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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Get Up and Walk!

By Richard Hammar
July 8, 2012

I have been engaged in the pursuit of physical fitness all my life. But when I became a Christian during my college years, my motivation became grounded in Scripture. The verses that affected me the most were 1 Corinthians 6:19,20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (NIV). These verses continue to inspire me.

Over the years, my fitness regimen has changed slightly, but consists of what I call the “six pillars of health.” Let me summarize them.

The first pillar of health is cardiovascular conditioning. I follow the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine and shoot for 150 minutes each week in my heart’s “aerobic zone,” which is defined as 70-90 percent of a person’s maximal heart rate. There are many ways to compute your maximal heart rate. The most common is to simply subtract your age from 220.

You can use any exercise you wish to achieve the desired minutes in your aerobic zone. I walk on a treadmill at elevations up to 15 degrees, and use an elliptical trainer. I wear a heart monitor that tracks the minutes I spend in my target zone. A common error is to exercise without monitoring your heart rate. This often results in excessive anaerobic exertion above the target rate, which causes immunological stress and disease.

The second pillar of health is weight training two or three times per week involving all major muscle groups. Consider this: Your body begins losing muscle mass at about age 25. You will lose about half a percent of muscle mass each year until age 60. At age 60, you start losing one percent a year. This rate doubles to two percent a year at age 70, and doubles again at ages 80 and 90. The only way to counter the relentless loss of muscle tissue is with weight training.

You don’t need a full-service gym to do your weight training. A couple of 10-pound weights purchased at a discount store will suffice. An added bonus is that weight training helps to delay or even prevent osteoporosis.

The third pillar of health is stretching. Your natural flexibility declines with age, much like your muscle mass. But this trend can be delayed significantly with proper stretching.

The fourth pillar of health is proper nutrition. The American diet is atrocious. We eat too much, and we eat the wrong kinds of foods. Following a brief visit to our country, English author Charles Dickens referred to the American diet as consisting of “indigestible heaps of matter.” I am afraid he was not far from the truth.

Here are a few of the rules I follow: (1) Eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily; (2) a low-fat diet — no red meat and fish twice weekly; (3) when eating out, split entrees with your spouse or take half or more home with you; (4) avoid foods with high caloric density (desserts); and (5) avoid any food with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (crackers, store-bought cookies, etc.). Another tip — use a smaller plate. This will help you manage serving sizes.

It is important to understand that exercise can never compete with the mouth. Many assume that they will “burn off” binge eating with exercise. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Do the math. It takes the average person 10 hours of brisk walking to burn off one pound (3,500 calories) of fat. Yet you can easily consume 3,500 calories in 10 minutes at a buffet! You must never assume that exercise alone will have any appreciable impact on weight reduction. It doesn’t. The only solution is to reduce caloric intake.

The fifth pillar of health is medical exams and screening. Did you know that adult males can reduce their risk of cancer by up to 90 percent by following four simple steps? Here they are: (1) don’t smoke; (2) get a colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter (age 40 if you have a family history of colon cancer); (3) have annual prostate exams beginning at age 50; and (4) avoid exposure to direct sunlight unless using sunblock.

The sixth pillar of health is spiritual health. We learn from 1 Corinthians 6:19,20 that the cultivation of health is a spiritual discipline, since we are conserving the priceless gift of life with which we have been entrusted by our Creator. It also is worth noting that numerous studies have shown a direct link between church participation and health.

Each year I drive to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas for a complete physical examination. Each year I am rated in the “superior” fitness category. However, a few years ago my scores and test results were off the charts, placing me in the top one-tenth of 1 percent of persons my age who are Clinic patients.

What did I do differently to achieve this result? I began wearing a pedometer. I will never forget the first day that I did so. I returned home from a typical day at the office and was stunned to discover that I had accumulated only 1,800 steps. The goal (recommended by the Cooper Clinic) is 10,000!

I soon learned that the value of wearing a pedometer is the tremendous motivation it provides to accumulate more steps. In my case, this means taking walks with my wife and consciously trying to increase my total steps during the day. I never use an elevator, and park as far as I can from store entrances. It all adds up.

Last year I averaged 67,000 steps per week, or 9,600 per day — not far from the goal. This relatively modest additional exertion translated into real gains in my overall fitness. I strongly recommend the use of pedometers. Believe me, they will get you off the couch.

I hope that these recommendations will motivate you to more diligently pursue the biblical admonition to “honor God with your body.” Your body is not your own. It is a gift from God that has been entrusted to you. Are you taking good care of it? It is an important task, articulated by Jesus himself. After healing a paralytic man Jesus instructed him to “get up and walk!” May we, too, heed His words.

RICHARD HAMMAR is legal counsel for the Assemblies of God.

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