How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a family?
I am 57. Yes, to a beautiful paediatrician. Three great kids—a daughter, 23 (who is currently working as an exercise specialist); a son, 20, studying geological engineering; and a son, 14, in high school.
Ten years ago, I had seen One On One in the old Mt. Royal shopping mall and kept saying to myself I need to get into better shape. Despite the fact that I have an undergraduate degree in Health and Physical Education along with a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, much like everyone else, I still found it hard at that time to dedicate myself to a regular exercise program. Ten years down the line, my goal every day is to spend 10 per cent of my waking time involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity. That means somewhere between one and 1.5 hours per day. Two, sometimes three days a week, it means working out with my fitness trainer Codrut here at One On One. Those sessions are almost all resistance training sessions with some aerobic exercise during or after. On the days when I am not working out with Codrut, I do both resistance training and aerobic training.
In the last decade, the more reading I have done and the more research I have done, in conjunction with experiencing my own aging process, I have come to realize that for most people without major health problems or disease limitations, a greater emphasis on moderate to vigorous exercise, rather than simply moderate exercise, is extremely important to slow down the aging process. In addition, it is quite true that fitness is not only state of body but also state of mind. The more exercise I do the better I feel both mentally and physically. Prior to the age of 50, I tried to fit exercise into my very busy schedule.
After turning 50, I realized that I was a sustainable but non-renewable human resource. Therefore, I had to discipline myself to include exercise as part of my regular schedule, preferably on a daily basis. As a physician, there are certainly some days when the demands of the job quite simply get in the way and it does not happen. However, the goal is there every day. Unfortunately, in our society, so few people exercise on a regular basis and so many people are after the quick-fix, fast-food approach to health, that it is very difficult to convince individuals or society to dedicate time to regular exercise. In reality, whatever aging does to our bodies, exercise does exactly the opposite. Given the billions of dollars that people worldwide spend on anti-aging products every year, it is too bad they do not realize that the best way to preserve their current health and significantly slow down the aging process is to engage in moderate to vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Without a doubt, a by-product of regular exercise and being fit is looking better. I see male patients in my cardiology practice every day who have never done exercise of any kind in their adult lives, who look 10 older than I do, even though, in some cases, they are 10 years younger. However, it is also the realization that I am trying to improve my health so that I will still be around later in life to enjoy my family and friends.
The biggest challenge for all of us is to actively resist the overwhelming inertia of society with respect to attitudes regarding regular exercise. In the physician world, where they should all certainly know, spending an hour to an hour and a half a day or more doing exercise is too often regarded as a luxury. It should be regarded as an absolute necessity. So, my biggest challenge every day is to resist those forces that would have me believe that exercise is optional and that if I was truly a dedicated health-care professional I would not be spending time in a gym. Once again, the time that I spend in the gym or elsewhere engaging in physical activity and exercise simply means that I will likely be practicing medicine long after my very hard-working, but sometimes completely sedentary, colleagues. I tell my children all the time that life is a marathon. It is not a sprint. Therefore, working hard 16 to 18 hours a day for 20 or 30 years and then dying or burning out means that you are short changing your family, your friends, and society.
Although I am much more active now than I was 20 years ago, I have always been reasonably fit and fairly active. My being involved in regular physical activity now is something that my wife, children, and friends do not find unusual. Fortunately, as I have gotten older, most of my close friends have rededicated themselves to regular exercise programs and so it has become easier to be a regular exerciser. And, slowly over time, more health care professionals are incorporating regular exercise into their schedules. My personal belief on nutrition is that it is far more important to be in a negative caloric balance on a daily basis then to be obsessed with what you actually eat. In short, my unproven theory is that you can probably eat almost anything as long as you burn off more calories than you take in on a daily basis.
Clearly, my nutritional colleagues do not agree with this and there are limits with respect to the fact that you need to consume minimum amounts of certain minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. But I believe that there has been far too much emphasis on the dietary components of nutrition, i.e., carbohydrate, fat, and protein, and not enough emphasis on simply eating less and exercising more.
I can honestly say that I no longer really fall off track for more than a few days. It is important to understand that it has taken five to 10 years to establish that work ethic. And that is for a cardiovascular disease prevention specialist who has been involved in regular physical activity and exercise for most of his adult life. Despite that, I did have to work hard at establishing a daily exercise regimen. It was not negotiable.
Fortunately, my wife and family were extremely supportive and understanding of the need to be involved in regular exercise. My wife is a busy pediatrician but still finds time for regular exercise. My daughter, who is my personal exercise, nutrition, and health hero, has been very important in my life by continuously reinforcing the absolute need and requirement for all of us to eat properly (mostly not eat too much) and to maintain a regular exercise program. And my sons, they know what to do.
My goals now are to remain fit, to continue to try and improve my present level of fitness, and try to act as an example for others.
If you could give advice to another person who was struggling with their fitness what would that be?
It sounds trite, but it is very much a case of “just do it.” As a 10-year observer of trainers and training programs at One On One, I think one of the great things about this organization is the emphasis on personalized fitness and exercise programs that are both goal specific in the short-term and long-term. By this I mean that, although people may begin an exercise program here with the specific goal of losing weight or looking more fit, there has always been an underlying emphasis on the need for regular lifelong exercise in order to maintain the benefits.
Any other comments that you would like to add?
Regular exercise is not a lifestyle option. It is a health behavior which we should be teaching in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school. It is the absolute foundation to lifelong mental and physical health. Unfortunately, by the time most of us are well into adulthood, we have long forgotten the basics of an exercise program or simple nutrition. Engaging a personal fitness trainer and committing yourself to one hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week is the surest way to ensuring lifelong health.