Archive for the Fitness Category

What is required to get in shape?

Posted in Fitness, Getting started with tags , , , on March 16, 2008 by Dr. CJ

Something got me thinking about fitness and lifestyle changes today. I was trying to pin down what exactly is the difference between individuals who are able to make significant lifestyle changes and/or transformations from those who continue doing the same self-destructive things that led them to their current state of affairs. So I started thinking about what is required to get fit.

Time? Absolutely

But, you may notice that there is not necessarily a correlation between how much free time someone has and how fit they are. In fact, I might even argue that I normally see the opposite effect (Time on the hands goes wasted – or certainly not to fitness pursuits). For example, I work more in a typical week than 98-99% of my patients do, and yet I manage to find time for my workouts. My days start early and end late, but I still get one (often two) workouts fit in to a typical day. There’s gotta be something more . . .

Resources? Not really

There is no cost associated with walking/running or even lifting most weights. I could find a thousand things in my house that I could use for hand weights. Instead, I chose to invest in a set of weights with barbells and dumbbells with a much-used weight bench for the sake of convenience. I stock it with weight plates that I buy on sale from the cheapest place in town I could find. Despite what some people might contend, just because I’m a physician, I am by no means living in the lap of luxury (my student loans alone could buy many a house – Uncle Sam has a chokehold on my finances).

Energy? Definitely

Having the energy to get through an exercise regimen is highly dependent on nutrition and a decent foundation of well-being (i.e. no major medical complications). But plenty of people have all sorts of energy to work every day, go out on nights and /or weekends, travel, etc. and they still don’t manage to exercise. So what is the all-important factor?

Discipline! This requirement is perhaps the most important.

Any of the other requirements can be directed to other ventures and not get one any closer to their goals if not used properly. For example, how many stories have you heard about treadmills sitting in someone’s basement holding laundry? The resources are available and there is likely time and energy to do at least some exercise, but it never gets attention. I’ve encountered hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who have ridiculous amounts of time on their hands and plenty of desire to “get in shape”, but give up on a fitness plan for any number of reasons. This phenomenon happens predictably every year.

For me, in order to make the changes that I have made so far, I had to set aside the comfortable alternative of “doing nothing”. Believe me, it’s far easier to sleep in every morning, grab quick and fatty foods, eat to my content, and sit around watching TV when I come home from work. I absolutely wish that life were that easy. Unfortunately, there’s no substitution for a disciplined approach to fitness.

I’ve learned what it takes to keep my body in a healthy state. After letting it go for a few years, I’ve had to work harder to get back on track, but now I’ve learned some lifelong habits that will maintain a good level of fitness.

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60 is the new ___?

Posted in Fitness, Motivation on March 12, 2008 by Dr. CJ

I had another patient tonight that solidly earned my respect for his fitness accomplishments [note: doesn’t happen often enough].

67-year-old guy in for his physical. I was reviewing his labs from a week ago that were done in anticipation of this visit, including his cholesterol.

LDL 99, HDL 89.

Chew on that a second. His HDL is almost as high as his LDL. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this thought before, but I consider that the ultimate goal with the lipid panel.  I have never seen an HDL as high as an LDL. Unfortunately, I’m doomed by my family history of abnormal lipids, but I’m still shooting for it.

His secret: he runs 8-10 miles daily on his home treadmill. On top of that, he does weight lifting and just started once weekly boxing. In fact, without any prompting from me, he started explaining how he thinks people waste too much time on doing strictly cardio, as he has noticed significant improvement in his health and physique when incorporating weights.

He was incredibly full of energy – I wish I could have taken a picture to capture it, because it was truly a satisfying glimpse at what a lifetime of fitness can do for you. Nothing is slowing him down, not that 67 is all that old, but I’ve seen 20-30-year-olds in much worse shape than him.  With lipid numbers like that, he will likely never develop heart disease.

“How can I cut get off of [or cut back on] my medications?”

Posted in Fitness, Medicine, Preventive Medicine with tags , , on February 19, 2008 by Dr. CJ

Time and time again, I hear patients request to have their medications reduced, but it is nearly always met with a blank, uninterested stare when I give them the answer.

Most of these individuals are on numerous medications for the problems associated with metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. Since these are all major risk factors for heart disease and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, the medical profession takes them very seriously. Presumably, patients do, too, or they wouldn’t have sought help or agreed to take a medication in the first place.

Believe me, I don’t want to put people on any more medicine than they absolutely need – it exposes the patient to more potential problems and me to more potential liability, not to mention the time demands of discussing the ins and outs of the medication and handling refills, etc.

So . . . what’s the solution?

Pretty simple, really – FITNESS. It’s the fix-all for a multitude of conditions. All of the above-mentioned medical conditions are deeply-rooted in inactivity, obesity, etc. Our bodies require that we lead fairly active lifestyles, especially to balance the poor nutrition habits of so many. I know it’s easier to be inactive than to embark on an exercise regimen (I’ve done both).

Unfortunately, medications don’t “cure” any of these chronic conditions – they merely alter the conditions of our bodies to simulate a more normal state of being. The body needs to be re-trained on how to handle glucose (sugar), cholesterol, or blood pressure. Exercise can be free, proper diet can be cheaper than a poor diet, and the lifelong benefits outweigh the hassle of making such a lifestyle change.