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Health & Exercise Forum

Amen for 2010! Begin a Healthy Lifestyle!

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Jan 11, 2010

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumTake a moment to think of our fitness role models. Usually, we think of personal trainers and fitness instructors. They are certainly good examples. But, this year, when you make it your goal to take control of life and begin a healthy lifestyle, choose a role model with whom you can identify…the average Joe! The New Year role model in 2009 was Joe Hogan, admired for his great health and wellness accomplishments. This year we recognize John Walker as the 2010 health and wellness role model.

John Walker, co-owner of R. J. Walker Co., is a friend of mine. He is truly a health and exercise role model for the general public. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the time, energy or gene pool to look like a personal trainer. But, that is not an excuse for doing SOMETHING! John did something…he took control of his life!

Last year John was 75 pounds overweight and suffered from sleep apnea and type II diabetes. He also had lower back pain, leg pain and Achilles tendonitis. He notes that he loved to snack on junk food throughout the day.

John came to my office for physical therapy. With our help, he managed his lower back pain and achilles tendonitis. Once pain free, he decided to take control of his life and get healthy as a goal for 2009. After six months, he lost 50 pounds. Through diet and exercise, he controlled his diabetes, no longer requiring medication. Moreover, John no longer suffered from sleep apnea, back or heel pain. Maureen, his wife, is thrilled because he no longer snores.

John shared that it did not happen overnight or by accident. With family support, hard work, dedication, discipline and commitment for six months he took control. He feels he has hit a plateau, but plans to make it through the holidays without gaining any weight and to get serious again for the New Year. He feels strongly that this is a lifestyle change for LIFE, not 1-2 months. He stated that is why he failed with fad diets and half hearted attempts at exercise. Now, with the support of Maureen, he is able to maintain a lower fat diet with portion and calorie control and eats healthy snacks.

In addition to his dietary changes, his exercise program is not complicated. He uses and elliptical trainer for aerobic exercise 5-6 days per week for 30-35 minutes, weight training 3 days per week for 30-40 minutes and performs core exercises 2-3 days per week for 15 minutes. He says he never felt better and plans to lose another 20-25 pounds in 2010. He is committed and I am proud of him. The message: regardless of your physical condition, there is some level of exercise that you can tolerate. You must begin somewhere and slowly. Get advice from your medical doctor and physical therapist.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while genes play an important role, lifestyle plays the biggest role on how healthy you are and how long you live. The food you eat, what you drink, if you smoke, how active you are and how you handle stress are critical factors that determine your longevity. The NIH research has found that smoking, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits are the leading causes of death, in that order.

Physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days per week can greatly contribute to longevity. Researchers have found that the benefits of regular physical activity are numerous. Some of the more important benefits are:

  • Loss or Maintained Body Weight
  • Reduces LDL /Raises HDL Cholesterol
  • Reduces risk of type II diabetes
  • Improves Circulation and Blood Pressure
  • Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
  • Prevents Bone Loss
  • Reduces Stress/Muscle Tension
  • Lowers Risk of Depression
  • Improves Sleep Pattern
  • Improves Strength and Flexibility
  • Improves Balance/Reduces Risk of Falls
  • Improves Immune System
  • Improves Pain Threshold

Make 2010 YOUR year to get fit!

Some simple suggestions for beginning an exercise program are:

  • Get your physicians approval
  • Consult with a physical therapist to set up a program for your needs


  • Buy good running sneakers – not walking shoes
  • Plan to exercise 3-5 times per week for 30-35 minutes
  • Walk for aerobic fitness
  • Begin 5-10 minutes and add 1-2 minutes each session
  • Walk in a mall if it is too hot or too cold


  • Use light dumbbells, sandbag weights and resisted bands
  • Begin with 5-10 repetitions and add 1-2 reps each session
  • Alternate weight training days with walking days

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.