This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.
The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.
The best form of exercise
For what it's worth, this is my opinion about the best form of exercise. As with diet, everyone must ultimately develop their own ideal exercise program.
Is it running?
Not for me, Eli. You know, I have many friends, both in my former line of work, and in church and the neighborhood, who are so into running. Some of them run 30 miles a week, some even more. They swear by it. And there are no doubt some advantages. It is a known fact that your endorphin level goes way up with regular running. Endorphins those chemicals that resemble heroin, but are actually good for you—the so-called natural high. And there can also be no doubt that with proper caution, say wearing a blood pressure or pulse monitor, you can get a lot of cardiovascular fitness from running. You burn fat like crazy, and can eat a lot, in fact, have to eat a lot. For men, you can start to get that body builder definition.
I don't run for a couple of reasons. I have a somewhat injured disc at the bottom of my spine. As long as I don't run or slouch in my chair, or lift over 40 lbs., I'm ok. But the main reason that I have gotten very skeptical of running is that I don't have a single friend in his or her late forties, fifties, or sixties that doesn't have running related damage to their back, knees, shins or feet. I've seen knee replacements, fractured bones, and "slipped discs" in these folks. Most of them are even aware that there is a connection here.
Is it soccer, tennis, racquet ball, and the like?
Well, where would we be without these activities? The world loves a good ball game. It is fun, and combines competition with activity. So many good things can be said about both organized athletics or intramural sports. If you're a person who likes to do these kinds of things, go right ahead.
However, just know that you probably will end up with some injuries that will come back to haunt you when you are older. Knees, ankles, wrists, that hurt and don't work right are common consequences. And, also, once you have a host of these injuries, you are going to HAVE to find some other way to exercise than the way that got you the injury. It will hurt too much to do otherwise. Maybe we'll eventually get so good at bionic parts, that we won't have to worry about this anymore, but for right now, it's a concern.
I suppose you're going to suggest walking.
Walking is very good exercise. We can walk really fast and get almost the same benefits as running without all the injuries. Or we can walk at a moderate pace and still become more healthy while elevating our basal metabolic rate, which is what we want to do when we are losing weight. Walking is just so well integrated into life. You can do it alone or with friends. You can do it almost any time of day. All you need is a good pair of shoes. You can even combine errands with walking. Yes, it takes more time to get the same benefit from walking as it does from running. But it's easier on your body.
I also recommend your getting a device that measures how many steps you have taken. I used one for a while until I learned how much more I was walking than I though I was. I live in a three-story house, and my office is on the third floor. Some would say this is inconvenient, but I have to tell you, it is wonderful exercise. Whoops, you forgot your checkbook? Well, go right up there and get it. It's good for you. Wrong pair of shoes down here? Go up and get them; take the other ones back.
Level of activity
My doctor, who is a sage in many ways, said to me a while back that for a man my age (65) I am doing well to get in about an hour of activity a day. It could be gardening, house cleaning, walking, shopping, or doing household repairs. This was very good advice. I had a tendency to sit and play the piano or read or work at the computer. These activities are mainly exercising my butt and my brain. Now I find that the more active I become, the more energy I have for even more activity. I'm not afraid to tackle that garden anymore or painting the deck or washing the car. As I accomplish these tasks I get satisfaction BOTH from doing the task itself, and from the knowledge that I'm putting in my hour or two of activity a day. It's a mental set, but it's so easy to loose it for a more sedentary approach to life.
Eastern alternatives: yoga and tai chi
I've been doing hatha yoga now for about a month. Now THIS is a challenge. I know so little about it, that I'm almost embarrassed to talk about it. Look for me to say more later. However, the basic idea as I get it is that Indian sages have developed these postures or asanas which are designed to maximize the flexibility, useability, and endurance of your body. As your body becomes more flexible, you have greater energy.
The second alternative activity that I do once a week is tai chi. I have twice been through a year of the Yang Short Form. Not only does tai chi improve your endurance and balance, but it embodies a philosophy of rolling with life's punches. Also look for me to extend this section in the future.