got to be it.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of The Cooper Institute and famed “Father of Aerobics,” states: “We know from research that if you walk two miles in 30 minutes three times a week, the (chance) of dying from any cause is reduced by 58 percent, and your life span increases by six years. The health and fitness of our youth are rapidly declining. We are seeing unprecedented levels of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents. If this continues, we are living in the first generation in which parents will outlive their children. Healthy children think and learn better. The areas most profuse with blood and oxygen in the brain after exercise are areas responsible for creativity and memory. We know from existing FitnessGram data that the more physically fit students are, the better they perform academically and have fewer discipline problems.”

I can attest to that from our KickStart Kids program, in which we teach the martial arts to middle-school kids in lieu of the physical education class. The kids in our martial arts program get better grades and have fewer discipline problems than other kids in their schools. And these are inner-city schools, with many at-risk children.

So I challenge you with a simple goal of daily “stirring the waters,” to be like a mountain stream instead of a pond – moving, fresh and vibrant. Ever noticed – even among the elderly – that those who look the best are often those who keep moving?

Movement reduces the risks of stagnation and decay. Even the Good Book says, “For physical training is of some value.”

So, as is often said, “Move it or lose it!”

And that is probably a very timely saying for all of us on the eve of another Thanksgiving week and Christmas season.

Remember, you always can tell when you’ve eaten too much for Thanksgiving; it’s when you have to loosen your belt a couple of notches!