Physical Fitness and Exercise To Get Better Physically And Mentally

Physical-Fitness-the-power-of-movingWe all know that exercise is good for our health. Life, unfortunately, gets hectic, and time to exercise is often the first thing to go. I understand that and believe I have some tools to lead you to what I call a “Culture of Health” that will help to counter this tendency. But first, let’s deal with a common misconception about exercise and weight loss.

When people want to lose weight, they generally begin an exercise program with the intention of burning fat and calories and increasing their metabolism – often without changing what, or how much, they eat. Since it is hard to lose weight through exercise alone, frustration usually sets in, and very little changes. If the same person diets, exercise will accelerate the weight reduction; however, if the person stops exercising once the desired weight loss has been achieved because they perceive the project as done, the weight will return. I would like to offer another approach that has worked with most of my patients.

Getting active and exercising should not be linked in your mind to weight loss.

Getting-active-and-exercisingView physical activity and exercise as a way, in and of itself, to improve your health. Try to separate it in your mind from weight loss. Exercise alone reduces your risk of many diseases, and improves your energy level and mental state. Yes, it will also help you lose weight, but because physical activity and exercise improve your health and well-being so much, the primary reason you do it should be for your health. Let’s look at some strategies for getting and keeping your body in motion – even for those who say they don’t like to exercise.

Exercise alone has been shown in many studies to decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s or dementia, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and prostate cancer. Institutions such as Putnam Hospital are promoting these kinds of system for people interested in losing weight. You can, for instance, read a review written by them at

Physical Activity

I differentiate between physical activity and exercise. Both of these are necessary for your health, physically and mentally. If you presently have little physical activity in your daily life, try to change this by walking as much as you can as part of your regular day.

Following are some ideas to help you get started right now.

• Park your car at the back of the parking lot or a block away from your destination
• Walk up escalators instead of just standing on them, or better yet, use the stairs
• Get off the subway or bus one stop early
• Take stairs for a floor or two instead of the elevator
• Take a walk at lunch time and/or after dinner
• Take walks throughout your day of two to three minutes each
• Take a roundabout route to common destinations
• Never use drive-through services
• Have seasonal footwear in your car so you can go for a walk when you find yourself early for an appointment
• Walk the golf course – all eighteen holes, or just nine holes to start
• Work in your garden
• Play street hockey
• Go for bike rides
• Go roller blading

There’s no doubt that being more active is going to require a little more time out of your day, but it is guaranteed to improve your health. Try getting up earlier to spend, as a start, ten to fifteen minutes walking on a treadmill. Drive to work twenty minutes earlier and walk around the building.


Take a longer walk with the dog, or take a longer way to get to your mailbox if you don’t have home delivery. You could start a walking group with your workmates or neighbors to make use of time available at lunch or after dinner. Meet a friend early in the morning and go walking. On weekends, you could encourage your partner, friends, and/ or children to keep you company as you power walk around the neighborhood.

Moderately paced walking helps bones retain their strength. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle, often due to inadequate weight-bearing physical activity such as walking.

Walking is one of the best ways to help prevent osteoporosis.

Speaking of steps, it’s a good idea to count your steps. I recommend to many of my patients that they buy a pedometer. I encourage them to work up to 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day. This goal may seem ambitious, but once you start, you’ll enjoy the daily challenge this creates. You can do it. You’ll be surprised how much more energized you’ll feel right away.

Regular walking for at least 30 minutes per day has been shown to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes by 35-40%, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

Shape Up!

A program called Shape Up America! – founded by former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1994 – recommends 10,000 steps every day. Here’s how you can do this from

• Have good walking shoes and replace them regularly
• Wear a pedometer for two weeks without changing your normal activity
Log your steps every day
• Take the highest number you have walked in that time (if you’re comfortable with that) and use it as your daily goal for the next two weeks
• After two weeks, review your log and determine if you’re ready for 500 more steps
• Add comfortable increments every two weeks or longer, if necessary, until you have reached 10,000 steps daily. Check with a physician if you experience pain that concerns you.

