This article was originially published as an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, 31st Dec. 2023: https://www.jpost.com/health-and-wellness/article-780119
People have questioned me as to why at The Wellness Clinic we offer a free consultation before starting a program. It’s very simple. People need to know before they get started on their journey to improved health, that it doesn’t happen just because you sign up. It’s work—but it’s well worth the effort.
Weight loss, lower blood pressure, diabetes or prediabetes to reverse, cholesterol to lower– it’s all very possible. However, there are no easy solutions. We have no magic wand or magic pill to use. What we do have, is good education, based on the absolute latest science has to offer. We can give motivational techniques and, eventually, a path to good health, lower stress, and a happier life.
What will I gain
With all this effort and time to change lifestyle habits, what is it we are actually achieving? That is what Zack asked me when he came to sign up for our program. Zack is 44 years old. Over the last eight 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 with no formal exercise. But to his credit, Zack realized that he needs to make some changes.
Changing habits and behaviors is the way to achieve good health. When we inculcate good, healthy behaviors into our everyday life, we cut the odds of illness and disease substantially. When you start walking briskly 6 days a week, build some muscle twice a week, and change to healthier eating you improve your likelihood of a better life.
How important is exercise?
Let’s take a closer look at what decades of research show us about making exercise a priority in our lives.
Diabetic: If you are currently pre-diabetic or have a history of diabetes in your family, exercising can help cut down the odds of getting diabetes by 58%!
Premature death: A study that followed 10,000 alumni from Harvard University showed that the risk of premature death went down 23% for exercisers.
Osteoarthritis:If you’re older and feeling aches and pains, start walking 6 days a week. Your pain and disability can be reduced by up to 47%. Your reliance on medicine for pain reduction can become substantially less or even eliminated.
Alzheimer’s disease: Exercise is one of the ways we can increase the odds against getting Alzheimer’s. Even if one already has the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, exercise can slow progress by 50%–that is a very significant number.
Anxiety: With exercise, you can reduce your anxiety by 48%
Depression: Moderate exercise relieves symptoms in 30% of patients. For those who could be more intense in their workouts, 47% get out of their depressive state.
Fatigue: Exercise is the primary treatment for that too.
Low Fitness: One of the strongest predictors of early mortality is low cardio-respiratory fitness.
How much time and effort do I have to put in?
If you can walk daily for 30-35 minutes, at a moderate to brisk pace, you will get all of the benefit we mentioned above and maybe more. 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. Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, rowing, or jumping rope will give you the benefit you need.
Walk the walk
I emphasize walking because it is the easiest form of aerobic exercise. Even though walking 30-35 minutes consecutive is ideal, studies have shown that even walking briskly in 10 minute bouts is very valuable. Make your walk to work or shop part of the daily routine. This way, you don’t have to set aside designated times.
Another good way to make walking part of your daily routine is to make a set time to walk with a friend. Enjoy the company! For many, walking is a time to let you mind relax.
Before you begin a walking program, visit your doctor for a complete medical evaluation. Once you have the approval of your physician, you can begin.
A few more walking tips!
- People who have been sedentary must start slowly and build up gradually.
- Start at a comfortable pace, walking as though you are slightly late for an appointment.
- Maintain good posture while you walk and look straight ahead.
- Swinging your arms increases your caloric burn greatly. Make sure your arms are moving forward and not crossing in front of you.
- A good, sturdy pair of proper walking shoes is essential. If you don’t have proper shoes, you may suffer some type of discomfort or even injury. For most people who walk a lot, 5-6 months is tops to hold on to shoes.
- Avoid boredom or monotony by taking music or an audio lecture with you. Changing your walking course from time to time is also a good idea.
- Make sure to take precautions against extreme weather. Wear a hat – during the winter or summer months. In the winter, if you want to brave the cold, dress appropriately.
- Be careful to stay hydrated even in colder weather. Remember to drink plenty of water before and after your walk.
Remember, this is all about increasing the odds of good health. Nothing is foolproof and nothing is 100% protective. Still, the evidence is quite pronounced that exercise and good eating will better your health and better quality of life—at any age!
Zack has only been in our program for six weeks. Some weight has come off, his blood pressure is down, and he is already off his diabetes medication. It’s not magic, it’s hard work and effort. Incorporate healthy habits into your life and up your odds to “add hours to our day, days to your year and years to our life”.