Taking Care of Your Temple
As you know, for several months now I've been weight training consistently and eating pretty clean. (That Pepsi the other day, however, sure did taste good.) I've noticed that I've begun to lose abdominal fat and gain muscle mass as well as strength, plus the energy it takes to make it through the week without feeling tired. Sitting back and not taking control of the body God has given me is simply not an option for me anymore. In other words, healthy aging begins with taking care of yourself, as Paul assumes we all do with our bodies (Eph. 5:28-30).
Like most of you, I see a doctor regularly for checkups and annual physicals, but I've never had nutrition or exercise training. It's almost as though health care professionals knew nothing about the connection between exercise and health. It was a gentle prompt by one of my daughters that made me realize that I had to change my lifestyle drastically if I was going to be able to maintain my active lifestyle. Soon after that, I discovered the local YMCA -- one of the best investments I've ever made. For a mere $28.00/month I train there 3 times a week without it interfering with all of my other responsibilities.
It has now been about 4 months since I began this exciting journey and not only do I feel great but I'm actually improving my physique. I'm enjoying a new level of mental focus that I lacked since Becky's death. I am also more productive in terms of my daily work (as both farmer and professor). I also love training with people two-thirds my age and learning from them. The teacher is now the student -- and this student is enjoying the role reversal tremendously!
Perhaps your life is on a similar trajectory that mine was on a few months ago. Folks, I'm living proof that anybody, at any age, can become their own health advocate and take charge of their fitness and physical well-being (which are all gifts of the Lord to begin with). But the time to act is now. I'm especially concerned for my friends who are overweight or obese and who sincerely want to do something about it but don't know where to start. Some of them are clearly at risk of heart attack and other age- and health style-related illnesses, including diabetes. I believe it's my duty to help my brothers if I can. Men's health is not that hard to figure out.
To prevent disease and preserve vitality, two basic steps are necessary:
1) You need to carefully select everything that goes into your mouth.
2) You need to do some form of exercise regularly.
At the risk of sounding like a stuffy professor (which I am) or a proud know-it-all (I know very little, believe me!), let me offer a few suggestions for anyone who is reading this blog post today and who would like to prayerfully consider changing their eating and exercise habits. These are principles I've been learning along the way and are simply too good not to pass on to you! So here we go, in no particular order.
1) If you're eating the wrong foods, it doesn't matter how often you exercise. You must cut yourself off from your bad eating habits.
2) So-called "diets" do not work.
3) Nor does cardio training by itself. Cardio is simply not rigorous enough to take pounds off and keep them off.
4) Weight training is by far the best way to achieve a caloric deficit because, rather than triggering the starvation response (as most diets do), it increases your metabolic rate, thus increasing all of your fat-burning enzymes. It targets body fat rather than muscle tissue.
5) Weight training works. It really does. That's why it's the cornerstone of my exercise program. Without it, there is no way I could look and feel as I do. Once you get used to regular weight training, your body becomes a fat-burning machine.
6) You're never too old to start weight training. I used to lift regularly when I was in college and when we moved to North Carolina 17 years ago. More recently I began aerobic exercises that increase heart rate for a sustained period of time. I've noticed that people who do only cardio (walking, jogging, swimming) experience very little permanent weight loss. On the other hand, with basic weight training you will notice immediate results such as fat loss, increased muscle tone, and overall higher energy levels. Let me repeat: Most experts agree that muscle loss and weight gain can be stopped and reversed only through weight training. Cardio alone can't do it.
7) My own exercise routine (for what it's worth) consists of weight training for 40 minutes (no longer!) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and cardio training (walk/run a 5K) at least 3 times a week (usually Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Sunday is my day off.
8) Once you start an exercise program, keep at it. Join the Y or a local gym. Train for an event like a local 5K or 10K. Start off with one day per week but keep your schedule religiously. "Every Monday I will work out. No exceptions!" At this stage, it's not so important that you worry too much about sets, reps, and specific exercises, but that you form a habit.
9) Train with intensity but rest between workouts for at least 48 hours. Exercise as if your life depends on it, because in a sense it does.
10) As for your diet, eat more often (4-6 smaller meals a day), eat breakfast every day (I blogged about this previously), drink lots of water, avoid processed foods as much as possible, and eat more fiber and protein. This is what I ate for breakfast this morning (accompanied by a delicious glass of well water).
11) Finally, don't begin a weight training program without first consulting your doctor. And when you do begin, be sure to avail yourself of the wisdom of a personal trainer who will help you put together an exercise program that's just right for you and your goals.
The truth is that everybody can benefit from larger and stronger muscles. Without weight training two results are inevitable: reduced functional capacity (leading to less physical activity), and reduced caloric utilization (leading to a slower metabolism). Adding muscle is a double solution in that it increases both your functional capacity and your metabolic rate. This is because muscle tissue requires large amounts of energy during exercise and a significant energy supply while resting.
Okay, these are merely some random reflections from a non-expert. So if you disagree with me, that's fine! I encourage you to watch the following YouTube if you can find the time. It's called Muscle Growth. This month the journal Baptist Health published an essay called More Evidence That Southern Cooking Boosts Heart Risk. Also this month, The Baptist Messenger wrote:
Our country has an epidemic of obesity in all age groups including children, adolescents and adults. This is of concern because overweight and obese individuals have an increased risk for many health problems. Heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer are among conditions associated with obesity. Conditions and diseases associated with obesity that were once mainly diagnosed in adults are now found in children and adolescents with excess body weight. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood cholesterol, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes are increasing in children and adolescents.
So there you have it. It's pretty obvious to me that we can all do better at taking care of the temples God has given us.
Blessings and good health!
September 15, 2015
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.