How To Keep Off Weight Removing Sugar From Your Food Plan

Now that you understand the various food groups and have started out on the weekly food plan, it’s time for you to focus on what could trip you up: consumption of sugar (covered in this chapter) and consumption of salt and fat (next chapter).

Sugar consumption in our society has dramatically increased over the years. In the early 2000s, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that, on average, individual Americans consumed 90 pounds (40.8kg) of sugar per year. That’s a staggering amount! All this excess sugar is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic, which, you now know, is a leading cause of diabetes, heart disease, and various cancers.


Most of the sugar we consume comes from sweetened beverages – soft drinks, energy drinks, bottled iced tea and green tea, sweetened bottled water, water with vitamins added, and special coffee drinks such as lattes, iced cappuccinos, and the like. Later in this article, I set out the sugar content of a long list of popular beverages that is pretty certain to shock you. It should also worry you.

Recent medical information has identified sugar as a contributor to heart disease and cancer because of the way fructose is metabolized in the body. A YouTube video, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” by Robert Lustig, M.D., reinforces our understanding of the toxicity of added sugar in our diets. In his book Anticancer: A New Way of Life, David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., implicates sugar as a cause of cancer cell growth.

A Word About High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Sweetened beverages are popular, in part, because they are relatively inexpensive. Here’s how that happened.

The 1970s saw the start of large-scale production of high-fructose corn syrup, known more commonly as HFCS. (In the UK and Canada, HFCS is sometimes called glucose-fructose syrup, and in many other countries it is also known as high-fructose maize syrup.) This byproduct of corn is intensely sweet and extremely cheap.

By the mid-1980s, HFCS was being used in a vast array of foods such as bread, cakes, pastries, pizza, and meat. HFCS also replaced sugar in soft drinks. Being 33% cheaper than sugar, HFCS was a big win for drink manufacturers but a real loss for our health.

Not only is HFCS much sweeter than sugar, but, as results from some animal studies have suggested, it may also be addictive and a significant contributor to the obesity crisis. A Princeton You’ll find HFCS in fruit juices, soft drinks, sweetened teas, specialty coffees, sports drinks, and even flavored waters. But HFCS is not found just in beverages. This inexpensive, highly potent sugar is everywhere – in cereal, breakfast bars, luncheon meats, commercial soups, bread, yogurt with fruit added by the company, ketchup, mayonnaise, and much more.

Limit your added sugar to: 6 teaspoons per day for women 9 teaspoons per day for me. Source: American Heart Association.

A Story About How He lost Weight

fat-lossSal is a thirty-six-year-old schoolteacher. He came to see me for an assessment because he was feeling sluggish. His BMI was 33, his waist circumference was high at 44 inches (112cm), and his blood pressure was elevated at 155/100. (His physical exam and blood work were otherwise normal, except that his bad cholesterol was higher than it should have been.)

A repeat blood pressure reading a few weeks later was 150/100. We talked about treatment options for his high blood pressure – medication, or weight loss and exercise, or both. His response was, “I would prefer not to start medication, but it would be easier than losing weight and exercising.” I offered to teach him a precise step by step process to help him change his lifestyle and lower his blood pressure. He told me he wanted to think about it. He returned the next week, extremely keen to get started on a program like the one laid out here to try to control his blood pressure without medication if he could.

I asked him why he was suddenly so keen to lose the weight and change his lifestyle. He told me that, the day after our second visit, he received a call to teach a grade 1 class for a few days as a substitute teacher. On the first day, a little five-year-old girl came up to him, pushed on his abdomen with her finger, and said to him, “You’re going to have a baby.” He told me that upset him so much he decided to lose weight and get healthier.

Sal really committed himself to the Health First program and lost 40 pounds (20kg) at a rate of about 2 pounds (1kg) per week. His blood pressure returned to normal at 120/80. As he says:

This program is so easy to follow; I never feel like I’m on a diet, and I’m never hungry. I’m very focused on what I eat and drink. I quickly realized that I was drinking too much alcohol and eating way too many starches. Since I’ve lost the 40 pounds, I no longer feel sluggish, I have tons of energy, and I also like the compliments that I’m getting about how great I look. Keeping the weight off is also easy with the maintenance program that I now follow.