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Be Your Own Doctor: Exercise!

Exercise: Function: noun  Inflected Form(s): -s   Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French exercice, from Latin exercitium, from exercitus, past participle of exercere to drive on, keep busy, from ex- 1ex- + ercere (from arcere to hold off, enclose) — more at ARK    1 a : the act of bringing into play or realizing in action : EXERTION, USE <avoid accidents by the exercise of foresight> <the violent … exercise of royal authority — T.B.Macaulay> b : the discharge of an official function or professional occupation <exercise of his judicial duties>    2 a : regular or repeated appropriate use of a faculty, power, or bodily organ <willpower is strengthened by exercise> <muscles atrophy from lack of exercise> b : bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness <he plays golf chiefly for the exercise>    3 : something that is performed or practiced in order to develop or improve a specific power or skill: as a : a set task (as a piece of writing) designed to improve a pupil’s ability or to test his comprehension of a subject <do the exercise at the end of each chapter> <spelling exercise> b : an artificially devised bodily action or set of actions prescribed for regular or repeated practice as a means of gaining strength, dexterity, suppleness, or all-around competence in some field of performance <finger exercise> <bowing exercise> <vocal exercises> <breathing exercises>    4 a : a composition or work of art performed chiefly in order to practice or display a specific technical point or aspect : STUDY <exercise in double-stops> <exercise in light and shadow effects> b : an artistic or intellectual performance whose value is greater in the doing than in the final result or greater for the performer than for the beholder <a mere literary exercise> <to balance forms, calculate proportions, and harmonize colors can be an intellectual exercise rather than an act of creative imagination — Herbert Read> c : any performance having a strongly marked or identifiable secondary or ulterior aspect <a biography that … is a truly formidable exercise in unrelieved contempt — New Yorker> d : habitual act : PRACTICE <the casting of metal forms in molds was an exercise older than recorded history>    5 : an act of religious practice especially in worship (as of preaching, expounding, or praying) <exercises of devotion>    6 : a public exhibition or ceremony: as a : a maneuver, operation, or drill carried out for training and discipline <a field exercise> b : an academic disputation, oral examination, or discourse required of a candidate for a degree and often carried on in public c exercises plural : a program including speeches, announcements of awards and honors, and various traditional practices of secular or religious character <commencement exercises> d : an activity forming part of a regular academic routine <salute the national flag as part of a daily school exercise — Felix Frankfurter>  Source: Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.

Hot Off The Press

This morning (3 August 2009), as I perused the latest e-mail newsletter from MedScape, an article caught my eye. “Exercise Reduces Risk for Premature Death from Cancer,” it shouted. Now, I don’t believe I have cancer, but I do know how important exercise is in my life. So, right now–taking a cue from the article’s title–I’m going out for a long walk. When I get back, I’ll share with you what the article had to say. You will find it quite interesting.

Ahhhh… That was good. I love a good walk in the woods. Treadmilling is passable, as a workout venue, but it’s hard to beat a good trek down a leaf-strewn trail in a Texas forest. Luckily, such a trail begins about a mile from my house. So it’s necessary to pound a bit of concrete sidewalk first, but It’s worth it. Once on the hiking trail, under the trees, life is really good, and the woodland portion of this particular hike is a good ten miles plus. Today I walked only a couple of miles before turning back. The temperature was in the 90’s when I started, and had risen to 100 before the trek was over, so lots of perspiration still wets my clothing. That’s good, too–it opens up the pores and washes out the toxins of everyday life. On days like this a backpack with a water reservoir and a long drinking straw is a near-must. Keeping hydrated is a snap that way.

Now, back to the MedScape article. The original piece–published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine’s on-line edition, on July 28, 2009–involved a study of 2560 Finnish men, 42-60 years old, from the town of Kuopio and the surrounding rural areas. For the first year of the study, these men self-reported on their leisure-time physical activities. Then, for the next 16 years or so, they were followed up to see how they fared. Out of the group, 181 died of cancer-related illnesses during the study period.

The study–which was adjusted for age, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and total intake of calories, fat, and fiber–found a 50% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely from cancer, for those who exercised moderately or more, for 30 minutes or more a day. The author of the study, Sudir Kurl, M.D., said that exercise also improves well being and confidence, and leads to better sleep and weight control.

A moderate to high exercise intensity was required to show a reduction in the risk of premature death from cancer. Kurl provided a list of the forms of exercise examined in the study, along with a comparison of the metabolic equivalents of oxygen consumption (METs) that each kind of exercise represented. Kurl considers anything above a MET of 4.0 as moderate-intensity exercise or higher.

Jogging has a MET of 10.1; skiing, 9.6; playing ball 6.7; swimming 5.4; rowing 5.4; cycling 5.1; gardening, farming, and yard work, 4.3; and walking, my favorite, 4.2.  Less intense activities, like crafts, repair, and building, had average METs of 2.7. Hunting, picking berries, and gathering mushrooms, though still sub-moderate, were slightly higher at 3.6. Fishing came in at 2.4.

Want to know how to be your own oncologist? Seriously. If you want to cure yourself of cancer before it even happens, start exercising moderately every day. Jogging or skiing are good. And playing ball, swimming, rowing, and cycling are other excellent ways to do that. But, if you ask me, walking has them all beat. First off , Kurl’s MET for walking, 4.2, is an average figure. You can walk a lot faster, and with more vigor, if you feel like it, and the result is a much higher MET. It’s even possible to come close to the MET of a good jog, if you try. Yet walking–with good footwear, of course, and with your ambulation apparatus intact–poses almost none of the disadvantages of all the other exercise regimes. Let me explain…

Whenever I walk on a public trail, the cyclists are usually out in force. They whiz by at high speed, sometimes within inches of my body, often without a verbal warning. No doubt they are cycling, rather than walking, because they want to take advantage of the higher MET that cycling offers. And they are cycling on the trail with the walkers and joggers, rather than on the road with the motorized vehicles, because the danger–to them, at least–is much reduced. But too often they endanger others in the process. I prefer not to do that.

As a walker, I know how important it is to follow a few safety rules to avoid becoming a cycling statistic; like walking on the far right of the trail, and avoiding sudden lateral moves without first insuring no cyclists are about to pass.

Jogging is, of course, an option, and in my younger days I enjoyed a good jog. Matter of fact, I could never have conquered nicotine without enduring a couple of years of jogging back in the 1970’s. I found that jogging removed the nicotine and tobacco tars from my bloodstream, lymph system, and lungs, better than anything else, and because every puff on a cigarette reminded me that my next jog would be a bit less effective for it, I eventually managed to surmount the nicotine habit. But jogging for long periods of time can lead to hip, knee, and ankle problems later on. It didn’t happen to me, but then, I didn’t jog that hard. Some of my friends were more energetic, and a few have had to pay the price. Knee and hip joint replacements don’t work quite as well as the real thing, regardless of what some doctors say.

Anyway, happy exercising. Read up on the subject, and make sure you don’t overdo. Gradually ease into a good exercise regime that you are comfortable with, and take pleasure in the fact that, by so doing, you are, indeed, being your own doctor.



Assembled and edited by Jerry Cates, Editor-in-chief, Questions? Corrections? Comments? BUG ME RIGHT NOW! Telephone 512-331-1111. E-mail Or register, log in, and leave a detailed comment in the space provided below.

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