Get Started
Get Started

Health & Exercise Forum

New Year's Reflections by Guest Contributor Rabbi Joe

, , , ,
Dec 27, 2010

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumGuest Contributor: Rabbi Joseph Mendelsohn

A few weeks ago, while sitting on an exercise ball, attempting to strengthen his core, I asked “Rabbi Joe” Mendelsohn, of Temple Israel in Scranton, if would like to participate in this column by sharing some reflections for the New Year. His response was unique; “You are in charge of my body and I’m going to say no?” Then, he eagerly accepted the invitation to share some thoughts about New Year celebrations and resolutions.

First, he noted that most people focus on the “celebration” of the New Year as a sense of accomplishment after making through another year and ready to begin anew. Few contemplate the power of “choice” and necessary changes when planning the future. He explained:

In contrast, the Jewish New Year is more solemn, requiring introspection, examining what we’ve done in the past and from that, asking God to write for us a good year in the “Book of Life” for the coming year. But what constitutes a good year, perfection? Maybe a pain free year with no illnesses or tragedies? That’s not realist. Instead, we ask God for help in dealing with what lays ahead – the strength and courage to deal with the challenges, the knowledge of professionals to help us and the wisdom to make the right choices for ourselves.

From this, we learn the value of free will: One, what we do now helps determine what will happen in the future. Two, we have the ability to make the right choice. For example, what is our current physical shape? If we smoke, are overweight, have high blood pressure and don’t exercise, we can expect health problems in the coming year. Conversely, if we go for regular check-ups (including colonoscopies and other unpleasant tests), don’t smoke, loose excess weight and exercise, we can expect a healthier year.

Moses teaches us in Deuteronomy {30:11-19} that while God guides us on the right path of life, we all have free will to make our own decisions: 11Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens…Neither is it beyond the sea…No, the thing is very close to you…See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity…I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life – if you and your offspring would live…Or, as the old Jewish proverb states, “The person who makes no choice, makes a choice.”


Exercise for Physical and Mental Health

  • Loss or Maintained Body Weight
  • Reduces LDL /Raises HDL Cholesterol
  • 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
  • Helps a person gain control over their lives
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Diverts attention away from worry, concern or guilt
  • Improves mood – Temperament
  • Anger management – release pent-up frustration, anger and hostility
  • Increase in brain serotonin/ beta-endorphins (natural mood elevator and pain control chemicals in brain)
  • Improvement in natural sleep patterns

How to Begin Exercise for the New Year

  • Consult your primary care physician for approval to begin exercise.
  • Recognize and fight stress, anxiety and depression symptoms that are contrary to initiating an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.
  • Be realistic. Expect that aerobic exercise will take time to have a noticeable benefit. Do not get overly ambitious and set yourself up for failure.
  • Begin with an aerobic exercise program that is practical and destined to succeed. For example: inactive and deconditioned people should begin walking 5 minutes per day, 3-5 days per week for 1 week. Then, add 3-5 minutes each week until you attain 30-45 minutes per walk 3-5 times per week. Younger and fitter people can begin to walk for 15 minutes and continue until they attain 45-60 minutes per walk, 3-5 times per week. Remember, what seems impossible today will be easier and routine in 3-4 weeks so JUST DO IT!
  • Find a pleasurable environment: a beautiful park (Nay Aug), a scenic lake (Lake Scranton), quiet countryside (rural farmlands of Dalton). Use a mall in inclement weather.
  • Find a friendly, uplifting group to walk, talk and exercise with. This may be more appropriate for people feeling isolated or withdrawn. Others may enjoy the peace and quiet of exercising and meditating alone.
  • Be specific and compliant! Make a serious commitment. Keep a journal or exercise log. Mark a calendar. 30-45 minutes, 3-5 days per week – NO EXCUSES! Get and exercise buddy you can count on and help keep you compliant!
  • Make it fun! Mix it up. Walk 3 days, swim or bike 1-2 days, some days alone, some days with a buddy.
  • BE RELIGIOUS! Be religious about exercise BUT don’t get too compulsive!

Guest Contributor: Rabbi Joseph Mendelsohn – of Temple Israel, Scranton, PA, serves on the boards of several non-profit community organizations and is the volunteer chaplain for the Pennsylvania State Police.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday