William Harris, M.D. -- The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism
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How About Exercise?

One of the most vicious cycles in nature begins with the words, "I can't exercise because...." If the excuse is, for instance, "because I weigh too much, and it hurts," then one simply gets heavier and the pain gets worse. All the cells in your body are dependent on the circulation of blood and lymph for the exchange-ofgases (oxygen, carbon dioxide), the supply of nutrients (amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals), and the removal of metabolic waste.

Without exercise your circulatory system steadily deteriorates. Without circulation no tissue is properly nourished and no tissue can heal. Avoidance of alcohol and nicotine and the use of proper food and exercise are the prime determinants of health, all other interventions are secondary. To be effective, aerobic exercise must make you sweat, raise your pulse rate, raise your respiratory rate, and transiently raise your blood pressure. While there are fancy devices and formulas to insure that all these things happen, the real objective is to develop an "exercise addiction" which will last for the rest of your life, and become a part of your daily schedule. The most important accouterments are your feet, a well-padded pair of running shoes, and your own determination to set aside 15-60 minutes of your daily life to "suit-up" and go out and do it. (Physical activity at work doesn't really count.)

Overuse injuries and accidental injuries will interfere fiom time to time. Therefore, one should have at least three exercise modes which can be used interchangeably. If your knees start to complain about too much running, switch to swimming or a stationary bicycle. If a sore develops and is painful in the water, go back to running. If the weather goes bad, you can walk or run up the stairwell in your building.

If you have not exercised for many years, get back into it gradually. Alternating walking with short jogs and wind sprints is a good way to build your exercise reserve.  If there is any question of your cardiovascular safety, better resume exercise under the careful instructions of your physician. If you compete, watch out for the play-to-win mentality. High acceleration injuries heal slowly at any age and the older you get the slower they heal.

Stretching exercises (Yoga, for example) and some form of weight lifting or muscle training are also advisable. Almost every muscle in the body has an antagonist muscle either on the reverse side of its extremity or in some other location. You can easily find these antagonist muscle pairs, either by experimentation, or by a modest knowledge of anatomy, and contract them against each other to keep them well-toned, and perhaps even to make them stronger.

Situps require nothing more than a pad or a pillow and a bed frame under which to hook your toes. Other forms of muscle-toning resistive exercises are also cheap and readily available at gyms of or Parks and Recreation departments in your area.